Thursday, December 12, 2013

Review: Great Divide Brewing Co.'s Hoss Rye Lager

Greetings, craft beer advocates!

Before I delve into my intro to this beer review, I have an announcement: the formatting for this review, and perhaps any future reviews, will be a little off. There will be no picture of the beer at the top and the categories of rating will not be emboldened. This is because the toolbar here on Blogger doesn't work anymore for some ludicrous reason. Thus, I am upgrading to Wordpress after this post. I will transfer all my previous reviews to that new blog and will continue from there! Because Blogger is dumb. Apparently.

So, today I'm going to do a nice little review of something I rarely get around to trying: a lager. Apart from the quintessential American lagers like Budweiser (ugh) and others, and the craft lager staples like Sam Adams' Boston Lager, lagers tend to take a back seat to ales. Because ales come in so many different forms: pale ales, IPAs, stouts, porters, blonde ales... the list goes on and on.

Anyway, I asked the head of the beer department at the store I work at to suggest a nice, light, flavorful beer and he pointed out Hoss by Great Divide Brewing Co. It's a rye lager, which had me intrigued immediately. One of my favorite malts in any beer is rye; it adds a great spicy note to the body of any beer. So it is with great enthusiasm that I dig into this beer. The particular six pack I picked up was bottled on August 26th, 2013, so it's been mellowing for a while. No matter, from what I've tasted (I've had a couple the past few evenings), it's still pretty damn tasty. Without further ado, I'll get down to brass tacks...

Appearance: 2.75/5

Poured into a shaker pint glass. Hoss has a nice deep amber color, which is inviting. There is basically no head to be seen, just a thin film of foam floating on the top which quickly dissipates. There is plenty of carbonation, though!

Nose: 4/5

Some earthy, slightly piney hops come through first in the aroma. I think this is great because it compliments the spicy aroma of the rye malt perfectly. A nice, deep, woodsy smell that's rather on the sweet end of the spectrum.

Taste: 3.75/5

The first notes to hit my palate are toasted bready malts with some sweetness mixed in. A big kick of rye spice follows. This is a very malty beer with notes of toasted bread, biscuits, and grain. These are accompanied by a sweetness - caramel and cherries. The hoppiness from the nose isn't really present in the flavor, though, which would have been nice because I thought it complimented the spiciness.

Mouthfeel: 4/5

At first Hoss feels a little creamy, but that passes quickly. This lager sports a very nice body formed from the combination of malts, and has a bite to it from the spice. Quite pleasant.

Finish: 1/5

The finish left me disappointed. Some mild bite from the rye lingers, but not for long. The spiciness is coupled with some light sweetness. It's a nearly nonexistent finish, to be honest.

Total Score: 70.25/100

This is a solid lager and drinks very well. The flavors and aroma are probably its strong suits, however it just doesn't live up to certain expectations. But I'd still recommend giving it a try if you like rye beers.

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

Friday, November 29, 2013

Review: Bell's Special Double Cream Stout


Hey, beer aficionados! It's been a hot minute since I've posted a straight-up review, what with all the fun events and bars I've been to recently. So here I am bringing you a review of a nice stout I picked up.

It's full-on stout season, and while I love a big burly ol' monster of a stout, I also like the more sessionable flavorful ones. The latest offering we've received from Michigan-based Bell's Brewery is their other winter offering, the Special Double Cream Stout. I've liked the other two seasonal offerings from Bell's, their Best Brown Ale and the Winter White Ale (which is a wheat beer of all things). This particular bottle of SDCS was bottled on October 16th, so it's about halfway through its shelf-life. Not bad. I've poured my stout into a snifter and am about ready to dive into this review!

Appearance: 3.5/5

SDCS pours a rich black color. It's not overly thick, but it is handsome. The head is a medium tan and I got about a finger-and-a-half worth of it. It sticks around for the most part and leaves some very nice lacing behind. 

Nose: 3.75/5

I pick up notes of coffee and caramel first. Some roasty malts follow close on the heels of the coffee. There are even hints of sweet chocolate in there. As far as stout aromas go, this is pretty standard stuff, but I love how strong the scent is. It's very easy to discern what you're smelling, which I quite like. I'd say the nose is pleasant, overall.

Taste: 3.75/5

The taste is pretty much the same as the nose. The roasty malts and the coffee notes blend together quite well to form a deep, roasted flavor. The chocolate does its part to add some sweetness to the backbone of the flavor. 

Mouthfeel: 3/5

SDCS sports a full body that, while very enjoyable, isn't too much to handle. It's very easy to sip on. There is a creamy feel to the beer as well.

Finish: 3/5

The coffee sticks around after each swallow, and a hint of bitterness too. It's a nice, clean, yet roasty finish.

Total Score: 71.75/100

Bell's Special Double Cream, while being very tasty and sessionable too, doesn't quite "wow" me. It covers the basics of a stout, and covers them well. By all means, it's enjoyable, but it's not groundbreaking, either. Pick up a sixer for yourself and try it out as the weather gets chillier!

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

[Above photo via staythirstyblog.com]

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Notes From The Bar: Pinch American Grill

Hello, beer connoisseurs! And welcome to another installment of "Notes From The ____"!

This is a follow-up post of sorts to my recent outing to the Alamo to see Crafting A Nation. As you'll recall, my buddy and I received a gift card for a free growler and fill at Pinch after the movie, so we decided to grab a couple more craft-heads and head out to Empire City Casino, walk right past all the sad-looking people gambling (while looking as out-of-place as possible, mind you), and go up to Pinch for a couple pints and a growler fill.


Now the interesting thing about Pinch is not only that it sports 100 different beers on tap, but that they're all brews from New York craft breweries. From the up-and-coming Yonkers Brewing Co. to Brooklyn Brewery and Sixpoint, they had a very wide selection of beers to offer.

So my comrades and I sat down at the very nice, neo-retro-style bar and were waited on by a very friendly bartender. She stuck around and shot the shit with us, which only added to the experience. But choosing which beers to order was a bit of a task because there were 100 to choose from and the beer menu was a touch-screen tablet. That was a really cool touch (so to speak).

For my first beer I, as well as my buddy Cristian, settled on a Pinch House IPA, which is brewed by Yonkers Brewing Co. I had it on tap at the Alamo, but I think I liked it even more at this place because they poured it into a pilsner-style glass rather than a shaker pint. I loved it even more. The citrusy flavors really came through and it still struck me as quite sessionable.

