Thursday, December 31, 2009

Yakima Twilight Ale, Victory Brewing Co., Downington, PA

Victory Brewing Co. of Pennsylvania is a good brewery with a very solid lineup. Their harvest/winter seasonal, the Yakima Twilight Ale, is definitely worthy of discussion.

The brewers are using only hops from Yakima Valley in the state of Washington, which is one of the most productive areas for hops in the U.S. The theory is that they are using the very last of the hop harvest for the year. Cool concept...

Most hop-centric beers seem to go with an IPA or a pale ale style, as those types of beers can really showcase the hop flavors. Victory is instead making a strong ale with very prominent malt flavors including a very aggressive, high-alcohol sweetness. Can this combination of hops and extra-sugary, toasted malt turn into something special?

Sadly, not for me. The high ABV of 8.9% and the sticky, caramel-like sweetness failed to compliment the hop bitterness. There are definitely interesting flavors, including a very nice fresh citrus from the hops, but they all seem to exist as separate elements of the beer, rather than combining to make an overall positive experience.

Rating = 2.5

Great concept, and I was initially thrilled to try something that was highly hopped but not an IPA, but overall a so-so beer.

Best of 2009

Everyone is doing Top 10 lists this time of year, so I thought I'd put together Beer Crusade's Top 10 of the year in reverse chronological order.

1. Harpoon Winter Warmer - posted by Beer Crusade, this winter seasonal is a Boston favorite. Get yours soon before the winter season is over. I recommend trying it on draught. Rating 5.0

2. Lagunitas Brown Shugga' - posted by Beer Crusade, no Beer Crusade list is complete without Lagunitas. This deep brown ale is also only available in winter so make sure you pick it up, keep an eye out for the high ABV. Rating 5.0

3. Moylan's Hopsickle Imperial IPA - posted by Knight of Saint Arnold (KSA), this beer combines copious amount of hops with a complement of malt and high ABV. Rating 4.5

4. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale - posted by Pale Ale Guy (PAG), this beer was previously reviewed by Beer Crusade and received a 4.0. PAG provided his take and took it up a notch. Much like Lagunitas, Dogfish Head is a mainstay on Beer Crusade and PAG has reviewed several of their beers since joining the blog. The Punkin' is a October seasonal and PAG gave it a 4.5.

5. Lagunitas Red Ale - posted by KSA, another Lagunitas no surprise. KSA was surprised how quickly he went through his six packs of this beer. Another Lagunitas high octane ABV beer, with a cherryish aroma. Rating 4.5

6. Sam Adams Double Bock - posted by Beer Crusade. OK, another Boston beer, maybe a little homerism? This chocolate bottle of goodness has some cherry undertones and packs some punch. Rating 4.5.

7. Thomas Hooker Octoberfest Lager - posted by KSA, definitely wins best website, and best marketing, "The Hooker Store". It also wins for great taste. Seems seasonal's are dominating the list. KSA rated this a 4.5.

8. Arcadia Ales Hopmouth Double IPA - posted by PAG, although he felt the beer was more of a "1.75 IPA", PAG loved the amount of hops Arcadia was offering. Rating 4.5

9. Smuttynose IPA - posted by KSA, the Smuttynose immediately became one of KSA's favorite high hopped beers. Perhaps the presence of slight tobacco flavoring made this beer a little too addicting? Rated 4.5

10. Blue Hills Brewery IPA - posted by Beer Crusade. Another Mass beer, it's official I am a proud supporter of local businesses. As I mentioned before, most people in Boston compare their IPAs to Harpoon, and this beer rivals it's neighbor to the north quite well. I tried their Red IPA last night and that didn't disappoint either. Blue Hills was one of the biggest surprises on my beer radar this year and I am glad the IPA made this list. Rating 4.5

I hope you enjoyed 2009 as much as we did, and we look forward to 2010.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dogfish Head Old School

As the great Homer J. Simpson once said, "mmmmm beeer". And boy oh boy did he have it right, almost like he was specifically talking about this particular beer.

Dogfish Head Old School is a barley wine style beer, with a robust 15%abv. I first tried this beer out of the bottle and was very surprised at the sweet flavor it produced. When I opened another bottle (a couple days later of course), this time pouring into a glass, wow.. just wow. This beer is simply fantastic. Its very fruity, without being overly fruity. When you open it, the aroma attacks your nose, but in a good way. It may have just been the 15%abv, but the second glass went down even more easily than the first did.

There really hasn't been a Dogfish brew that I haven't really liked, but I feel like this beer was taken to a new level. In fact, I was so surprised by this beer, that I'm almost at a loss for words. Apparently I have a soft spot for the sweet beers, as I simply loved this brew and I'm going to give a very strong 4. I can almost guarantee that my fellow beer crusaders won't agree, but the three of us have different tastes and this is just another example of that. It comes in a four pack, so I say screw the bubbly and run out and pick up a pack of Old School and enjoy at your new years toast...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Harpoon Winter Warmer, Harpoon Brewery, South Boston, MA

"First Shamrock Shake of the season, I better not spill this f#$%&r!" - DJ Big Boy, Key West, Florida

Harpoon Winter Warmer has dominated my life a bit lately, me the KSA and Pale Ale Guy were talking just last week about Winter Warmer and how the serving temperature changes the taste of the beer. Fortuitously, the following day I get an email from Harpoon saying that Harpoon Head Brewer Todd Charbonneau was participating in an online chat. So I asked Todd what the ideal serving temperature of Winter Warmer was and here is his response: "I think somewhere around 48F is perfect. If you take your WW out of the fridge about 15-20 min. before pouring it into a glass, the flavor rounds out and the aromas are a bit more concentrated." Good to know right? Another thing that I'd like to point out about the Winter Warmer is this, it's better on draught, this might be a personal opinion, but if you compare bottles to draught, in this case draught wins.

Now, it probably confounds people how it took me this long to review Winter Warmer, after all how did I miss doing it last season? The answer? I don't know. I knew I was going to cover it this winter though, and as I saw that I was fast approaching my 100th review, I knew I had my 100th review choice. (This just in, yes this is my 100th review.) Every time I see Harpoon Winter Warmer hit the draughts for the first time I am reminded of the DJ Big Boy quote above because that is exactly how I feel. The coppery ale is wonderfully dark, it is spiced perfectly with nutmeg and cinnamon that makes you feel warm inside, and it pours a good amount of head. I am not one for fruit beers, so it amazes that the sweet malt, the cinnamon and the nutmeg appeal to me so much. It is the perfect beer for a cold winter's night. I used to love when Harpoon had it's Winter Harpoon Fest and was so devastated when they cancelled the annual event after 2003, I held my own in 2004 with the Winter Warmer on draught of course. The 5.9% ABV isn't too concerning if you are only having one, but to paraphrase my friend Leo "I don't understand people who have one drink. I don't understand people who leave half a glass (word omission) on the table. I don't understand people who say they've had enough. How can you have enough of feeling like this? How can you not want to feel like this longer? My brain works differently." And yes, it's hard for me to just have one Winter Warmer, because it is that good.

