Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Beer Review: Society & Solitude #5

Reviewing the Society & Solitude #5 from the Hill Farmstead Brewery out of Greensboro Bend, Vermont.

Score: 92

Two-and-a-half week old growler that was brought to me courtesy of a good friend, and kept ice cold the whole time. Served in a Perennial tulip/snifter hybrid glass and enjoyed on 08/11/13.

Appearance: Pours a translucent golden straw color with two fingers of frothy white head that settles to a wispy coating outlined by a thick ring of head around the edges of the glass. Very good lacing, good retention. 4.25/5

Smell: Earthy spiced hops, orange peels, spruce, pineapple, grapefruit and a hint of white wine. As the beer warms, the earthy spiciness falls off and the tropical juiciness comes through more in the nose. 4.25/5

Taste: Quite bitter, less juicy-sweet than I would have guessed on the nose. Bitter pineapple/grapefruit and "hoppy white grape" up front, with orange rind and woody/piney hops on the finish. Spicy caramel malt backbone, has just a dash of onion-iness that complements the spice. The bitterness and earthiness linger, but do not "layer" such that they get overly intense. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, medium-light carbonation gives good life to the bitterness of the brew. Oily mouthfeel. 4.25/5

Overall: A well-rounded, nicely crafted imperial IPA with a good malt backbone, a pleasing bitterness level and easy drinkability, but it is not up to par with some of Hill Farmstead's better hoppy beers such as Society & Solitude #4, Abner, Ephraim or Double Citra. This brew is definitely worth seeking out, but it is not one of the "can't miss" beers in their portfolio.

Cost: $10 for a 750 ml growler fill.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ber Review: Scratch Beer #98: Triple Mango IPA

Reviewing the Scratch Beer #98: Triple Mango IPA from Tröegs Brewing Company out of Hershey, Pennsylvania. Yes, they have stuff other than chocolate there.

Score: 93

July 2013 vintage bottle served in a Perennial snifter and enjoyed on 08/06/13.

Appearance: Clearly unfiltered. Pours a pulpy, hazy mango color with a darker center. Pours about a finger of orangish-white head that settles to a ring around the glass. Good lacing, good retention. 4/5

Smell: Huge notes of mango and pineapple, some peach and resinous hops as well. A little pine and floral character too. Very juicy smelling. 4.25/5

Taste: Bitter mangoes, pineapple, orange rind and piney hops. Has a nice bitter bite to it upfront that mellows out, but lingers towards the finish. This brew has a juicy tropical citrus backbone with a little sweetness that imparts a little balance, but this is a very bitter-leaning IPA with less tropical citrus sweetness than a lot of juicy IPA have. The bitterness layers nicely on the center of the tongue. No booziness to speak of; you would never guess the ABV was in the double digits. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied, low carbonation. This is one of the more viscous IPA that I have had to date. Bitterness lays on the tongue nicely. 4.5/5

Overall: Quite an excellent IPA. Very bitter for the amount of tropical citrus present. I think it drinks nice and easy, though only those who love the taste of bitter hops are likely to concur. Either way, you would never guess the ABV.

Cost: $55 for a case of 24 bottles (or just under $14 a six pack).

Friday, October 25, 2013

Beer Review: Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout

Reviewing the Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout from Arcadia Brewing Company out of Battle Creek, Michigan.

Score: 45

Bottled 10/08/12. Served in a Perennial and enjoyed during the All-Star Game on 07/16/13.