We did a bit of cross-tasting among ourselves as well. My good friend Max got a pint of Yonkers' Pinch House Stout, a nitro-brewed stout which really knocked it out of the park. Having tried Left Hand Brewing's Nitro Milk Stout, I was a bit wary about trying anything else nitro-brewed, but I loved this one. Creamy, smoky, and a head that was so thick it actually had to sit for a minute before it died down enough to drink. Though the flavors were a little more subtle because of the brewing style, I enjoyed how rich it was. Note to those wary about nitro brews: get them on tap!


Next, we got a communal sample of HeBrew Messiah Nut Brown, brewed by Schmaltz Brewing Company. It was delicious. Dark, roasty malts coupled with some nuttiness and a bit of sweetness to the backbone which made it refreshing enough. Quite a nice brew.


My final choice of the evening, as it was for my other companions, was Sixpoint's Resin. Now, I have had many great IPAs, such as Captain Lawrence's and Ballast Point's Sculpin, but this one was magnificent. Resin had a nice dark golden color and plenty of head. At 9.1% ABV I expected it to have a lot of flavor to compensate, and it did. Powerful grapefruit and lemony notes came forward. It had a good amount of bitterness which made its mouthfeel complex. It had a dry, bitter finish, but with enough lingering grapefruit flavor to leave me wanting to take another sip. The boys at Sixpoint have done good!

Then it came time to choose which beer to fill the growler with. Cristian and I decided to stay as local as possible and settled on Yonkers' Irish Red Ale, which also received consensus from my two other companions. We took it over to a friend's house and decided, "Why wait to taste this?" So we divvied it up and tried it. It was a solid Irish red. Light, malty, and subtly hoppy. I like Yonkers' approach to their beer: always sessionable with just enough flavor to make their beer appealing.

And that was the visit to the bar! If you're in lower New York, stop by Empire Casino and head up to Pinch for a great time and to support local breweries.

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

[Above photos via (in order): pinchusa.com, Flickr user chefelf, Steve Greenlee of boston.com]

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Notes From The Event: 'Crafting A Nation' Screening


Last night I had the good fortune of being near an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema which was premiering a new documentary titled Crafting A Nation.

Now, for one thing, if any of you have never been to an Alamo, I must say it's an amazing little experience. I mean, how has it taken until now to make a chain of movie theaters which serves craft brews to you while you're watching a film? The idea is just perfect. The place has 32 taps, all of them to local, national, and even some international craft beers. So you can show up early, grab a beer before you enter the theater, and then throughout the screening you can order more rounds and even food to be brought to you during the show. Genius.

So a friend of mine (and fellow beer connoisseur) and I went to the premiere and had a grand ol' time. Since the film was about the rise and struggle of local craft breweries, the local brews on tap (including Yonkers Brewing Company, Captain Lawrence, and Peekskill Brewery) were only $3/pint. Needless to say I stuck with those. When we got there we each had a pint of Yonkers IPA.


Some quick thoughts on Yonkers IPA: I really thought it was impressive for its simplicity. Yonkers has adopted the slogan, "Start Here... End Here", which means they like to craft simple, rather sessionable beers that are tasty, but nothing so overbearing that you can only have one due to the intense flavor or ABV, then have to move on to something lighter. They are those light, refreshing craft beers. Their IPA had a nice rusty amber color. It had a subtle citrus nose and a sweet, not-overbearing-in-the-least citrusy hop taste. I liked it because that's all it was: just a simple IPA with enough flavor to be enjoyable. 70/100

So we entered the theater with IPAs in hand and before the film started we were told that the co-founders of Yonkers Brewing Co. were there (something I had read was going to happen), as well as the director of the film (something which was a nice little surprise). There was to be a Q&A session with those people after the screening, which had me pretty hyped.

The film itself was a beautiful depiction of the craft brewing scene. The backbone of the film focused on an up-and-coming Colorado-based brewer, Black Shirt Brewing. It detailed all the blood sweat and tears that went into transforming a space into a brewery. It really put the effort that it takes to get something of that magnitude off the ground. It's not just about having good beer. You have to shell out nearly all the money you have to pay for a space and distribution of beer, and put a lot of back-breaking work into making the brewery, well, a brewery. There were also interviews with already-started craft breweries like 4 Hands and Russian River. Heck, they even had an interview with Jim Koch of Sam Adams and some of the guys from Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada. They all offered insight into the post-construction world of brewing on a small scale and making it a local entity. The film was inspiring as well as humbling.


During the film I ordered a Peekskill Simple Sour. Some notes on that: It was quite good for a sour. Lemony sour taste up front that was quite refreshing, and a rather creamy mouthfeel from the malts. I thought it was impressive and a bold move from a local brewer. I'd definitely recommend it if you're ever in the Westchester area of New York. 90/100


After the film the director, Thomas Kolicko, fielded a few questions including, "How are Black Shirt Brewing Company doing today?" (apparently quite well) and, my favorite, "Why did you show such poor hop harvests in the film?" This particular question came from a man whose family owns a good-sized hop farm.

Then Kolicko held a panel discussion about how Yonkers Brewing Co. got started, what their mission was, and what some the biggest obstacles were in their journey to becoming successful. Though they're still working on the space they're based in, they plan to open up their tasting room in early 2014. Color me excited!

As a little parting gift, all the people in the audience were given a gift card for a free growler and growler fill at a local grill with over 100 beers on tap called Pinch. I was not complaining.

And that was the experience. Craft beer events are always a treat, whether it's a simple tasting event at a brewery or something special like this screening of Crafting A Nation. I always recommend being on the lookout for fun local events like these so you can get out there and be immersed in the craft beer scene.

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

[Above photos via (in order): craftinganation.com, Untappd user Dave, ontheslyny.com, houston.culturemap.com]

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: Ballast Point's Sculpin


So, after much prodding from a couple friends, I caved and shelled out the $15 for a six-pack of Ballast Point's renowned Sculpin IPA. I wasn't doubting that it'd be an intense experience, because it got a 98 on Beer Advocate. As a fan of IPAs, and having a pretty set top 3 IPAs (Bell's Two Hearted Ale, Uinta's Dubhe, and, of course, Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA) I was looking for something to knock me out of the park.

So I'll get right into breaking down this fish - I mean IPA.

Appearance: 4.5/5

Sculpin sports a finger's worth of white foamy head which sticks around. Some decent lacing is of note. The color is a beautiful golden amber which I love. It looks like a straight-up IPA should.

Nose: 5/5

Sweet citrus hits my nose. It's a beautiful, lightly sweet fruity scent. I sense pine notes in the background, which is nice. The sweet, yet subtle nature of the nose is very inviting. Almost tropical with how fruity it is.