The rating is a no brainer, 5.0, Hall of Famer. And as the days get longer, time is running out on this beer, so you should head to the nearest pub that serves the Winter Warmer on tap and order one.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Founders Brewing: Double Trouble

As the oh so great poets of C&C Music Factory once put it... "things that make you hmmm". Founders Brewing Double Trouble IPA was definitely a thought provoking beer. Good in color (slight orange), great in smell (hops and citrus attack the nose) and very interesting in flavor.

When I first opened up the bottle, I immediately noticed the hops. The first sip out of the bottle was almost too strong for me (beer was bottled in 2/09), but after I poured it into a glass, the flavor evened out. At a robust 9.4%abv, the little guy definitely packs quite the punch.

At that first sip, I wasn't a huge fan. It was almost overdone, or too strong for my refined pallet. But after I poured it into a glass, it went down smooth, with the abundant hops and malt providing the perfect punch. For the record, I'm a hops guy, the more the better I say.

I'm going to give this beer at 3.5, but for some reason I have this sneaking suspicion that it'll taste even better out of the keg. Most beers do, but I think this one is especially suited to be served as a draft and not out of the bottle. I'd definitely recommend trying it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Reading Premium Beer, Reading Brewing Co., Reading, PA

When I poured the Reading Premium Beer into my stein and saw the golden yellow translucence and smelled the aroma of barley and hops I knew immediately what I was getting into. A retro beer. What's a retro beer you ask? A retro beer is a local brew that essentially, if not all together, disappeared in the 80's and 90's due to the big brewer boom and has since resurfaced as a boutique beer trading on the nostalgia of its drinkers. Narragansett would be a similar example. In fact the Reading Brewery closed before I was even born in 1976 before recently resurfacing. For some reason retro beers always make me think back to the scene in Dazed and Confused when the keg kicks and Tuesday's Gone plays. Undoubtedly one of the saddest moments in the film. To keep this tangent going, is it weird that I remember the beer delivery guy's name from the movie is Ben? It is weird? Oh, then never mind.

Anywho, the Reading Premium pours with minimal head with a nice golden yellow coloring with very little carbonation. The malt is sweet tasting, but suited more to canned beer than bottled. There is no ABV available, but I'd imagine it to rival Bud Light. The Reading Premium is more in line with a macro-brew than a micro-brew tastewise and the rating reflects it. All in all the Reading Premium gets a 2.0.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Flower Power IPA, Ithaca Beer Co., Ithaca, NY

Another beer with a hop-based pun in the title (flower = hop flower for the slower readers). The Ithaca Beer Co. in upstate NY makes a solid hop-focused IPA. The most remarkable element of this beer is the intensely citrus aroma and taste given off by the hops. It is probably a very nice IPA, but the smell of lemons/grapefruit, combined with the nearly overpowering taste of citrus is the primary focus of this beer. The malt does appear as a sweet flavor, but the balance is tilted towards showing off the hops.

Despite my criticism, this is a tasty beer, and the 7.5% ABV is definitely welcome. The hops are very dominant,and I think that you need to be ready for it.

Rating = 3.5

I had this in a bottle. I'm wondering if the beer enjoys a better balance out of a keg, but I've never seen an Ithaca product on tap in my area...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fresh Hop Pale Ale, Great Divide Brewing Co., Denver, CO

Fresh hop beers (a.k.a. hop harvest beers) have been reviewed here previously, so it should not be surprising to see another review. Great Divide Brewing Co. is taking a very different approach that most other fresh hop products.

The Fresh Hop Pale Ale is basically a very nice pale ale that happens to use fresh hops. The brewers don't try to choke you with hop flavor, but rather have created a well-balanced and drinkable ale. The hop taste is definitely assertive, but not overpowering. Drinking this beer, you can definitely taste the ingredients, instead of a glass of hop extract with hints of beer flavor in the background.

The ABV, at 6.1%, is appropriate for the style, as is the copper color. The fresh hops give the beer an interesting earthy flavor, making me think of clean air and green grass. While this sounds odd, it is a positive sensation.

Rating = 4.0

All in all, a very solid, well balanced beer which exhibits the different taste profile of fresh hops without clearing your sinuses with "quadruple hop flavor". I'd buy this beer if I saw it again. Of course, it is only available for about 2 months every fall.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mayflower Brewery: IPA

Yet another above average local beer! Gotta love it. Mayflower Brewery is out of Plymouth, MA, but unlike the rock (1620), it wasn't founded until 2007. For a relatively new brew, they're doing a pretty darn good job.

I figured I'd start with the IPA, it being a beer barometer of sorts. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. It was actually very close to the Harpoon IPA, which I thoroughly enjoy. The taste of hops and caramel were immediately evident upon the first sip, and it went down very easily.
Overall, it gets a very solid 3.5. Nothing extraordinary about it, but nothing horrible either. I'd definitely recommend giving it a whirl, and I plan on sampling some of their other brews in the near future.
I'm looking for suggestions too. I found a new beer store, which is a good thing, but rather than randomly choosing each week, I wouldn't mind a suggestion or two to point me in the right direction, so fire away...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Jamaica Brand Red Ale, Mad River Brewing Co., Blue Lake California

Much like you, I was a tad disappointed in no post on Friday, these things do happen after all. And since KSA didn't pull an Angelina and just ditch me completely, I let it slide. Afterall, unlike the T-Shirt Shop at the Jersey Shore, missing work because of hangovers is just one of the hazards of the Beer Crusade. One last Jersey Shore point before I continue, total BS move by MTV to use Snooki's beat down to promote the show and then unveil that it is pulling the punch from this week's broadcast.

OK on to the beer, I checked out the Mad River Brewing Jamaica Brand Red Ale this past weekend. I figure my yard is covered in snow, I deserve something to take me away to a better place, like Jamaica. The Jamaica Brand poured reddish brown into the stein with a monstrous head. A little surprising, even though it's a red ale I was expecting something a little bit lighter. Definitely had some strong malt flavoring, possibly some rye and other spiciness. The hops also added some nice bitterness, similar to the bitter taste you get from coffee.