Appearance: Pours an inky black color with a wisp of head that quickly settles to a pencil-thin ring around the glass. No lacing or retention -- not even oily legs. Flat in appearance. 2/5

Smell: Sweet bourbon with modest alcohol esters primarily, followed by milk chocolate. Vanilla and molasses. Raisin too. 3.5/5

Taste: Sweet raisin, sweet molasses/brown sugar and bourbon. Touch of roast. Finishes with a light sweet vanilla and prune flavor. A little boozy, but not any more so than the nose led on. I do not feel that the flavors meld well. Has an odd tanginess in the finish with a dash of licorice. Not a fan of how the flavors mix here, and the finish leaves a bad taste in my mouth. 2/5

Mouthfeel: Thin bodied, no carbonation. Watery with a little residual stickiness on the palate. Way too thin bodied. This is far from the world's sweetest brew, but the beer has no body to back up the sweetness. 1/5

Overall: Did not enjoy this beer one bit. It was thin-bodied, flat, sweet and the flavors did not integrate well. Certainly not worth the price tag. Skip this one.

Cost: $8.99 for a 12 oz bottle.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Beer Review: Kopi Luwak Speedway Stout

Reviewing the Kopi Luwak Speedway Stout from AleSmith Brewing Company out of San Diego, California.

Score: 99

January 2013 vintage bottle served in a Perennial and enjoyed during the All-Star Game on 07/16/13.

Appearance: Pours an inky black color with two fingers of dark khaki head that settles to a thin layer atop the glass. This beer has the best lacing and craziest cling/retention of any stout I have ever seen. A thick layer of frothy head sticks to the side of the glass for well beyond two minutes (at which point I stopped counting). This is a truly gorgeous stout. 5/5

Smell: Tons of delicious-smelling roasted coffee notes upfront. Then milk chocolate, molasses, and cocoa. Hint of vanilla a la Stone's Vanilla Porter too. There's also a faint whiff of dark fruit detectable when it gets on the warmer side. 5/5

Taste: Super smooth coffee and roastiness. Absolutely no acidity in tandem with the bitterness. Minimal bitterness off the coffee flavor, which is to be expected from the use of Kopi coffee. Milk chocolate, bakers chocolate and a faint dark fruit character a la Kuhnhenn American Imperial Stout or the original batch of De Struise Black Albert. No vanilla. Finishes with a mildly bitter, raw dark chocolate flavor and a faint hint of coffee. Truly delectable; quite balanced. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, spot on carbonation. Super creamy, slightly dry on the finish. The bitterness quality is really excellent here -- it is not acidic at all, and very smooth and lingering. It pairs perfectly with the chocolate notes on the palate. 4.75/5

Overall: This beer is beyond ridiculous. It is the best non-barrel aged coffee stout that I have had to date, and easily one of the best stouts I have ever had (and I drink quite a lot of stouts). Smooth, flavorful and perfectly balanced, there is little more you could ask for here. This beer is infinitely better than its barrel aged counterpart, and it is arguably AleSmith's best beer (the Vietnamese coffee version is almost as good, and I have not had the vanilla coconut version yet). I sincerely hope that AleSmith bottles this again. If so, I will be buying by the case next time around.

Cost: $18 for a 750 ml bottle.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Beer Review: Overrated! West Coast Style IPA

Reviewing the Overrated! West Coast IPA from Surly Brewing Company out of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. This West Coast style single IPA is a new release from one of the Midwest's master of hops. I've had this a few times since grabbing some courtesy of Brandon at Dark Lord Day, figured I should finally get around to reviewing one since I am on my last can.

Score: 93

Canned on 04/19/13. Served in a Goose Island Chicago flag snifter and enjoyed on 05/16/13.

Appearance: Pours a clean/transparent light amber-orange color with a half finger of head off the pour. Good lacing, poor retention. 4/5

Smell: Dank, resinous hops and tropcal citrus. Sticky pine sap, grapefruit, pineapple, and grassy hops. 4.25/5

Taste: Bitter citrus rind, sappy/piney hops and sweet tropical citrus. Nice sweet malt backbone that is not very pronounced, but adds a good balance to the hops. The hop flavor is there, but it is not quite "in your face" palate wrecking intense like Abrasive Ale. The bitterness and lingering hop flavor are spot on for what I love in my IPA. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Light-plus bodied, excellent carbonation. Oily mouthfeel, slightly dry finish. 4.25

Overall: Better than Furious, but a slight notch below Wet. Surly has another winner on their hands. Hopefully this will become a Surly staple.