Taste: 5/5

Slightly bitter grapefruit hop notes come first, followed by some other fruity notes like mango and pineapple. It's a clean and crisp IPA that doesn't dominate the palate with any one aspect of the flavor. In the background are spicy pine notes. I think the fact that this IPA is so clean is what makes it stand out. The flavors speak for themselves without overdoing it.

Mouthfeel: 4.5/5

A medium body and a creamy nature. It's simple, bright, and clean.

Finish: 4/5

Sculpin finishes very smoothly, but also kind of more wet than dry because of its creamier body. It leaves slight tropical fruit and grapefruit notes behind with a bit of bitterness. In fact, the bitterness may come through more in the finish than the taste.

Total Score: 96.5/100

I really really liked this IPA, and not because it was pushing boundaries or ridiculously hoppy, but because it was clean, simple, and knew what an IPA should be. The fruity grapefruit flavor was delicious. I'd definitely say Ballast Point hit this IPA right on point. They knew what they were doing, and it's both a little original while being a very straight-up IPA. Thought it's a tad expensive for a six-pack, it's great! One of my highest recommendations in the style.

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

[Above photo via David Jensen of beer47.com]

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Review: Sierra Nevada's Narwhal Imperial Stout


Ah, the fabled Narwhal. Last year, when I was just getting into the big craft beer scene, I had heard about it. People raved that the 2012 release of Sierra Nevada's seasonal imperial stout was simply awesome, and, of course, that the barrel-aged version was even better. So this year when the store I work at got a shipment of Narwhal I immediately swooped in and nabbed a 4-pack. It's actually pretty affordable, all things considered. Heck, it was my International Stout Day pick for Untappd!

So, time to get down to brass tacks and dissect this arctic beast of a beer!

Appearance: 3.5/5

Narwhal pours a beautiful midnight black with a nice finger-and-a-half worth of medium tan head. The head quickly recedes to a nice, thin foam rim laying on top of the beer. Definitely a stout-looking stout!

Nose: 4/5

Good amounts of nice, dark cocoa and darker malts, including coffee, make up the majority of the nose. Typical malts for a stout nose, but the dark chocolate really smells fresh and pungent, which is a nice note. As I continue to nose this beer, I note some sweet fruity aromas in the background, like licorice and grapes. The layers of this beer's nose are great.

Taste: 4.5/5

Bitter baker's cocoa is the first thing I taste. It's nice and rich. The cocoa, much like in the nose, is accompanied by roasty coffee. The darkness and complexity in this stout are just amazing. At the end of each sip, some subtle fruity notes come into play, as well as some spicy, slightly astringent alcohol. And that's to be expected from its 10.2% ABV.

Mouthfeel: 4/5

Since the carbonation is minimal, Narwhal feels creamy and smooth. The body is super thick and roasty, which I love. This brew really fills the palate.

Finish: 4.5/5

The bitterness of the cocoa is most notable in the finish. That, coupled with some licorice notes, make the finish on Narwhal quite deep and pleasant.

Total Score: 85.5/100

So this was a very enjoyable and rich stout. I think the most prominent achievement Sierra Nevada brought to the table with Narwhal is the cocoa note that dominates this stout. It's bitter and dark and amazing. Overall, this is a very rich stout that I'd recommend to anyone. It's affordable, tasty, and good either warm or cold. Try it while it lasts!

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

[Above photo via boozedancing.wordpress.com]

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review: Southern Tier's Warlock


It's no secret that I love Pumking. It's just the best pumpkin beer on the market. With biscuit malts, vanilla hints, and plenty of spices as well as pumpkin malt, it's superb! It tastes like liquid pumpkin pie. Year after year, Southern Tier have outdone themselves with this brew, and this year they've changed it up a bit by re-inventing Pumking for their Blackwater Series, which includes such great brews as Plum Noir and Creme Brulee. This year they've added a stout version of Pumking to the series called Warlock.

I've already had a glass to test the waters, which I usually don't do before reviews, and I must say it's a knockout. So let's dissect this magical Warlock!

Appearance: 3/5

Warlock is black as night, though has about 95% opacity with a slight orange-amber undertone. The head isn't very impressive, only pouring about a half finger's worth even at just below room temperature. However, the color is definitely that of a stout.

Nose: 4/5

Pumpkin malt hits the nose strongly, yet subtly. Thought it's the most prominent aspect of this beer's aroma, the aroma as a whole is rather subliminal. Spices come through as well, although they are subtle just as the pumpkin notes. I'd say the spices and pumpkin malt are tied in the aroma, and no other darker malts seep into the nose. But there's also a nice hint of vanilla in the nose, which is a great rounding factor.

Taste: 5/5

The combination of a stout and Pumking is apparent, but lovely. Spicy pumpkin malts meet darker molasses and a roasty tone along with pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pie crust and caramel accompany all this to make a strong, dark, yet still pumpkin-pie-esque flavor. It hits me every time I take a sip: this is Puming, but something different. It's all I like about a pumpkin beer and some things I like about a stout in on beer.

Mouthfeel: 3.5/5

Warlock has about a medium body with some dark roastiness. Slightly creamy, and overall very enjoyable, yet drinkable.

Finish: 4/5

Some notes of nutty roastiness and vanilla stick around on the palate. Some spice and valinna lingers for a while, too. All the best things about the pumpkin pie flavor mixed with the stout roastiness.

Total Score: 88/100

This is something new, interesting, and damn near excellent. Each sip hits me with the pumpkin and spice flavors and reminds me of Pumking, while it still has its own roasty and dark body to make it different. At only $10 a bottle, it's not too bad, either. Just a couple bucks more than a bomber of Pumking. If you come across it and you're already a fan of Pumking, pick up a bottle It's well worth it and very drinkable.

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake



Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review: Blue Mountain Barrel House's Sour Devil


Hey, beer aficionados! I'm doing a review tonight of a beer I've had my eye on for a couple days: Sour Devil by Blue Mountain Barrel House. It's interesting that this Virginia-based brewery limits itself to mostly barrel aged and bottle conditioned beers. It's nice to see some people are embracing the art of barrel aging in full!

Sour Devil caught my eye because I've been looking for a nice sour beer lately, after enjoying Dogfish Head's Festina Pesche so much. That was my first foray into the world of sour beers, which can be a very crowd-dividing style of beer. For instance, when two buddies and I tried a nice sour ale on tap at an Alamo Drafthouse cinema, one one of my friends and I liked it. My other friend hated it.