Now I know the company website is terrible, but that demerit is clearly offset by the 6.5% ABV. While I was looking for a lighter ale, I have to say this is a pretty solid amber/red ale so I was pleasantly surprised. I rate the Jamaica Brand Red a 3.5.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Something To Lead You Into The Weekend

Just a little something to tide you over until KSA gets his act together and posts his review.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dogfish Head: Pangaea

Three times the charm? Euh, not so much. Three week, three straight Dogfish Head beers. This wasn't a bad beer by any stretch of the imagination, but it didn't really measure up to the Red and White, and Black and Blue.

Pangaea came across as just another beer to me. Sure, it was tasty and went down easily, but nothing really stood out about it. On the other hand, there wasn't anything bad about it, it's simply a solid beer, and nothing more (in my humble opinion at least). At a decent 7%abv, it doesn't really measure up to some of its brother beers either. 7% is nothing to ignore, but I was just expecting more I guess. Because of that, I'm going to give this beer a 3. Middle of the road, nothing outstanding, but nothing horrible either.

As was the case with my last two reviews, it's recommended that the drinker try aging the beers (about a year) before drinking. So this time next year, I plan on rereviewing each, after the aging process. I'm not sure how big of a difference it'll make, but I can't wait to find out...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hoptical Illusion, Blue Point Brewing Co., Long Island, NY

First off, I advise all of you to take some quality time out of your lives and watch MTV's Jersey Shore. It's MTV's latest bit of train wreck television, i.e. You can,t take your eyes off of it. Since they spend most of the show crushing Miller Lites I am justified writing about this.
This week I took time out of my TV schedule to sample the Blue Point Brewing Co's Hoptical Illusion, an IPA. You know it's an IPA because the name incorporates "Hop" in a fun pun-like way.
The Illusion pours into your glass with that nice orangy brown coloring, and a modest amount of head. Upon sipping you get a great sense of bitterness and malt flavor, but these die down about half way through the sip so the beer ends up being more bland than its initial sip impression.

The beer label incorporates the unfinished pyramid and the All Seeing Eye/ Eye of Horus that you find on the US One Dollar bill. These symbolize strength, duration, divine providence etc. The 6.8 ABV is definitely a sign of strength, but I found the overall taste not enduring at all. I did find the label a bit quirky, as if it were a clue in a Dan Brown novel or National Treasure movie. Unfortunately there was no treasure map on the back. Yes I peeled it off to check.

All in all the Hoptical Illusion gets a 3.0

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hopsickle Imperial IPA, Moylan's Brewing Co., Novato, CA

To be honest, I've never had anything from Moylan's Brewing Co., so I wasn't sure what to expect. After a couple of sips, it was clear that I've been missing out on something great.

The Hopsickle Imperial IPA clocks in at 9.2% ABV, but the real story is the impressive and dramatic amount of hop flavor that is packed into this beer. I'm not always the biggest fan of the "super hop beer" trend, as it seems like some breweries are taking a questionable product and dumping hops into it. I can say with conviction that this is not the case with this beer.

As this beer goes into the glass with a nice caramel color, your nose is assaulted with a lively citrus-y hop aroma. There is also a touch of malt in the background of the scent, almost as a reminder that this is a beer and not a glass of hop extract. The taste is dominated by hop flavor, sweet at first but increasingly bitter and astringent as you swallow the beer. But, the malt comes through again, ensuring that the bitterness doesn't become overpowering. But, unlike the malt flavor, the bitterness stays with you, practically coating your tongue in hops. The alcohol is notable, mostly because it serves to balance out some of the bitterness. I wish I bought two bottles...

I feel like I could grow hops just by spitting on the ground after this beer.

Rating = 4.5

After all of the Octoberfest beers that I had this fall, the Hopsickle is a welcome change of pace.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dogfish Head: Black & Blue

Yep, two weeks in a row, Dogfish.. deal with it my friends.

Last week was the Red & White, this week, the Black and Blue. If you haven't had this one yet, go get it, now. It went down very smooth, similar to a sweet red wine. Minimal head, and a red color jumped out at me during the pour. The smell of the berries immediately hits you, but it's not overpowering at all. I really can't say enough good things about this beer.

After tasting, I read that aging it one year is the way to go. So Thursday, I'm heading to the beer store to buy another bottle for safe keeping over the next twelve months.

I gave the Red & White a 3.5... this one get a 4 easily. The 10%abv makes it that much more worthwhile too. Normally I'm not a huge fan of fruit beers, but this one totally breaks the mold...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Heavy Seas Loose Cannon Hop^3 Ale, Clipper City Brewing, Baltimore, MD

Now a person may think I have nothing better to do, especially with Jersey Shore not premiering on MTV until Thursday and most shows on Thanksgiving hiatus. But amazingly my day is pretty much booked so it was definitely a heart stopper when someone pulled the ol' "Don't you have a review to write for tomorrow" late Sunday evening. Luckily I had a Clipper City Brewing Heavy Seas Loose Cannon Hop ^3 (Hop Cubed) Ale ready to be uncapped in the fridge.

The Loose Cannon had great caramel coloring when poured into the stein. There is an immediate hop presence, but the pale and Munich malts maintain pace and really drive home a great crisp taste.

The 7.25% ABV is surprising. Because the malt and hops any semblance of an alcohol flavored kick.

The Hop^3 Ale has quickly jumped into the fray for one of my favorite IPAs, and the 4.0 rating is definitely justified.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ipswich Harvest Ale, Mercury Brewing Co., Ipswich, MA

This one is the fall seasonal for the Ipswich Ale line of beers. The Ipswich Harvest Ale tastes like a combination of an IPA and a malty octoberfest-type beer. Interesting concept, but overall, the hop flavor washes out everything else.

Going into the glass, the chestnut brown color is inviting and enticing. The cloudy consistency helps to give this beer an earthy quality. Nothing is terribly prominent in the aroma, but hints of hops are certainly evident. The beginning of a sip of this beer tastes of sweetness and malt, and brings in the earthy sensation. But the heavily hopped finish drowns out everything and imparts a solid, astringent hop flavor to the beer.

Rating = 3.0

Solid beer from a good brewery. Definitely give Ipswich a try if you have a chance.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dogfish Head: Red & White

Very very interesting...

