Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Beer Review: PseudoSue

Reviewing the PseudoSue from the Toppling Goliath Brewery out of Decorah, Iowa.

Score: 98

Early-mid January 2014 release bottle. Served in an O'so snifter and enjoyed on 01/28/14. Thank you Brian and Eric for the bottle!

Appearance: Pours a lovely yellow-orange color with a quarter of a finger of white head off the pour that quickly settles to a ring around the glass. Average lacing, but really good retention. 4.5/5

Smell: Huge tropical fruit and stone fruit hoppy delight! Lots of grassiness, and a little pine-iness too. Tangerine, grapefruit, mango, passion fruit, and pineapple. Big, bright and bold juicy hops galore. Light caramel malt, and a touch of earthy spice. The citra hops here truly shine, and this smells like baby head topper. 4.75/5

Taste: Big, juicy tropical citrus/stone fruit flavors with a bitter grassy/piney finish. Mango, pineapple, tangerine, peach, melon and orange rind. The bitterness and piney/grassy hop flavor lingers nicely. Very subtle malt backbone. Quite delicious, and easy drinking. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Light bodied, spot on medium carbonation. Really nice hop bite and bitter finish. Incredibly juicy mouthfeel with a very slight dryness to the finish. 4.75/5

Overall: This is quite possibly the best pale ale out there; it's better than Zombie Dust. Big, bright, bitter and flavorful, yet light bodied and low ABV. A chilled bomber of this is the perfect summer delight.

Cost: $7 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle

Beer Review: Bourbon Barrel Aged Oil Of Aphrodite With Coffee

Reviewing the Bourbon Barrel Aged Oil Of Aphrodite With Coffee from Jackie O's Pub and Brewery out of Athens, Ohio.

Score: 98

2013 vintage. Bottle 11 of 230. Served in an O'so snifter and enjoyed on 01/28/14. Thank you Jon and Mark for the bottle!

Appearance: Black body, with brown highlights at the upper edges when held to light. Pours a quarter finger of khaki head that quick settles to a ring around glass. Average lacing, good retention. Lovely browning of the sides of the glass when swirled, with good legs. 5/5

Smell: Big vanilla, coffee that is overshadowed by the vanilla but still quite present, chocolate, and a light roastiness. Molasses and bourbon aroma too. The balance of coffee and vanilla present in the nose reminds me a lot of Prairie's Pirate Bomb. Overall, this is a really lovely mix of aromatics, with a sweet leaning profile that is vanilla forward. I could smell this all evening. 4.75/5

Taste: Big vanilla backbone, overlaid with coffee (more so than in the nose), smooth bourbon, molasses, and milk chocolate. Most of the chocolate flavor is towards the finish. As it warms up, there more coffee initially comes through, giving added bitter balance to the sweetness of the vanilla. However, by room temp, more molasses comes through tipping the balance back towards sweetness again. Finishes with a mix of chocolate, light vanilla and residual coffee. The finish is perfectly bittersweet. Everything is wonderfully integrated here. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, quite viscous. Spot on carbonation. Oily mouthfeel. Sweet leaning profile, but still well balanced. No real booziness. 4.75/5

Overall: A really awesome bourbon-forward bourbon barrel aged beer with a good level of sweetness and coffee flavor done right. The integration here is marvelous. This and Coffee Dark Apparition are two great beers from Jackie O's that prove they have the talent to produce elite beer, yet also epitomize why most of their other barrel aged released to date have been massively disappointing. Seek a bottle of this one out.

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

Monday, January 27, 2014

Beer Review: Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout

Reviewing the Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout from AleSmith Brewing Company out of San Diego, California.

Score: 97

Bottled 08/05/13. Served in a Surly Darkness chalice and enjoyed on 01/23/13.

Appearance: Jet black in color. Pours two fingers of khaki head that recede to thin, coating layer and thick ring around the glass. Great lacing and retention. This is a beautiful looking stout. 5/5

Smell: Milk chocolate, high percentage cacao dark chocolate, vanilla, cake batter, molasses, raisins and dried dark fruits. There are undertones of coffee, but they are much subtler than you would expect from a coffee stout. A little cinnamon comes across too. The doughy cake, vanilla and cacao notes are surprisingly prominent relative to the coffee character -- I was expecting roast and a big blast of coffee based on the last time I had this beer -- but the heavy dose of cacao and vanilla is welcome surprise. Everything here is in perfect balance, and the dark fruit character mixes in seamlessly unlike regular Speedway Stout. This nose is absolutely incredible. 5/5