But then I had a closer look at the bottle today and discovered that this was no simple 750ml bottle of sour beer, but rather a sour barrel aged stout. So that was a pleasant surprise. But just how does this sour stout hold up? Let's have a look...

Appearance: 5/5

This stout pours ridiculously well! With a full three fingers of medium tan head and a 95% opaque color, it looks positively scrumptious. Honestly, I'm as impressed with the look of this stout as I was with Ommegang's Take The Black Stout. The head leaves incredible lacing, as well.

Nose: 4/5

What's most interesting about the aroma of this stout is that it smells like whiskey. It has pungent wood and cork malt notes with some equally pungent alcohol smell. It's strong, but woody. There are also some great notes of bourbon and underlying roasty malts.

Taste: 4/5

Well, this sure is a beer that has thrown me for a loop. It's a sour stout. That's quite a bizarre combination. The most immediate taste I get with each sip is a deeply sour wine taste. As a fan of sours, though, it's a cool feature. Though the taste starts sour, it warms and sweetens as I taste it, and thus gives up some other flavors: dark chocolate and some good roasty, earthy-feeling notes.

Mouthfeel: 3.75/5

Sour devil has a nice darker body, but it almost feels medium-bodied because of the sourness. It's a tart, roasty experience for the palate.

Finish: 4/5

Though this stout starts sour, it finishes sweet with notes of chocolate, coffee, and a little coconut.

Total Score: 80.5/100

This is a very unique stout experience. Second to, perhaps in superseding, Weyerbacher's Tiny stout, Sour Devil is sour, roasty, and fully enjoyable. At 10% ABV, it is something to take in lightly, but grab a bottle and enjoy it! It may not be the thing for you, because it is very sour and atypical for a stout. Still, if you're a sour fan and a stout fan, like myself, go for it!

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Review: Alesmith's Evil Dead Red Ale


I've finally found an ale that just screams Halloween, and it's this blood-red offering from Alesmith Brewing Company: the Evil Dead Red Ale. I love the rhyme in the name, and the printed-on label is just great. And the gimmick to this beer? It has an ABV of 6.66%. The percentage of the beast!

Oh, and before I begin, I want to announce a change in format. Due to recent deliberating on Reddit, I've adopted a new rating system. Instead of giving each factor of the beer (appearance, nose, taste, etc.), I will be doing a percentage-based rating system from this point forward. Don't worry, the helpful scores out of 5 will still be there, but there will be a whole new system working behind the scenes, so don't get confused if the final score seems off. The appearance, mouthfeel, and finish of each beer I review will be weighted with a lower percentage so as to get an accurate rating of how each beer holds up, giving more weight to the nose and taste of them. To break it down, the appearance will be 5% of the total, the nose 25%, the taste 50%, and the mouthfeel and finish will each be 10%. And then the scores will be added up to a weighted score out of 100. All of my previous reviews' final scores will be recalculated to fit this model of scoring, as well.

So, I'll jump right into this Halloween-themed review!

Appearance: 4.5/5

As far as red ales go, Evil Dead is a very deep red color. In fact, it's so deeply amber that it nearly looks like blood, just with less opacity. The carbonation is rather minimal, but the head is great. It's about a finger's worth of rich, creamy white head that sticks around extremely well!

Nose: 3/5

The biggest notes in this beer's aroma are those of pine and some citrusy grapefruit, brought on by the hops. I like that this red ale smells so much of the hops, rather than malts. It's always 50/50 with red ales in that regard. There's a little bit of toffee or caramel in the background, as well.

Taste: 4/5

Evil dead is sweet, yet hoppy. The balance makes it thoroughly enjoyable. Nice pine and grapefruit notes create a good hoppy base while sweet caramel and even some berry flavor that I can't quite place. The hop flavors don't make this ale overly bitter, though, which in nice. It's a smooth, sweet, yet moderately malty drinking experience.

Mouthfeel: 4/5

This ale has a medium body and a nice smooth feel. It's quite enjoyable, and not overly intrusive.

Finish: 4/5

The sweetness of the berries and the tanginess of the grapefruit stick around long after each sip. This ale has a wonderful finish, and a long one at that.

Total Score: 19/25

I really enjoyed the balance in this beer's flavor. Sweetness and some hop flavor. The head is amazingly resilient, too. Overall, a very solid red that I'd recommend you picking up a bomber of. Treat yourself to something fun for Halloween, beer drinkers!

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

Monday, October 21, 2013

Review: Weyerbacher's Tiny


I knew I had a lot of work to do on my Halloween costume tonight, so I decided to pick up a stout to have after the work paid off. And it did, by the way! Anyway, so I picked up Weyerbacher's imperial stout, ironically dubbed "Tiny" even though it clocks in at 11.8% ABV. It comes in a nice corked  750ml bottle, which I love. It's so satisfying uncorking a bottle of beer. I could have bought their Imperial Pumpkin Ale and done a review of that because. y'know, 'tis the season, but I've had it before, liked it, and didn't want to shell out the money for a four-pack of something I've tried already.

Anyway, I'll dive into this "Tiny" little stout now...

Appearance: 3/5

This beer sure looks like an imperial stout. It's black as night and looks very thick. I like the head on this, mostly for the color. It's a deep tan head; probably one of the better-looking heads I've seen. However, the head wasn't as big as I had hoped from an imperial stout. It poured only a finger thick and then quickly dissipated. Nothing left of it either. Not even a thin layer floating on top. So I'm about 50/50 about how this beer looks.

Nose: 4.5/5

Y'know, this smells like a very atypical stout. Usually a stout will smell roasty, nutty, and like coffee or chocolate. Apparently those things aren't in Weyerbacher's brewers' collective vocabulary. What I smell in Tiny's aroma are notes of molasses, but more importantly there are wine-like notes. It smells just like a red wine. This intrigues me to the highest degree, and I give Weyerbacher a thumbs up for originality!

Taste: 4/5

The taste of this beer is also rather interesting and unexpected. The first thing I taste, immediately, is a grape/sherry flavor. The grape fruitiness overtakes my palate, but the body isn't like a barleywine, so it's definitely stout-like. There's a good amount of creaminess, some smoky notes, and just hints of molasses, toffee, and a little toasted bread for body thickness.

Mouthfeel: 3.5/5

This is a rather light stout. It doesn't feel thick, but it is nice and creamy. The alcohol content is slightly astringent, but less so when tasted at room temperature.