The Red & White by Dogfish Head surprised me. Well, maybe not surprised, as I wasn't really sure what to expect, and Dogfish consistently puts out quality beers. But I was definitely happy I choose this brew. It pours with very little head, which quickly disappears. This beer really reminded me of a wine. The smell of the orange peel surprised me though. It was strong, but not overpowering.

On the bottle, it states that it contains pinot noir juice and is aged in pinot noir barrels, and it's quite evident that this is the case. There is no beer aftertaste, it went down smooth and a hearty 10%abv really helped with the enjoyment of this beer.

If you're looking for something new, I highly recommend giving this one a go. I'm going to give this one a solid 3.5... enjoy..

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lord Chesterfield Ale, D.G. Yuengling & Son, Pottsville, PA

Drinking the Lord Chesterfield Ale, the aroma definitely gave me one of those International Coffee moments, instead of some cafĂ© in Paris however, it reminded me of every single beer that came out of a keg at a party. The same sweet smell of cheap malted hopness. Red Solo cups, ping pong balls, invincibility. Sigh…Unfortunately that is not necessarily a good thing. The Lord Chesterfield poured into my fine German stein with minimal head and exhibited a pale yellow hue. The beer is very light bodied and has quite a bit of bitterness; the bitterness detracts from any malt flavor. The 5.6% ABV is a surprise; I thought it would be on the lower end. I am going to have to give the Lord Chesterfield a 1.5.

This is the second Yuengling beer that has sampled poorly with me. This is surprising to me for two reasons, one everyone I know in the Mid-Atlantic states swears by all things Yuengling. And two, I have consumed an inordinate amount of Yuengling in my life. I think I am going to have to take on the Black & Tan if I can find it, I think I remember actually liking that one.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale, Kiuchi Brewery, Ibaraki, Japan

I found this beer in a 21 oz bottle at a Trader Joe's, which has a surprisingly varied beer selection. For the good of the site, I decided to review it, particularly since it was not another Lagunitas product for us to review.

Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale is definitely the most unique beer that I've had in a while. As the name suggests, this beer is brewed with a special Japanese red rice. Additionally, sake yeast is added, as ale yeast is not able to turn the sugars from the rice into alcohol.

When poured into a glass, the red rice gives the beer a pinkish-red color, but it's not like it looks like a pink lemonade. It is unmistakably a beer. The best visual comparison would be something cloudy, like a hefeweizen, with a hint of pink. Like I said, very unique.

The aroma is similar to other Japanese beers, like Sapporo or Kirin, but with a noticeable sweetness. Some beers have a sweet aroma that is like the smell of sweet bread, but the sweetness in the Red Rice Ale is lighter and much less malty.

The taste is probably the most interesting part of this beer. There is a sharp, clean taste, and the sweetness from the aroma carries over into the flavor. But the good news is that the beer is not over-powered by the sugar. There is much less sugar taste than the aroma would lead you to believe. Interestingly, I can't detect any hop bitterness, which is usually used as a counter to sweet flavors. The well-balanced taste is able to hide any hint that this beer carries a 7.0% ABV. Impressive...

If you like Japanese beers, definitely give this one a try. The best comparison would be to say that this is like a Japanese craft brew as opposed to the mass-market Sapporo. Good stuff.

Rating = 3.5

Next time I have sushi, I'm going to have to get another bottle of Hitachino Nest...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Harpoon Brewery: Chocolate Stout

Just to be upfront with everyone out there, I have never been a big fan of stouts. Chocolate stouts I usually like even less. Maybe it's just because I have yet to find a good one, or maybe it's just because I'm a wuss and don't like the dark beers. Either way, just wanted to be honest.

Harpoon's Chocolate Stout was an interesting brew. It poured a very dark, black color with a nice amount of head. Immediately the smell of chocolate and malts, which to me, smelled more like coffee hit you. The taste again, was coffee like to me. I could never drink an entire bottle, but a couple sips here and there, sure, it's pretty good. Otherwise it's just a little too overwhelming for me. I'm going to give it a 2, but that's mostly because I'm not a stout guy.

I did do a little experimenting though. I was sitting around the dinner table with my wife, mother in law and father in law. They suggested, jokingly, that since it reminded us all of a beer coffee, why not ad milk. So we did. At about a 4 to 1 beer to coffee ratio, the chocolate stout tasted and smelled exactly like a carbonated Bailey's. To continue with the coffee theme, we added a spoon full of sugar ( i hear it makes the medicine go down), and boom, sugary Bailey's. Weird I know, but oddly very tasty. Don't judge me, just try it if you happen to be bored...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Drifter Pale Ale, Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., Portland, OR

The first thing that comes to my mind when sipping the Widmer Drifter Pale Ale is that this beer has some kick to it. The Drifter has some dark, deep malt flavoring. The hops provide an apply, apricot flavor before delivering an enduring bitterness. The 5.7% ABV is nothing to shake a stick at either. The Drifter gets a 3.5.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hop Stoopid Ale, Lagunitas Brewing Co., Petaluma, CA

Another Lagunitas review, and another great beer!

Hop Stoopid is the Lagunitas answer to super-ultra-hoppy beers such as the Dogfish Head 90 Minute or 120 Minute. While Dogfish does a remarkable job of making a highly hopped beer into something drinkable, there are many competitors who end up wasting excess hops on bitter beer. Lagunitas goes in a slightly different direction. Instead of using actual hops (or hop pellets), they use hop extract, which is essentially the desirable parts of the hop flower in a concentrated liquid form.

The result is very different than most other high-hop beers. The aroma is understated for a double IPA, and probably has less hop aroma than Harpoon IPA. But the flavor is much more pronounced. The hop bitterness is there, but there is also a notable sweetness, both of which conspire to hide the alcohol (8% ABV). The hop taste is most similar to a wet hop beer, like Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale (which I love). Well done and highly recommended!

Rating = 4.0 (edging towards 4.5...)