Cost: $9.99 for a four pack of 16 oz cans.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Beer Review: 120 Minute IPA (fresh)

Reviewing the infamous 120 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery out of Milton, Delaware. This double IPA clocks in at a whopping 18% ABV.

Score: 90

Bottled on 02/15/13. Served in a snifter glass and enjoyed on 05/15/13.

Appearance: Pours a clean looking caramel color with a thin layer of off-white head atop the glass that settles to ring around the glass. Average lacing, above average retention -- shocking for the ABV. Basically, this looks like you'd expect an IPA to look like. 4/5

Smell: Boozy caramel and surprisingly subtle piney hops. Sweet citrus, cheap waffle syrup (you know, the kind at a Comfort Suite's continental breakfast) and wood chips, a little earthiness too. Smells quite malty. 4/5

Taste: Tastes like an aged Behemoth with more alcohol warmth on the palate. Syrupy caramel malt, boozy malt, a dash of vanilla. There's citrus, earthy hops and a lingering orange and syrup flavor in the finish. Despite the booziness, it does not taste like it is much more than a 10% ABV beer -- certainly not as boozy as you would expect of a beer that has a higher ABV than a bottle of DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker schnapps. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, low carbonation. This beer is surprisingly viscous and syrupy! Has a nice malty sweet character with a dash of bitterness from the hops. Dry finish. 4/5

Overall: Definitely overpriced what it ultimately delivers, but pretty tasty nonetheless. I can't imagine this beer is cheap to brew given the gravity. Although 120 Minute IPA is not quite as good as other malt-bomb high ABV imperial IPAs that blend the line between American barleywine and imperial IPA like Double Crooked Tree or Maharaja, I found that I liked this beer essentially as much as a two or three year old Behemoth.

Cost: $9.99 for a 12 oz bottle.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Beer Review: Royal Impy Stout (2013 vintage)

Reviewing the Royal Impy Stout from the Portsmouth Brewery out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This beer replaces Kate The Great in the brewery's current lineup as a new winter stout that was released during Portsmouth Beer Week 2013. This beer is different from Kate, but is the name an allusion?

Score: 94

2013 vintage bottle served in a Doom teku-like glass and enjoyed on 06/27/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a chocolately brown color with no head. No lacing or retention to speak of. 3.5/5

Smell: Milk chocolate, dark chocolate and roast. Hint of fig. tons and tons of chocolate. 4.25

Taste: Nice mix of silky/creamy chocolate notes - cacao, dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Less roast on the palate than in the nose. Touch of boozy warmth in finish, but no boozy flavor. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Just shy of full bodied, low carbonation. Silky smooth mouthfeel. Quite dry on the finish. Nice bittersweet flavor balance, with more sweetness upfront and more bitterness towards the finish. 4.5/5

Overall: Delicious and well worth the retail cost. It is better than aged Kate The Great, but not quite as good as I recall Kate being fresh. Although not the most complex stout, this brew delivers in what dimensions its offers. I wish this were more readily accessible.

Cost: $8 for a 300 ml "stenie bottle."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Beer Review: Nooner Batch 2

Reviewing the highly sought after Nooner Batch 2 from Cycle Brewing/Peg's Cantina & Brewpub out of Gulfport, Florida. This beer is the vanilla version of their G.O.O.D. RareR D.O.S. (a rum-aged imperial stout).

Score: 95

03/08/13 vintage growler (batch 2) served in a Perennial snifter and enjoyed on 03/18/13 and again 07/20/13. Review is from iPhone notes

Appearance: Pours a coffee color  with a thin layer of khaki colored head that settles to a ring around the glass. Poor lacing, average retention 3.5/5

Smell: Vanilla rum cake, oak, chocolate and fudge. Hint of pineapple too. 4.5/5

Taste: Oak, rum and heavy on the desserty vanilla. A little boozy. As bitter cocoa and vanilla finish. Underlying vanilla cake flavor throughout. Yum! 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, low carbonation. Bittersweet balance, dry finish. 4.5/5

Overall: Really excellent desserty vanilla stout that is not cloying. Wish I had more.