Finish: 3.5/5

The molasses and a bit of roasty maltiness stays on the back of my tongue upon the finish. Some sherry is mixed into the finish, which is nice.

Total Score: 79.5/100

While I didn't think this stout looked overly appealing, I was impressed by the originality of it. The wine and grape notes were very refreshing, and coupled with deeper smoky molasses notes. The wine-like notes in this stout make it worth picking up for a truly different stout experience.

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Review Double-Header: Bell's Brewery's Two Hearted Ale & Best Brown Ale


It was a good day on Friday at DeCicco's Family Market when they rolled out the display of Bell's Brewery beers. This is the first time they've arrived in New York, and I was pretty excited to try some midwest beer. Bell's Brewery is located in Comstock, Michigan, and have just recently been able to distribute their beer further than PA.

I did some research on the brewery's website and found that they seem to have a solid core lineup of beers and four seasonal brews, while the rest of their time seems devoted to concocting specialty one-off brews. Their specialty offerings range from their Sparkling Ale (a Belgian Triple) to their whopping Black Note Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout, which is a combination of two of their most popular stouts mixed together and aged in bourbon barrels. Sounds like it'd definitely put hair on your chest.

DeCicco's got two good offerings from them: their Two Hearted Ale (a year-round IPA) and their Best Brown Ale (their robust autumn seasonal). I've been having a busy weekend, what with going up to Binghamton and enjoying a visit to Galaxy Brewing Co., so I've had a few of these brews and toyed with what temperature they are best served at and whatnot. Incidentally, Best Brown Ale is best served at just a tad below room temperature while Two Hearted Ale is best served chilled. I like them both, but now I'll take a closer look at them and give them some scores.

Two Hearted Ale:




Appearance: 4.5/5
I poured Two Hearted Ale into a snifter and find the appearance fascinating. It has a beautiful honey-amber color, as can be expected from a good IPA, but what I found better was the carbonation and head. The head started out, after a slow but vigorous pour, as nothing more than a half-finger's-worth of foam. But the extraordinary amount of carbonation increased it, as it sat and I eyeballed it, to a full finger's worth of thick, white head. There is good lacing as well.

Nose: 4/5
THA is hopped with Centennial hops, a nice piney/citrusy hop. Immediately, the notes of grapefruit are apparent in the nose. This aroma is coupled with strong notes of pine, which is nice. Too often I get the citrus aspect of Centennials in a beer and not enough of the pine goodness. But the balance in this aroma is great! Some notes of lemon peel seep through too, giving the aroma the tiniest sour kick.

Taste: 5/5
Definitely notes of pine and grapefruit. The interesting thing is that the taste starts very smooth and ushers in a wave of hoppy bitterness to couple with the hops' flavor notes. I like that there's a sweetness to this beer that makes it very drinkable. The malt presence is more in the finish, but I detect a kind of medium bready malt coupled with some sweet nuttiness that gives this beer a light-to-medium body. And for being 7% ABV, there wasn't a strong alcohol presence at all.


Mouthfeel: 3.5/5
As stated, the body is pretty medium. The strongest sensation upon sipping this beer is the bitterness that fills my palate. The malty undertones only become really prominent toward the end of each sip.

Finish: 3.5/5
Fruity bitterness lingers on the back of my tongue, and that's it. It doesn't oversaturate my palate with ridiculous amounts of flavors with each sip. The finish is simple, sweet, and smooth.

Total Score: 88.5/100

This is a very solid IPA with a lot of things right about it. The appearance is very luxurious, the hop flavors take center stage, and the malt backbone is nice. It's not an over-the-top IPA, but it is definitely a very good offering that has perfected the things that an IPA should be to near-perfection. Bell's is available in most of the lower northeast and midwest, so if you haven't checked this IPA out, you should go pick up a six-pack and enjoy!


Best Brown Ale:




Appearance: 4.5/5
Upon pouring Best Brown Ale, a light tan foamy head formed. It was a solid two fingers' worth of head and looked very nice. The beer's color is a dark brown/amber that has a reddish hue to it, but the beer itself is nearly 100% opaque. It's a handsome beer, and there is some good carbonation present.

Nose: 3/5
The aroma of this beer is more subtle, but there are some nice notes in there. Hints of chocolate and toasty bread come through. Not too much else is detectable, however, so the nose falls a little flat for me.

Taste: 5/5
Serving this beer at just below room temperature really brings out the bold dark flavors of this roasty brew. Slightly bitter chocolate malt takes center stage in the flavor while some solid biscuit/bread malts accompany it. There are some coffee notes in there too. It's a rather thick, dark beer full of my favorite brown ale/stout flavors.

Mouthfeel: 4/5
Best Brown has a bold body brought about by all the darker malts. Thick, rich, and creamy, this beer's body is delectable. A good amount of carbonation makes itself present as well.

Finish: 4/5
Best Brown goes down smooth and leaves some roasted nut and chocolate flavors lingering on my palate.

Total Score: 85.5/100

I tended to like Best Brown Ale a bit more than Two Hearted Ale. Not that they're exactly comparable due to them being two completely different styles of beer, but something about Best Brown's flavor complexity make me keep going back for more. The nose is a little subtle, but the flavors and body more than make up for it. This is a bold brown ale great for those crisp fall evenings.

So if you're in New York, I recommend trying to track down these two beers and sample some of Michigan's finest. Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

[Above images from cheffresco.org & bellsbeer.com]

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Notes From The Tasting Room: Galaxy Brewing Co.


Here in New York we are blessed with a diverse range of craft brewing companies. From Lakewood's famous Southern Tier Brewing Company (makers of one of my top 5 beers, Pumking) to the biggest little brewery in my own backyard, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. But I've noticed, though word of mouth and with the help of my co-blogger Chris, that there are tons of little breweries everywhere in this state. The odd thing is, right in the Binghamton/Endicott area, which got hit hard by the recession in years past, there are 5 nano-to-micro-sized breweries. There's the more prominent Water Street Brewing, the small-but-mighty North Brewery, Black Hat Brewery, Binghamton Brewing Co., and the star of this post - Galaxy Brewing Co.

Galaxy Brewing Co. has been brewing since 2011, but only recently - in fact, six weeks ago - have they opened up in a new spacious location. The interior of their newly-opened location is quite nice, and here's the thing: aside from brewing beers, they offer a full selection of lunch and dinner dishes for dining in while you enjoy their wares. The dining room is very open and new-age industrial in style. The chairs at the tables have aluminum frames, the ceiling is open to reveal pipe work, and it just looks really great.