I'm surprised that hop extract is not more popular with home brewers. Or maybe my experience is centered on hop pellets.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale

A tale of two tastings...
About two years ago, I was at the Sea Dog brewery with some friends. Sea Dog is owned by Shipyard I believe so they were selling both products there. Being a huge fan of fall beers, I tried the Pumpkinhead and was pleasantly surprised at what I found.
This, however, was not the case tonight. I purchased a six pack of this beer I remembered fondly and was quite disappointed.
The smell was quite a bit softer than I remembered and the taste was much lighter. It was dominated by the cinnamon when one would be led to believe that pumpkin should be the numero uno flavor. It's not a bad beer by any stretch of the imagination, it's just not as good as I remember it. Whether that's due to the difference of bottle versus on tap, or the fact that I probably had too many on that night two years ago, thus clouding my judgement.
If you're into pumpkin beers, I'd give this a whirl (mostly because it has one of the best labels around). You won't fall in love with it, but it won't sit in your fridge for six months either. I'm going to give Pumkinhead a mediocre 2.5 . The 4.5%abv doesn't exactly help its cause either. If it's only going to taste so-so, at least give it some kick!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Big Daddy IPA, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, San Francisco, CA

I am not sure what has taken me so long to try a Speakeasy beer. I love the name of the company as well as the the labels/logos on all the beers. The Big Daddy IPA poured light brown with very little head. The Big Daddy has a slight apple hop bitterness, the flavor similar to the sour apples that you would find in a great apple pie. The Big Daddy Malt/Hop combo is teriffic and provides a good balance of hops and malt. The beer doesn't pack the high octane alcohol taste of some other IPAs despite its legit 6.5% ABV. The Big Daddy gets a deserved 3.5

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Or as I like to call it, twelve fluid ounces of heaven. Now, I realize that this beer as already been reviewed on this site (where it received a four), but if it's ok with all of you, I'd like to throw in my two cents.

Every year, there are two beers that I look forward to. They're both seasonal brews, and they're my two favorite beers. Without a doubt, Punkin Ale is one of these two. With every sip, you taste each and every bit of spice. The brown sugar, the allspice, the cinnamon and the nutmeg, all added in absolutely perfect proportions to each other.

Even when first poured, the small head and copperish color is nothing but inviting. At first sniff, the yummy goodness just attacks (in a good way of course) your nose.

At 7%abv, it's got a half decent kick to it, but that's nothing more than a bonus to me. The real treat is the perfect taste. I'm going to give this beer a very robust 4.5 rating. To me, it's as close to perfect as there can be. But here's the thing, I'm almost glad it's only a seasonal beer. It gives me something to look forward to every fall. And one last tip for you...try this beer on Thanksgiving or next time you have a turkey dinner. Like a fine wine with the perfect porterhouse, Punkin goes absolutely perfectly with a Thanksgiving dinner.

Sparkling Ale, Coopers Brewery, Australia

The famous "Red Label" Sparkling Ale from Coopers Brewery! Direct from Australia for my pleasure!

The Sparkling Ale is top-fermented and bottle-conditioned, leading to a hazy glow of sediment in the glass. The aroma is a bit musty, probably from the bottle fermentation and yeast, but also has a nice fruit and malt component. The yeast carries over to the taste, as there is a bit of sourness in the beginning of the sip. But the lively and effervescent flavor of the beer wins out, with the taste of fresh fruit (pears?) and a clean, hop-balanced finish. Drinking this beer is actually quite refreshing. I wish I had the foresight to enjoy this beer on a hot summer afternoon, as I'm sure that it would be fantastic. Next year...

The ABV comes in at 5.8%, which is somewhat amazing, since I can't really detect any alcohol. Usually with an ABV that is getting towards 6%, I can sense some alcohol "heat", but this one stays refreshing and smooth.

Rating = 4.0

The Coopers Brewery website is fantastic, by the way. My favorite fact: Brewery founder Thomas Cooper writes to his brother in 1862, "Dear Brother, We are now engaged in the brewery business." I'm still waiting for my brother's brewery pronouncement...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Planet Porter, Boulder Beer Company, Boulder, Co.

In 1996 my friends and I went to the Brickskeller in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. It was there my eyes were opened to a wide variety of choices of beer that had previously been limited to Keystone Premium or Keystone Light. One of the beers I chose was the Boulder Extra Pale Ale and I have been in love with Colorado beers ever since. So it was no surprise when I saw the Boulder Beer Company mixed pack I was going to pick it up. Now it has been well documented that I am not a porter guy, I often find porters to have a somewhat metallic aftertaste But I opted for the Boulder Beer Co Planet Porter because I have heard good things. The beers pours with very little head on it. And the beer is as smooth as it poured. The malt overpowers any real sense of hops. The dark malts provide a coffee flavor and you definitely get a sense of that bitterness you find when drinking coffee. I also didn't find that metallic taste which I have become accustomed to. The ABV is a solid 5.51%. I am going to give the Planet Porter a solid 3.5. Definitely a good recommendation for these cold winter months ahead when you just want to sit and sip a good strong, porter.
Lastly, I definitely recommend the Brickskeller as destination beer drinking in the DC area, it has been too long since I sat in their dark dining rooms perusing their legendary beer list.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Imperial Red Ale, Lagunitas Brewing Co., Petaluma, CA

Another solid product from the most talented brewers in Petaluma, CA! Imperial Red Ale is one of Lagunitas Brewing Company's seasonal releases for 2009. This is a fantastic beer. Originally, I purchased a six pack, planning to save one to review for the site. Well, that first six pack was gone before I knew it, and the one from this review is the tail end of the second six pack. Like I said, fantastic beer...

The color on this one is red-ish brown, with a short cream-colored head. There is a prominent aroma, mostly suggesting hops, but also some toasted malt scent. I'm getting a bit of ripe cherry aroma too.

But it is the taste of this beer that makes it a winner. With a solid 7.8% ABV, you'd expect some kind of alcohol presence or "heat", but that isn't present with this beer. The strong hop aroma doesn't directly translate to the taste, as the malt flavors win out, with a bit of that fruity taste (in a good way). The hops are there in the aftertaste, balancing everything out. Delicious!

Rating = 4.5

Superlative! Track some down while it's available!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bud Light Golden Wheat

Ooooh boy, where to start...

So I was asked to try the new Bud Light Golden Wheat beer, and to keep both our faithful readers happy, I complied. Next time anyone has a suggestion though, can you at least try to make it a good beer? Pretty please?

I tried this beer both out of the bottle directly and poured into a glass. The bottle states that it is brewed with coriander and citrus peels which means you should be able to taste or smell each of those ingredients. Well, I must have missed something because I didn't get either, whether it be in taste or smell. It tasted closer to a Miller Lite than a Bud Lite to me.