Cost: $20 for a 500 ml growler.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Beer Review: Saint Lamvinus (2011 vintage)

Reviewing Saint Lamvinus from Brasserie Cantillon out of Belgium. This is one of Cantillon's more heralded seasonal fruited lambic releases.

Score: 96

Bottled 10/18/11. Served in a Goose Island Chicago flag snifter and enjoyed on 03/04/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: Pours a rose color with just under a finger of pink-white (faintly pink) head that totally settles. No lacing or retention, but gorgeous color. 4.25/5

Smell: Funky sweet-but-tart red grape is apparent off the pour. Has plum notes akin Slivovitz without the harsh booziness. Strawy grass, vinegar and a little lemon. Some raspberry towards back of nose as it warms up. Classic "Cantillon dust" too. Tangy acidicty apparent on nose. 4.5/5

Taste: Super tart red grape, raspberry, and sour dark berry flavor. Oak, zesty citrus and a little funky grassiness. There is a prevalent underlying funkiness that grows as the beer warms. That traditional "dusty" Cantillon flavor that is in nearly all of their sours is present too. Some lacto too. This bottle was a little heavier on the lacto character than others I have had, imparting some greek yogurt flavor. Maybe this is storage related? Has a sharp acidity in conjunction with the tartness, but not in a bad way. The acidity really complements the tartness well and gives the beer a little extra bite that dries out the gums. The finish is tart berry/red grape followed by residual lacto funk once the berry flavors fades. Nice and boldly flavorful. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Not quite medium bodied with a low level of carbonation. Has a high level of acidity and tartness. Imparts a dry, but not chalky finish. Finishes like consuming a less tart warhead candy. 5/5

Overall: Delectably sour. This is one of Cantillon's better beers. It is as good as Blaeber (although not as good as Fou Foune or Lou Pepe Kriek/Framboise in my opinion), but a fraction as "rare." Seek this one out with confidence. Wine connoisseurs should appreciate this one.

Cost: $35 for a 750 ml bottle.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Beer Review: Georgia Gene

Reviewing the Georgia Gene from Revolution Brewing Company out of Chicago, Illinois.

Score: 93

Tap pour on release day served in a taster glass and enjoyed on 10/09/13. Review is from iPhone notes.

Appearance: This beer looks like all of Revolution's barrel aged stouts/porters. Shiny, inky black in color served with a ring around the glass of khaki head. Solid lacing/average retention. 4/5

Smell: Oak, brown sugar, bourbon and cacao/chocolate. No distinct peach but something not traditional in a stout is present here that I cannot put my finger on; it is probably muted peach. 4/5

Taste: Vanilla, oak and bourbon upfront followed by delicious peach, bitter chocolate and a light vanilla flavor in the finish. Nice bittersweet balance here, with the sweet barrel characters hitting upfront and then mellowing out quickly. A little alcohol sting on the sides of the tongue. The base beer characteristics are surprisingly bold and not overwhelmed by the barrel treatment, which is a nice departure from the sweet Woodford-forward barrel projects that Revolution has been churning out lately. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, low carbonation. Creamy and slick mouthfeel. Good balance. 4.25/5

Overall: I wish I had time to stay for a full snifter pour. This is Revolution's best new barrel aged project in recent memory. I love that it has a nice bitterness in the finish for balance, and that it is not as bourbon-forward as their other recent releases. Prost!

Cost: $7 for a 9 oz snifter pour.

Beer Review: Boring

Reviewing Boring from the Goose Island Beer Company out of Chicago, Illinois. From what I gather, this beer is a blend of "unintentionally infected" Juliet and Madame Rose.

Score: 93

Tap pour served in a plastic glass and enjoyed on 05/19/13. We got to sample this one while staying after the event to help clean up and move stuff around. Review is from iPhone notes at Goose Island's summer block party.