The bar has aluminum facing on the outside just below the bar top to match the frames of the chairs. The bar top is wooden and finished with a dark stain that looks pretty much black in the lower lighting in the bar/dining room. It's a rather long bar that can fit probably 20-25 people. Granted, I wasn't counting.

And might I add that the bar staff were just awesome! The young woman who served my party and I our sampler paddles was friendly, open, and down-to-Earth. She was more than willing to discuss the brewery's digs, how they got started, and was very helpful in picking which beers to sample. The man who, at the end of my visit, filled up my growler, was enthusiastic and informative about the growler conditioning.

So, how does their beer stack up to their nice, funky interior and extremely helpful staff? Well, I sampled quite a few of their brews. I was with a party of three and we each got a sampler paddle of four beers. They have a total of 12 beers on tap at a time, and they make sure to check which ones are on currently on their very descriptive beer menus. I personally ordered samples of their Solar Flare, Octoberfest, Galaxy NY Harvest Ale, and their Mint Chocolate Stout. But I also got to taste their Brun Ale and Pulsar Porter from the paddle of one of the other two people in my party.

Octoberfest:
I liked this Octoberfest, and not for the usual reasons I like marzens. This particular marzen had a more medium body than I typically come to expect from this style of beer, but its spice notes were to die for. They were much more prominent than many other marzens I've tried.

Galaxy NY Harvest Ale:
This one was a little generic for my tastes, but every good brewery has to play the field and have some good, well-rounded, and not-too-bold beers for their not-so-adventurous patrons. Granted, I liked the piney hop notes to this and the solid fall-feeling malt flavor. It was good, just not stand-out.

Solar Flare:
This was one strong IPA, and I'm glad I was only having a sampler. Clocking in at nearly 8% ABV, this monster of a Belgian style IPA was loaded with the traditional Belgian flavors: citra hops and orange peel notes. Great, bold, citrusy hop flavors to this one!

Brun Ale:
This was an interesting brown ale. In fact, I got a growler of it because I liked it so much! It's a Belgian-style brown brewed with Dark Belgian Candi Sugar. I really liked the hop forward nature of this beer and the smokey, chocolatey finish. It really felt like with every sip there was a beginning, middle, and end! Just lovely.

Pulsar Porter:
This was one heck of a beer. A porter with a bold body, super thick creamy head, and flavor that rivaled Founder's Breakfast Stout. I kid you not! The powerful dark roast coffee notes in the nose and strong flavors of coffee and thick, dark malt flavors in the taste made this a stand-out brew for Galaxy. It's too bad it's nitrous-brewed beer and they can't fill your growler with it. :(

Mint Chocolate Stout:
The description on Galaxy's beer list simply reads, "Mint! Chocolate! Stout! Need we say more?" And they really don't. Granted, based on the reactions from the other two people in my party, this stout isn't for everyone, but I found it to be nifty. The mint came through strongly in the nose and it tasted sweet, just like a mint chocolate dessert square from Ghirardelli. It was like a dessert beer. I wouldn't have a pint of it, but I'd have a sampler glass any time.

And that was my experience. The members of my party and I thanked the staff graciously and I walked out with my nice growler full of Brun. If you're from upstate New York, or anywhere in New York for that matter, I implore you to check out this brand new brewery. Their beer is worth it, and they have a great menu of food. So get some friends together, head over to 41 Court Street in Binghamton, and have a sampler paddle!

In case you're more curious about their brewery or beer list, go to their website here: http://www.galaxybrewingco.com/index.html

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

[Above photos via galaxybrewingco.com]

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: Shipyard's Smashed Pumpkin



Autumn often leaves us beer drinkers in a never-ending search for the best pumpkin beer to enjoy for the season. Will it be Uinta's Punk'n? Or Southern Tier's Pumking? Or Cape Ann's Fisherman's Pumpkin Stout? It's always a battlefield. Throughout the season, one of the things you'll commonly see (and probably disagree with to some degree) are lists of the top ten pumpkin beers. Some can be enlightening and reveal even more pumpkin beers you need to go out and try, while other basically confirm what you already know to be true. Well, as a beer aficionado, I, too, have succumbed to the endless search for a truly great pumpkin beer. While I find Pumking to be the best (and that's just my opinion), I am always looking for the next best thing.

So I have gone through quite a good few pumpkin beers: DFH's Punkin Ale, Uinta's Punk'n, Pumking, Riverhorse's Imperial Pumpkin, Shipyard's Pumpkinhead... Ah, there was one that was kind of interesting. Pumpkinhead is good, but it is still mostly a pumpkin spice beer with not much of a body to boot. And yet it finds its way onto almost every pumpkin beer list. So I was glad to see Shipyard also has another pumpkin offering: Smashed Pumpkin from their Puglsey's Signature Series. It comes in single bomber bottles, but with a hefty 9% ABV, I'm not complaining. So let's give this beer a whirl, shall we?

Appearance: 4.5/5
I'm going to first comment on the bottle. It's a very nice bottle, or rather it has a very attention-grabbing label. The label is bright orange with a black panel in the center, there's gold writing across the top, and the label wraps all the way around the bottle. Also, the top is capped with gold foil.


Anyway, the beer itself looks rather nice. It pours a orange-amber color which looks immediately like a good pumpkin beer. There is plenty of carbonation, but not a ton of head; probably a finger's worth at best, and it dissipates to nothing rather quickly.

Nose: 3/5
I sense the traditional pumpkin spices - nutmeg and cinnamon - and also some other nice things. A sweetish honey scent graces my nose, along with some actual pumpkin malt. I like that I can detect the pumpkin in this beer, although the overall aroma is rather weak and leaves it hard to pick up on certain notes.

Taste: 4/5
The first thing I noted were the spices, but the flavor is bolder than that. Biscuit and light notes of vanilla round out this beer, as well as a deeper malt: pumpkin. The pumpkin flavor is definitely present in this beer, which is perfect! There are far too many pumpkin beers out there that just feel like spiced ales, so kudos to Shipyard for one-upping their own basic seasonal release. There are also notes of caramel in Smashed Pumpkin. The flavor closes out with the spicy notes, which is cool. It kind of feels like the beer's flavor is a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Heh.

Mouthfeel: 3.75/5
Smashed Pumpkin has a medium body which is brought to life by the pumpkin and bready malts. The astringency of the higher ABV is basically not present, leading to a smooth drinking experience.

Finish: 3.5/5
It goes down smooth and leaves behind cinnamon and caramel notes, as well as some of the biscuit malt. The aftertaste kind of feels like I just had a slice of pumpkin pie.