It did however look pretty in the glass. It poured a nice healthy hazy orange color with a decent amount of head. But at 4.1%abv, there's really not much of a kick to it either. It didn't taste very good, and it'll take 10 of them to get anything close to a buzz. So really, what's the point? I'm going to give it a 2, and that might actually be a little generous.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Old Chub, Oskar Blues Brewing Co., Lyons, Co

Yes, I know, another Oskar Blues beer. What can I say, I find good brewers and tend to go through as many of their beers as possible. The Old Chub, great name, is a creamy Scottish ale. The Chub has a high octane of 8% so you do get that alcoholly kick to it. You also can taste that this is a hopped up beer. The high alcohol flavor definitely detracts from what could possibly be a great beer. Unfortunately, I couldn't get past that kick. However, I do appreciate high hopped beers in cans, just in this case I was thrown off. The Old Chub gets a 2.5

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vanilla Java Porter, Atwater Block Brewery, Detroit, MI

Disclaimer: I like porters. I like dark beers. I like vanilla. I like coffee.

Atwater Block Brewery in Detroit, MI is apparently trying to ruin all four things for me. Their Vanilla Java Porter is not good. Initially, it seems like the aroma of vanilla could lead towards a good combination in this porter, but the aroma was the highlight for this beer. The taste, from the first sip to the sip right before I poured the rest down the drain, was not pleasant. A friend of mine describes porters and stouts as "metallic", noting the strange sensation of metal in the aftertaste. This one is tastes like it was brewed in an iron mine.

To top it off, the first bottle that I opened was dramatically overcarbonated, erupting onto my kitchen floor. Not a fortuitous beginning.

The only redeeming factor is the healthy 6.0% ABV.

Sadly, I bought a six pack. Now I need to invite over some people who don't read the blog and try to get them to drink the rest of these beers.

Rating = 1.0

I don't think we'll be having Atwater Block Brewery as an advertiser on the site anytime soon...

PS - thanks to some guy on Flickr for the image.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

John Harvard's Harvest Spice

Remember when you were a kid? Say it’s 1984, I’m seven years old, and it’s Christmas morning. Remember that feeling of running downstairs and ripping open your new Star Wars toys or GI Joes? Best feeling ever wasn’t it?

Well I have the adult equivalent. Every fall I wait for it, and every fall it comes along… John Harvard’s Harvest Spice Ale. Mmm mmm good!

Harvest Spice pours a copper color, with a healthy head. The beer just has all the smells and tastes of a nice warm meal on a cold rainy day and the spices just attack your pallet with that first sip. The beer is normally served with cinnamon sugar on the lip of the glass (think margarita) which may sound unappealing, but it’s actually like a party in your mouth. The combination of the spices and the sugar is as good as it gets really

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find it’s abv, but without knowing the specific number, I’m going to say that you won’t be disappointed. Overall, Harvest Spice is getting a very solid 4 from me, and I highly recommend you run out and try it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beck's Non-Alcoholic, Braueri Beck & Co., Bremen, Germany

I know what you're thinking, non-alcoholic beer? Really, who would
drink that? Well I did, and the Beck's is pale with a sweetish
aftertaste. The beer toes that fine line of is it or isn't it
skunked. Most green bottled beers face this dilemna. The beer also
has a bitter twang. The ABV is 0.5%. Truthfully if you like Beck's
Alcoholic, you'll like Beck's Non-Alcoholic however, I do not so it
gets a 1.5.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Festbier, Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan, Freising, Germany

The World's Oldest Brewery?!? I feel like I've heard this claim about 50 times from different European breweries. But a quick check suggests that these guys have a decent claim to the title. And I thought it was all marketing baloney...

Weinhenstephaner Festbier is a pretty good Octoberfest beer, even though it seems to deviate from the traditional style a bit. First, it is a pale yellow color and a bit cloudy after the pour. The aroma, while initially musty, settles down into a nice German hop/malt combo. The taste is good, but not great, and seems watery at times. There seems to be quite a bit of fizzy carbonation, which I think is odd for this style.

The ABV comes in at 5.8%, good and healthy.

Rating = 3.0

All things considered, this one would probably be good for drinking in enormous German steins. It goes down nice and easy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oktoberfest, Hofbrau Munchen, Munich, Germany

I'm running out of review dates in October, and there are still several good Octoberfest beers to review. So, I'm going to do some quick-hit reviews to try to cover everything.

Hofbrau Octoberfest from Munich, Germany is a classic European Octoberfest beer. Sadly, it comes in a green 33 ml bottle (11.2 oz), effectively "pouring some out for the homies" on your behalf. The beer has a yellow-gold color, which is very different than most American Octoberfests and their rich chestnut-brown colors. The flavor is also a good contrast, as it tastes quite crisp and light, with a bit of green apple in the aftertaste. And the ABV of 6.2% is also quite nice.

On the downside, it kind of tastes like an American lager, like Yuengling or something. Not quite what I expected, I guess. That, and the missing .8 oz, bring the rating down a touch.

Rating = 3.5

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blue Hill Brewery: Watermelon Wheat

Watermelon beer (you'll have to excuse the label, I was unable to find a watermelon wheat picture, nor was I able to find an abv, as it's not even listed on their website). I know, I know, nobody likes a fruity beer. Usually, I'm part of that nobody, but believe it or not, this was actually pretty tasty.

I tried this beer at the Blue Hill Brewery's recent Oktoberfest, but I took my time trying each brew as to not cross contaminate. Ok that's a lie, but I didn't drink so fast as to not remember what each tasted like. Poured out of the tap, the beer produced minimal head, and you're immediately hit with the scent of wheat, which makes sense since it's a wheat beer.

I wasn't really sure what to expect the flavor to be, but I was pleasantly surprised. It tasted very similar to a run of the mill wheat beer, with a slight kick of hops, but just as the last bit of the sip goes past your tongue, you're hit with the watermelon flavor. Not overwhelmingly watermelon, more like the last couple sucks on a jolly rancher (and I mean the candy, not a happy cattle farmer). I was actually really surprised and I'm going to go ahead and give this beer a very strong 3. Maybe not the best beer on a chilly October afternoon, but on a nice summer afternoon, fire it up.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Blue Hills Ocktoberfest, Blue Hills Brewery, Canton, MA

So as you can see me and a few friends stopped by the Blue Hills Brewery Oktoberfest yesterday. As I am a big fan of their IPA, I was pretty excited to try some of their other beers. They had their IPA, Xtra Pale Ale, Watermelon Wheat and Oktoberfest on tap. So of course I had to start with the star of the show, the Oktoberfest. I must say the beer was slightly disappointing at the start, the beer came off as flat, which is never a good sign. But since I had spent the $5, I was drinking it and I must admit, the beer's flavor did its best to rebound from the flat start, the honey maltish flavors made the beer palatable, and it could even be a great beer, but the false start really keeps this beer down. Granted I am drinking this beer at a huge event so maybe quality assurance did not win out in the efforts to produce quantity. While this beer will get a 2.5, I am reserving the right to re-review in better circumstances next time around.
Also, the showing at the Oktoberfest wasn't as big as I thought. I think it being a Sunday, a Red Sox Playoff game followed by a Patriots game had something to do with it. I posted some more pictures over on Facebook. Also, I think some of the staff dressed in leiderhosen or dressed in more traditional Oktoberfest garb would have gone a long way. All in all a good time was had by all.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Blue Hills Oktoberfest This Sunday