Appearance: Pours a dark amber color, surprisingly clean in appearance but not transparent. Served with a thin layer of off-white head that settles to a wispy coating. There is not much to say about lacing and retention when your pour is served in a plastic cup... 4/5

Smell: Raspberry, blackberry, grape, lacto, vinegar and a little malt. Nice fruited medley. 4.25/5

Taste: Sweeter than tart with a nice vinegar presence. Same fruit as the nose, though the blackberry is the dominant fruit. Mild spice character and a little oak too. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Light-plus bodied, good carbonation for the profile. Sweeter than tart. 4/5

Overall: Not as good as Scarlett or Laura (come on Goose Island, bottle them!), but it is better than Lolita and Juliet in my opinion. Was quite glad to have the chance to tick this one!

Cost: Free! (well, I did have to pay for a ticket to get in...)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Beer Review: MILF

Reviewing MILF from Mother's Brewing Company out of Springfield, Missouri. Brewed with cocoa nibs and raisins, this imperial stout is aged in rum, sherry, bourbon, brandy and whiskey barrels and then blended.

Score: 91

March 2013 vintage bottle. Served in a Dark Lord snifter and enjoyed on 10/10/13.

Appearance: Pours a shiny black color with a thin layer of dark khaki head that settles to a thin ring around the glass. Below average lacing, average retention. 3.5/5

Smell: Raisins, chocolate, rum, sherry and oak. Very faint notes of bourbon. The rum is the most prominent barrel character followed by the oak. Vanilla notes too. 4/5

Taste: Cold, this beer is rough around the edges, oak forward and tannic. However, as it warms up, the complexities present integrate and marry nicely. Raisin, dark fruit, rum, caramel, bourbon, oaky vanilla and a smooth booziness throughout. This beer's alcohol presence is not hidden, but it is not cringingly boozy or fusel. Cocoa flavor in the finish. On the colder side, the sherry presence is a bit sharp, but it mellows out into a nice complementary complexity as the beer warms up, reminding me a bit of Utopias. There are a lot of flavors to appreciate here courtesy of the multi-barrel aging, and they really work well together once the beer warms up. Has a lingering sweetness, but the sweetness does not layer and overwhelm. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium-plus bodied, low carbonation. Oily mouthfeel. Sweet on the palate, slightly dry on the finish. 4/5

Overall: Tasty and complex, but the nose is not quite as well integrated as the taste and the mouthfeel could be a little bolder. Not quite the game changer "unknown stout" I was expecting a la my first encounter with Barrel Aged Abraxas at FOBAB last year, but still a good beer. Serve this one on the warmer side.

Cost: $10 for a four pack.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Beer Review: Bean Gene

Reviewing the Bean Gene from Revolution Brewing Company out of Chicago, Illinois. This is the barrel aged version of their Eugene porter with coffee beans added.

Score: 91

February 2013 vintage bottle served in a Perennial snifter-tulip hybrid glass and enjoyed on 05/23/13.

Appearance: Pours an inky black color with a finger of tan head that settles to a ring around the glass and foggy cap. Very good lacing, amazing lacing. 5/5

Smell: Oaky vanilla, coffee grounds, brown sugar and bourbon. A light amount of raisins and plums, some licorice and chocolate notes too. 4.25/5

Taste: The coffee is the first and last flavor I get, which is a little surprisingly given how much more subtle the coffee was when I had this on tap at the release. Oaky vanilla throughout as well. Bourbon flavor without the bite and cocoa too. The bourbon flavor grows and takes over as the beer warms up. Honestly, it tastes just like it smells. A little roast present too. The brew gets sweeter as the bourbon flavors (brown sugar, caramel, sweet vanilla and licorice) take over -- and causes me to downgrade the rating slightly due to the decreased complexity and drinkability. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, low carbonation. More viscosity would be nice, but this is a porter base that has spent time in barrels and the level of viscocity is not bad. Slick, slightly creamy mouthfeel with a light dryness to the finish. Sweet. 4/5