Total Score: 74/100

While this was significantly better than Pumpkinhead, and it does probably make it into my top 10 pumpkin beers (at least of this year), Smashed Pumpkin only goes so far. It looks nice, tastes great, and finishes smooth. However, the nose was a little disappointing. But still, this is a very solid pumpkin offering from Maine's biggest brewery (well, Allagash may be just as big, but Shipyard is definitely up there). Pick yourself up a bottle and enjoy!

Also, I query you, the readers: what are some of your favorite pumpkin beers of the 2013 season? Drop a comment below.

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

Review: Endless Brewing's Chocolate Cherry Stout


As I have grown to love beer, my tastes for beer have expanded as well. Dark beers like stouts and porters have become some of my favorite styles of beers. Combine that with a local brewery, consider me in heaven.

This review will be focusing on a local nano-brewery outside of Montrose Pennsylvania, Endless Brewing. This past weekend, I found myself in the area of Montrose and decided to give them a try. The brewery is run by a married couple (above) no older than 30 years old; both were very friendly and loved talking about beer. They had seven beers on tap and each one happened to be awesome and bursting with flavor. The brew I decided to fill a growler up with is their Chocolate Cherry Stout and boy was I glad I did.

Apperance: 4/5
The Chocolate Cherry Stout pours real smooth from growler to glass. It pours a nice dark, almost black, color with a slight reddish hue. There was very little head at all which was a let down but that typically happens with a growler. What head there was dissipated almost immediately. There is also little lacing throughout.

Nose: 4.5/5
When putting this beer to your nose, you are treated to some awesome aromas. At first, you are treated to a subtle hint of cherry but that quickly dissipates into a deep, malty chocolate scent. This is a great and awesome scent that really gets you in the mood to take your first sip.

Taste: 4.5/5
Chocolate Cherry Stout is a complex, but awesome-tasting brew. At first, it's a nice bitter, malty chocolate stout but as the beer moves to the back of your throat, a very subtle hint of cherry mixes in with the chocolate to provide you with that nice chocolate cherry stout flavor. It is almost like a chocolate covered cherry allowing this brew to burst with flavor, but the flavor is not overpowering whatsoever. It is just a very enjoyable flavor that any stout lover can enjoy. At 7.3% ABV, just make sure to pace yourself because you will want more than just one glass of this great beer.

Mouthfeel: 4/5
Chocolate Cherry Stout has a very nice, stout-like mouthfeel. It is a nice dark stout with a full body that will please the pallet. The carbonation of this beer is not overwhelming either.

Finish: 4.5/5
The finish to this brew is a nice and smooth malty chocolate-cherry-stout-like finish. The chocolate and cherry notes stay with you for a while between sips which is a nice touch to the beer. This will almost certainly leave you wanting more of this great brew.

Total Score: 88.5/100

This is a great beer from a great local nano-brewery. Endless Brewing have outdone themselves with this great stout. I must say, I did not know what to expect going to Endless, but once I left I was so impressed by the experience. For anyone in the Montrose area, you should do yourself a favor and try them out. Chocolate Cherry Stout is just one of the great beer choices on tap from Endless and I assure you, each brew will be excellent. Drink up!

Until next time,

-Chris

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Review: Southern Tier's Crème Brulèe


I love Southern Tier, but more specifically I love their single-bottle releases. Even more specifically, I love their imperials (i.e. Pumking) and their Blackwater Series. The DeCicco's I work at only carries two offerings from the Blackwater Series: Plum Noir and Crème Brulèe. The former, which I've had and liked quite a bit, is an imperial porter brewed with italian plums. If you've never had a beer brewed with grapes (i.e. Dogfish Head's Midas Touch) or plums, give Plum Noir a whirl. It's quite tasty, with a welcome note of tartness.

But this review is focusing on Crème Brulèe (I may, at this point in the review, stop putting cutesy little accents on the "e"s), which is a stout brewed with vanilla beans. Before I dive into this beer, I will say I am putting a lot of faith in Southern Tier here. I've had beers like this before and they were, well, "meh". I tried Breckenridge's Vanilla Porter, for example, and found it to be smooth, vanilla-y, and to lack a body. But that's it. It didn't stand out to me. So to try something very similar is kind of a leap of faith for me. Was this bottle worth $10? Let's find out...

Appearance: 4/5
Creme Brulee pours smoothly. I poured some into a snifter. It is completely opaque and black. It definitely looks like a f***ing stout. The head was a little bit of a let-down, at least on this pour. I may try pouring more vigorously as I continue to enjoy the bottle, but upon this pour I got half a finger's worth of medium tan head which dissipated to a thin layer of creamy-looking head that remains for quite a while. There is also prominent lacing.

Nose: 4.5/5
Upon nosing Creme Brulee, I was knocked back by the strong aroma of vanilla. It's a mouthwatering wave of an aroma! It's rather hard to sift through such a powerful upfront smell, but I do smell some cocoa beneath the vanilla and a bit of nutty-smelling malt.

Taste: 5/5
It tastes like a milk stout, and a damn good one at that! Upfront creamy vanilla coupled with some dark malts. Nuttiness and hints of chocolate in the darker malts, as well as some light caramel notes. The beer is very sweet overall. It tastes just like a very rich dessert, and I'm definitely left wanting more!

Mouthfeel: 4.5/5
Creme Brulee is quite creamy and rich. It feels thick upon the pallet, which is great. This stout has a perfectly balanced body. Not too dark and heavy, and not too creamy. Just right for a milk stout.

Finish: 3.5/5
Upon the finish I got some light hoppy bitterness, which was humbling. The vanilla and caramel notes stick around afterward, leaving me salivating for more.

Total Score: 92.5/100

I must say, Southern Tier have really outdone themselves with this milk stout. I expected something a little less prominent going in and got a very alluring, creamy, aroma-filled experience. I'd definitely recommend this if you're on the fence about Southern Tier (which you shouldn't be, they do a bang-up job on most of their stuff). This beer is also notably great at room temperature. So grab a bottle a drink up!

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Notes From The Tasting Room: Captain Lawrence Brewing Company


So I just went down to Captain Lawrence's tasting room for the second time ever, and figured I'd share my experience with y'all here at ABA. For those that don't know, Captain Lawrence is basically New York's rising star brewing company. Sure, we have Saranac upstate and Brooklyn Brewery, which produces such monumental beers like their Black Chocolate Stout and their Monster Ale barley-wine style ale. But the brewery I care most about in New York is right in my backyard in Elmsford: Captain Lawrence.