Taste: There's the coffee I was expecting! Upfront hits a big blast of smooth, bitter roast and chocolatey coffee flavor that lingers long. Delightfully creamy, not that acidic. There's a big dark fruit character on the back half that's not nearly as neatly integrated as it was in the nose at first. Notes of bakers chocolate, oak and molasses too. The dark fruit mellows out and blends in to the rest of the beer much better as the brew warms up. In fact, by room temp, all the flavors blend wonderfully and more chocolate notes come through. No booziness; I would never guess that this is 12% ABV. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Not quite full bodied, but nicely viscous. Carbonation level is spot on. Very creamy mouthfeel with a dry finish. Has some sweetness towards the finish, which counterbalances the upfront bitterness nicely. Can't ask for much more in the mouthfeel department than this in a stout. 5/5

Overall: A really excellent stout from Alesmith that is better than any of their barrel aged projects, and a major step up from the base beer, in my opinion. While not quite up to the level of the Kopi Luwak variant, this twist on Speedway Stout is excellent in its own way. The bitterness here is quite appetizing, and the dark fruit, molasses and chocolate mix well balancing the sweet and bitter characters. My recommendation is that you drink this one on the warmer side. Proceed with caution, however, as this beer is dangerously dome-able.

Cost: $18 for a 750 ml bottle.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Beer Review: Barrel Aged Murderous

Reviewing the Barrel Aged Murderous from Pipeworks Brewing Company out of Chicago, Illinois. This beer is an English style barleywine (Murderous) aged for 8 months in 12 year old Elijah Craig 12 bourbon barrels.

Score: 92

December 2013 release. Served in a Hopslam snifter and enjoyed on 01/22/13.

Appearance: Brown in color, murky in appearance. Pours a wisp of tan head that quickly settles to a ring around the glass. Not much lacing, but nice oily legs. Just about what you'd expect from a barrel aged barleywine. 4/5

Smell: Bourbon-forward nose, big malt character. Oak, toffee, vanilla and dates. Touch of booze too, but nothing beyond what you'd expect from a fresh barrel aged beer that is 11% ABV. The aromatics are well integrated. 4.25/5

Taste: Oak, toffee, and brown sugar-forward bourbon flavor dominate on the palate. Caramel malt backbone. Some leather-like flavor towards the finish. I would never profess to be able to pick out a barrel blind, but the taste, substantially more so than the nose, has that same distinct brown sugar and caramel forward bourbon flavor that Elijah Craig aged beers just seem to have. Finishes just like taking a shot of Elijah Craig without the booze burn -- a mix of brown sugar, sweet dark fruit, toffee, oaky vanilla, a hint of burnt sugar and a little spice linger nicely, fading mostly to residual malt and caramel flavor. Really smooth, and no real booziness here. While this one certainly smelled like an 11% ABV beer, it does not taste like one. The flavors really coat the whole palate on this brew, and linger well. As the beer warms, more vanilla comes through -- particularly towards the finish. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Not quite full bodied, very low carbonation. Honestly, I think this brew is a bit undercarbonated, but the style does not demand much carbonation and this one was certainly not flat. Oily mouthfeel with a nice maltiness to it. 4/5

Overall: A really excellent early barrel project from Pipeworks. This is a tasty, well integrated barrel aged barleywine, albeit one that is very bourbon barrel character heavy. Pipeworks keeps on making new beers at a ridiculous rate, experimenting with different recipes and styles rather than focusing on brewing the same, bankable beers years round. I look forward to seeing how that attitude and approach to brewing will translate into their barrel program. Fans of Central Waters' Bourbon Barrel Barleywine should seek this one out!

Cost: $10 for a 12 oz bottle.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Beer Review: Upland Raspberry Lambic

Reviewing the Raspberry Lambic from Upland Brewing Company out of Bloomington, Indiana.

Score: 93

Bottles 10/09/13. Served in a Kate the Great snifter and enjoyed on 01/20/14.

