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.