Overall: One of Rev Brew's better, but not their best, barrel aged projects. I think with a little fine tuning, there is room for growth with this beer. The coffee element could use some tweaking to enhance the roastiness and counterbalancing bitterness elements, a la Coffee Eugene. Frankly, the barrel treatment eliminates a lot of the base beer's qualities, and the bourbon character is what really shines here outside the coffee flavor. I am not the world's biggest fan of the base, but Eugene is a solid porter. Can't wait to try the next batch!

Cost: $18.99 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Beer Review: Odio Equum

Reviewing the Odio Equum from Avery Brewing Company out of Boulder, Colorado.

Score: 98

Bottled 09/21/12. Served in a Doom teku-like glass and enjoyed on 06/27/13.

Appearance: Dark caramel in color. Transparent and clean in appearance. Minimal head off pour. Minimal lacing and minimal retention too. Nice color with a fade to a yellowish hue at the edges. 4.25/5

Smell: Oak, tart raspberries and berry jamminess. Red grape sweetness too. A dash of yogurty lacto, but in a complex-imparting rather than prominent way. Candied rapsberry and vanilla notes come through as this beer warms and opens up. 4.75/5

Taste: Very tart! Candied raspberries and fresh raspberry flavor throughout. Some of grape, oak and a dash of vanilla. A little more lacto than nose, but still very slight and not funky at all. Lots of tart sour fruit flavor going on, which I love. This beer is a sweet and sour wonder! 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, low carbonation. Super tart, like a warhead candy in how puckering and mouth-wateringly juicy it is. Truly delightful. 5/5

Overall: This is one of my favorite American sours. Complex, tart and clean. I drank this side-by-side with a bottle of 2012 Framboise For A Cure, which I also love, and frankly this beer practically put it to shame by comparison. I wish I had a case of this brew. I really hope that Avery remakes this down the road.

Cost: $10 for a 12 oz bottle.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Beer Review: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Kopi Luwak Speedway Stout

Reviewing the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Kopi Luwak Speedway Stout from AleSmith Brewing Company out of San Diego, California.

Score: 88

2013 vintage bottle served in a n Upland snifter glass and enjoyed on 07/03/13.

Appearance: Black coffee in color with caramel ruby tones at the outer upper edge when held up to light. Pours a thin layer of khaki bubbly head atop that settles to ring around the glass at a quicker than average pace. Poor lacing, virtually no retention. 3.25/5

Smell: Very oak forward, followed by coffee. There's an astringency that I did not expect and banana-like eaters. Can practically smell the dryness. Notes of chocolate too. 3.5/5

Taste: Way too oak forward, though the coffee comes through more prominently on the palate than in the nose. This tastes better than it smell. Chocolate and oak towards finish. Quite dry. No alcohol detectable. Lingering flavor that is like chocolate rubbed oak with a hint of coffee, though most of the coffee flavor comes immediately upfront and does not linger. I do not detect any barrel character other than the oak. Not a whole lot of roast. 4/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, spot on carbonation. Has an unexpected amount of bitterness since it uses Kopi coffee, though this brew is not as bitter as most coffee forward stouts. 4/5

Overall: While not a bad beer, I thought it was nothing special. I was disappointed by this beer given how much I liked the non-barrel aged Kopi Speedway (it is, to date, my favorite Alesmith beer consumed). Barrel-aged Kopi is hardly worth its retail cost (let alone rarity) given how many beers of equal or greater quality are available for cheaper. Quality-wise, dollar-wise and rarity-wise, you are better off seeking out the base beer. I think with some tweaking (less dryness, more roasty coffee, more barrel) that this beer could be something truly delicious. I would probably give it another shot if re-brewed. However, I would not seek out this vintage again (though I would not refuse a pour if offered either).
 
Cost: $30 for a 750 ml bottle.