Appearance: Pours a dark and murky purplish red raspberry color, with a fizzy head that quickly dissipates. No lacing or retention. Nice color, though. 4/5

Smell: Big raspberry here -- juicy, jammy, vinaigrette, candied. Vinegar and lacto, some lemon zest. Faint barnyard notes and a subtle cracker/wheat character too. Bright, apparent sourness on the nose. 4.25/5

Taste: What dominates and hits instantly, just like the nose, is the big raspberry flavor. Tart, juicy and candied, the sour raspberry coats the palate with sharply, followed by a residual sweetness. Has a nice sour bite upfront. As the tart pucker mellows, the juiciness dries out. Finishes with residual sweet raspberry, lacto and a subtle mix of barnyard flavor and wheat. Has a bit of a bitterness towards the finish. Notes of oak and granny smith apples too. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, low carbonation. Starts with a puckering sour bite, followed by an underlying sweetness and a light finishing bitterness. Juicy mouthfeel on the palate, a bit more dry on the finish. 4.25/5

Overall: Like a sour warhead candy with a lacto character, the big berry flavor greatly overshadows the the barnyard base characters that are mostly present towards the finish. If you like your sours to be bright and fruity with a big acidic pucker, then this is your beer. Pairs great with goat cheese walnut salad with bitter greens. This is one of my favorite Upland's sours.

Cost: $25 for a 750 ml bottle.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Beer Review: XHOPS Pale Ale (Yellow Label)

Reviewing the XHOPS Pale Ale (Yellow Label) from the Toppling Goliath Brewing Company out of Decorah, Iowa.

Score: 92

January 2014 vintage bottle served in a stemmed Toppling Goliath chalice and enjoyed on 01/19/14. Big thanks to Matt for hooking me up with this tasty treat as part of a lost wager from the fantasy baseball season.

Appearance: Pours a translucent orange color with a finger-plus of cream colored head. Excellent lacing and retention. 4.5/5

Smell: Orange, grapefruit, peach and grassy hops. Hint of spice, and a little straw too. Really nice integration. 4.25/5

Taste: Bitter orange rind, melon, grapefruit, tangerine and peach. Juicy-sweet, particularly upfront, with a nice added bitterness from the grassy hops that does not have a big bite but lingers nicely. The malt character is very subtle and subdued, with faint straw notes coming through towards the finish. A hint of rosemary on the midpalate. Finishes with the grassy hops and a hint of straw. 4.25/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, low carbonation -- maybe slightly under-carbonated given its flavor profile. The mouthfeel is juicy juicy juicy. Has a nice soft bitterness, but no bitter bite. Quite pleasant. 3.75/5

Overall: This is no Pseudo Sue, but it is quite the refreshing pale ale. Although I would have liked a little more bitterness and carbonation, the flavors were well-integrated and the flavor profile is spot on for a juicy, hop-forward beer. I would absolutely drink this one again.

Cost: $10 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Beer Review: Track 8: The Number of the Beast

Reviewing Track 8: The Number of the Beast from The Lost Abbey out of San Marcos, California. This beer is Lost Abbey's Judgement Day (a quadrupel brewed with raisin) aged in bourbon barrels with cinnamon and chiles added.

Score: 93

December 2012 bottle served in a stemmed Cantillon tulip and enjoyed on 01/04/14.

Appearance: Murky raisin skin in color, fading to brown color at the edges when held to light. No head off the pour, and no lacing or retention to speak of. Totally flat in appearance. 2/5

Smell: Smells primarily like sweet raisins steeped in bourbon, with a little Christmas spice added. The bourbon character is very brown sugar-forward. A hint of chocolate and grain too. 4/5

Taste: Tastes like an oatmeal raisin cookie with a strong cinnamon twist and light chili pepper flavor towards the finish. Light notes of chocolate and licorice too. Has a nice brown sugar-forward bourbon character as its backbone. There is a little alcohol booziness in the finish, but nothing that screams 13.7% ABV. The spice character is much more prominent on the palate than it is in the nose. Quite delectable. Above average linger, finishing with raisin and brown sugar. 4.75/5

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, virtually no carbonation (not shocking, given that this is a Lost Abbey beer). A beer like this does not need much carbonation, but a modicum thereof would have been nice. Has a nice sweetness to it, with a faint pepper prickliness in the finish that gives a nice life to the mouthfeel. 4/5

Overall: The taste is great, which is what counts most, but it would have been nice if the nose was on par with the taste and if the beer had (some) carbonation. Overall, one of the more unique tasting beers I have drank, and certainly delicious despite the above-mentioned flaws. At $20 per 375 ml (this is the reload price; it was much more expensive per bottle when you bought the whole box set), however, this beer is not a can't miss brew.

Cost: $20 for a 375 ml.