Just wanted to take you into this weekend with the announcement of the Blue Hills Brewery Oktoberfest this weekend in Canton, MA.
Sunday - October 11, 2009
12:00PM - 6:00PM
Irish Cultural Center
200 New Boston Dr
Canton, MA
As this beer is a Beer Crusade favorite, we hope to see you there.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Oktoberfest, Spaten-Franziskaner-Brau, Germany

It only seems fitting to review a German beer as one of the Octoberfest reviews. Spaten Oktoberfest claims to be the "world's first Octoberfest beer", which seems a bit dubious as it was first brewed in 1872 while the first Octoberfest celebration was in 1810. Hmmm...

The beer is well made, but might suffer from being a bit too "classic" or something. It has a nice walnut/amber color, and a very malty aroma. The aroma is initially very strong (almost too much), but it fades after the first few sips. Malt and sugar are very prominent in the flavor, as you'd expect from this type of beer, and there is a light taste of hops in the aftertaste. The hops, while definitely in the background, help to balance out the sweetness. The beer is very easy to drink, almost like a light beer, and at 5.9% ABV, you might want a second.

In comparison to some of the other Octoberfest beers that have already been reviewed, this one doesn't quite stack up. It is definitely a nice beer, but the better American offerings leave this German in the dust.

Rating = 3.0

Is this the best that Germany has to offer? We'll find out, as there are more reviews of German and Bavarian Octoberfest beers to come...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Coopers Original Pale Ale

Every once in a while, when you're out and about with friends, you stumble onto something unexpectedly, and this is what happened with the Coopers Pale Ale. Coopers is out of Australia, so immediately I think of Fosters (or at least the episode of the Simpsons where they go to Australia and drink Fosters).

I had the Coopers in a glass, but poured from the bottle. It pours cloudy with a very healthy head. When pouring from the bottle, be careful you don't get too much sediment in your glass though. It went down very smooth, with the first glass tasting as good as the fourth. The smell was mostly of hops with a hint of citrus, but it wasn't exactly overpowering. Simple would be a good word to describe it really.

If you're out and about and see this beer, I'd definitely recommend you give it a whirl. At 4.5%abv, it's not all that potent, but the taste makes up for it. Overall, I'd give this beer a very solid 3.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Double Bock Dark Lager, Samuel Adams Brewery, Boston, MA

So a few months back, I found a sixer of Sam Adams Double Bock in my fridge. Seriously, this is the life of a beer reviewer, you come home and you find strange beer in your fridge. You don't question these things, you just accept it and move on. Now, I could tell you what bock means, let alone double bock, but I leave the beer science to the other guys. Here is what I know, Sam Adams dumps a half pound of malt in each one of these bad boys, powerful stuff. The Double Bock, is double chocolatey goodness, with the consistency of a high minute Dogfish offering. There is a little cherry background that gives the beer a sweetish aftertaste, don't worry, it's not too sweet. The 9.5% ABV means the amateurs should leave this beer alone. However, if you like dark, chocolatey beers, this is one to keep an eye out for. This baby is a 4.5 in my book.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Octoberfest, Harpoon Brewery, Boston, MA

I like Harpoon a lot, and I typically enjoy their beers very much (despite my previous Harpoon Crystal Wheat review). But the Harpoon Octoberfest isn't as good as it could be.

It does have a very nice amber color, and it pours out with a creamy, firm head. But the taste of the beer is underwhelming. The carbonation is OK, but something about the body of the beer feels thin or watery. The malt taste is prominent, as you'd expect for an Octoberfest. The hops add very little aroma, but do impart an interesting spicy flavor. Altogether, it feels like something is missing.

Rating = 3.0

This isn't a bad beer. The ABV of 5.5% suggests that you can enjoy more than one. Maybe my expectations were too high, knowing that Harpoon has the skill to put out some great beers.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nashoba Valley Brewery: Bolt 117

I started out with such high hopes, I really did. I intended on reviewing the Nashoba Valley Brewery Oktoberfest. I had two bottles, and both were flat. Flat as can be. You have no idea the level of frustration I felt, as I was really looking forward to reviewing it.

Luckily, I bought a mix six pack and had a couple other brews to choose from, so I went with the Bolt 117.

The Bolt 117 is essentially a better version of Coors. It poured a golden color with a slight cloudiness to it, with able head. The first thing you taste is the malt, with a secondary taste of a hint of fruit. Like I said, it's a slightly better version of Coors.

At 5.2%abv it doesn't have much kick to it, but it gets the job done. I'm going to give this beer a 2.5. Middle of the road really. Not all that great, but not horrible either. I'll probably try it again, as I'll probably make another trip out to the brewery to buy more non flat Oktoberfest. We'll see about that though...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Old Salt Ale, Harpoon Brewery, South Boston, MA

I'd have to say this beer threw me for a loop. It resembled a light Belgian, but instead of a floral flavor, the Old Salt provided a peppery, salty spiciness that reminded of anise cookies. The beer finishes dry. Apparently Harpoon only brews it for Legal Seafood restaurants which is why there isn't a pic of the bottle. Honestly the funkiness of the beer basically makes it a situation where you're either a fan of the Old Salt or you aren't. The 5.1 % ABV is expected from a Harpoon descendant. The Old Salt Ale gets a 3.0

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Octoberfest, Samuel Adams Brewery, Boston, MA

The Octoberfest from Samuel Adams is one of my favorite fall beers. It has an excellent brownish-orange color, a full, malty aroma, and a smooth, rich taste. It is easy-drinking and definitely reminds me that autumn is on the way.

However, when compared to other Octoberfest offerings, some of the lesser qualities of this beer are revealed. First, it is a bit too sweet, almost to the point of being sugar-syrupy. Second, the malts lean towards a toasted flavor, helping to give the beer its brown-bottle color. But the toasted malt flavor is somewhat overpowering, drowning out the hop flavors almost completely. Lastly, the ABV of 5.4% is fine, but I wonder if a higher ABV would help to cut into the sweetness. You almost want to drink something hoppy to chase away the sweet-malt taste.

Despite the noted deficiencies, this beer is a classic American Octoberfest beer. It holds up well in comparison to Octoberfest beers from Germany, which is the highest compliment.

Rating = 4.0

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Affligem Tripel

Houston, we have a problem. Well, at least I hope it was a problem and it wasn't the beer itself.

After perusing the shelves at my local liquor store (Murray's in Newton Center, great selection of beer and wine), picking up a complementary beer glass (customer appreciation and who doesn't love free stuff), and discussing our website with the owner, I choose the Affligem Tripel. I had high hopes, as I'm a huge fan of the Belgian beers and especially love those that have directions on how to poor, and at what temperature to serve, on the bottle.

When I popped open the top (cork), I was hit with some excess head flowing out of the bottle, which is not a good sign. It did however, smell mostly of wheat with a hint of orange and a wee bit of spices, which is exactly what I was expecting. When poured into my glass, I was hit with a very healthy head (which I'm to believe isn't par for the course for this brew), too much really, but immediately noticed it's light amber color and got that tingle of excitement in my belly.
The first sip was almost medicinal in flavor though, almost like a cough syrup. Not necessarily tasting like cough syrup, but feeling like it. It was pretty flavorful with the wheat being the dominant taste, but I think I got a bad bottle to be honest. Something just didn't feel quite right about it.

The 9.5%abv, did make up for that though. I'm only going to give this beer a 2.5, but I'm reserving the right to come back and re-review it at a later date. I'd like to buy another bottle eventually and compare the two. If it was half decent when not quite right, I'm hoping for something much better when all systems are a go.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Yuengling Traditional Lager, D.G. Yuengling & Son, Pottsville, PA

Now, if you have spent any time in the Mid Atlantic states, you will have heard of a little beer called Yuengling. Their distribution is limited, their reputation is not. Yuenling lays claim to an all important title, America's Oldest Brewery, since 1829. And people rave throughout the land to this beer's awesomeness. When poured into a standard pint glass, the lager has a light amber hue, and is populated with carbonation bubbles throughout. The ABV is a modest 4.9%. The taste is brief as you can grasp the amber malt but you're left smacking your lips looking for more flavor. The beer's reputation is bigger than its taste. Of course my friends will think this review is blasphemous, but it is they who are not true to themselves. Now, Pale Ale Guy skewed his review of Corona, more favorably due to the beer's reputation as a summer good time beer. I, however, feel that Yuengling needs to do more than just sell Americana. The Yuengling gets a 2.0.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oktoberfest, Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont, CO

Left Hand Brewing Company out of Colorado makes a bunch of very good beers, like their Sawtooth Ale and the Milk Stout, so I had fairly high expectations when trying their Oktoberfest beer. Unfortunately, disappointment awaited...

Right out of the bottle, it appears that this is going to be a good beer. It has a nice copper color and a bit of a white foam head. But, an odd metallic scent presents itself in the aroma. Not a good sign, and even worse, this metallic sensation continues into the flavor of the beer. It definitely has the characteristic malt flavor of an Octoberfest beer, but there is also the unwelcome metallic taste. The negative aspects are almost all in the aftertaste, and you can really get a feel for it as you swallow the beer. Maybe there is something wrong with the malt?

At any rate, the aroma/taste issues definitely outweighed the positive aspects of this beer.

Rating = 2.0

"You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it." - On the Waterfront

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Victory Brewing: V Twelve

Before I get started, I would first like to apologize to the two of you out there who actually noticed that I forgot to post this Wednesday morning. I won't let it happen again...

Now on to the beer. Have you had this one before? I'm a fan of Victory but I've never had the V-Twelve and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised .

First off, it took me a good solid ten minutes to get the cork out of the bottle. Obviously, it had expanded too much, which made it quite difficult to remove. This is good because it means no air got into the bottle, but bad because it kept me from drinking the beer. Once opened and poured, a slight head rose in the glass, but didn't last long at all. It poured an amber color which thru me off, as I was expecting a lighter yellow. The first sips presented a high amount of spice to the taste buds, but not in an overpowering way. It went down quite smooth actually. However at the bottom of the bottle, I found the flavor to be dominated by fruits, with the spices taking a back seat. Odd, but still tasty. Other than shaking the bottle before opening (which is a very bad idea), I'm not entirely sure how to get the flavor to even out though.

At 12%abv, the buzz hits you immediately, which is great for a Friday, and even better after a long day at work. I'm going to give it a solid 3.5 rating. It was very good, but I've had better, and I'm trying not to let the 12% cloud my judgement. And if you do buy it, I promise you won't be disappointed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Brown Shugga' Ale, Lagunitas Brewing Co, Petaluma, CA

OK, you know I am brand loyal to a fault, especially when it comes to Lagunitas’ beers. So it was no surprise that I picked up the Lagunitas Brown Shugga’. Now for those who are unfamiliar with Lagunitas beers, they are located in Petaluma California which has a bit of a reputation for drugs. The owners of the brewery have a little fun with this reputation and definitely use it in their marketing; so much fun in fact that it launched an undercover government investigation at several of their tastings. One drug bust later and they were suspended for brewing for 20 days. Their humor unfazed, they released the Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale as a remembrance of that event. For those uninitiated in the drug subculture, brown sugar is a street name for heroin. And to continue along those lines, The Brown Shugga’ would definitely be considered a “hot shot” with its 9.5% ABV.

The Brown Shugga’ comes out of the bottle a shade of cherry and brown. The viscosity of the beer is silky, a sure sign to me that this beer is packing an alcoholic punch. While the alcohol is not overpowering, you can sense its presence in each sip you take. There is also a tang of bitterness, but once again not much. The malt flavor is a brown sugary delight, combined with the hops it is reminiscent of a caramel apple you’d get at a county fair. I found the Brown Shugga’ to be quite addicting, much like its heroin counterpart, I blame this on the sugary base of the beer. In fact I liked it so much I had another right away. Of course with the aforementioned 9.5% ABV, it knocks you down pretty quick.

Now for those unfamiliar with my rating style, it can be found here. This is a little important because as you see from the Lagunitas website, this beer is not available until October 2009. So how did I get a bottle of it early? I didn’t. I loved this beer so much last winter, I stocked up on it so I’d never run out. How I avoided reviewing it so far, I am not sure. So as far as a rating goes, I am gonna have to give it the illustrious 5.0. If I were you, I’d keep an eye out this October when this beer arrives on shelves, a good indicator whether your store will carry it or not is if they carry any of the year round beers from Lagunitas.