A few of their standby beers include a German-style Kolsch, their Freshchester Pale Ale, and Liquid Gold - a Belgian-style ale. But they've been branching out since their start in Pleasantville, NY. Now they do six-packs, have a cozy tasting room, and do specialty beers that are nothing to sneer at.



The experience at their tasting room is great. The decor is very rustic: big ol' aging barrels sitting around for you to stand at and set your samples or 12-ounce glasses on, and a corner with a few bar tables with stools at them. The bar features two 12-tap towers: one for samples and one for filling growlers and 12-ounce glasses with their delicious ales. The process of getting samples has been upgraded since I last went. Instead of just paying $2 for a sample glass and having all the samples you want for that price, they give you 12 tokens for $10. 12 samples for $10 is not a bad deal, all things considered. The sample glasses are about 4-5 ounces, so you're getting a solid drink per token.

Today I sampled 4 brews of theirs. I skipped over their old faithfuls (sorry old faithfuls, I love you but I've had plenty of you) and went for some of their test batch beers and specialties.

First I sampled their Imperial IPA, which was grand. Imperial IPAs tend to be high in ABV and sometimes let that high amount of alcohol slip through into the taste. Not this one! The citrus hop taste was off the charts! It packed such a strong hoppy punch that I had to take a second to really let the flavor sink in. It was quite the intense experience.

Next I had their experimental King Zythos Saison, which was, oddly enough, a brown saison. Saisons are usually light in color and rather floral and citrusy, but light. This one, however, had a nice nutty tone to it which was complimented by earthy malts. It was still light, as a good saison should be, but it was different and I commend the Captain for his experimentation in saisons.

The third sample I had was another experimental batch: Young Wolfington. I liked this beer because it was very different. It was a brown ale, but it lacked hoppy character. Granted, it may end up having more of a hop presence if it's ever bottled, but it was all malt at this stage. To be honest, I thought that was cool. There were roasty, nutty, and light chocolatey notes to the beer and the body was nice and creamy. I didn't miss the hops at all.

I finished off my tasting session with their traditional IPA. It was nice and light, but floral with a touch of citrus. It was not overpoweringly citrusy like their Imperial, but it was still a solid IPA. If you're in New York and see it in a store, pick it up to get your first taste of this brewery. They're good at what they do.

To add a cherry to the top of my visit, I decided to check out the single pint-and-a-half bottles they had one sale. I spied one that tickled my fancy for barrel aged beer: Smoke From The Oak Barrel Aged. It's an imperial smoked porter that was aged in rum barrels. I've had stouts and porters and even ales aged in bourbon barrels or oak casks, but never one aged in a rum barrel. So for the steep price of $20 I treated myself to a bottle of the marvelous-sounding stuff.

And that was that. The brewery is damn good and since they've expanded to their new space a few years ago and ramped up production and distribution, they're easily one of New York's most notable breweries. If you ever happen to be in Westchester and have a spare $10, stop by Captain Lawrence and enjoy some damn good samples!

-Blake

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Flying Dog's "The Fear" Imperial Pumpkin Ale


This may come as a surprise to some, but this is the first time I have ever tried a brew from Maryland-based Flying Dog Brewery. Some will guffaw and ask themselves, upon reading that statement, why I haven't tried their acclaimed IPAs, Raging Bitch and The Truth. To be honest, it does have a bit to do with their label designs. They're all blotchy and angsty-looking. I always see Flying Dog sixers in stores, but never venture into investing in one for fear that the label is all hype and the beer inside has no bite.

But I changed my mind when I recently overheard a sales clerk at the grocery store I work at suggesting pumpkin beers to two young women. He recommended Flying Dog's "The Fear", and gave a few notes on it. I decided that I'd pick up a six pack of the stuff after my shift. So I did, and now I sit with a snifter full of this imperial pumpkin ale, ready to give you my tasting notes.

Appearance: 4/5
I must say that I was surprised by how this beer looked. I understood that it might be a bit darker than the average light orange/amber pumpkin brew because it is an imperial pumpkin ale, but it is dark and opaque! The color can be said to be a deep, deep amber, almost like worn out, brownish copper. The tan head pours a rich, creamy finger's worth and settles to a nice cap that sits atop the beer and doesn't entirely dissipate. There isn't a ton of carbonation, but I think its color and head make up for it.

Nose: 5/5
Upon first smelling The Fear, I picked up on the traditional pumpkin ale spices. They're strong, and very pleasant. Deeper in the aroma is the smell of a dark, nutty malt. I picked up traces of chocolate as well, which surprised me. Chocolate in a pumpkin beer? Could this brewery be so bold? Overall, this beer has a deep, malty, and spicy aroma which is delightful.

Taste: 3.5/5
It opens up with delicious cinnamon and nutmeg spices, then gives way to some of the deeper elements in the brew. Roasty, nutty malts tantalized my tastebuds. There is a bit of a bready malt in there too. To balance out the brew, there are traces of sweet caramel. All of these malts are great, but I do kind of miss the actual taste of pumpkin. I have come to the conclusion that many brewers tend to use the combination of spices used in pumpkin pie - cinnamon and nutmeg, primarily - to create the flavor of pumpkin, but I just get tickled pink when I can actually taste pumpkin malt in a pumpkin beer. For all the flavor of this beer, I didn't sense any pumpkin. And for that, I have to dock points. Don't take it the wrong way, though; this beer still has great flavor!

Mouthfeel: 4/5
This brew has a nice body to it: rich and creamy, yet roasty and dark. The wheat malt helps fuel the body of this beer to make it thoroughly present on the palate.

Finish: 2/5
The Fear doesn't have much of a finish. It leaves behind traces of spice, which is good given the lack of pumpkin malt I picked up, and some nuttiness. But its presence upon the finish doesn't stretch much beyond the spices.

Total Score: 76/100

Flying Dog has definitely caught my attention with this beer. Although it lacked the full seasonal taste I was looking for, The Fear is still a rich dark pumpkin ale with huge malty flavor and a very nice appearance. I'd definitely suggest putting a couple bottles in your next mixed six-pack, or even picking up a whole six pack of it alone. I should get out and try more Flying Dog...

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review: Dogfish Head's 75 Minute IPA


If there's one thing that stands at the very heart of what Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales stands for, it's their collection of IPAs. Everyone with some experience in the craft brew world knows them by name: the 60 Minute IPA, the 90 Minute IPA, the new Sixty-One, and the top-of-the-line-but-not-quite-as-good-as-90-Minute-IPA 120 Minute IPA. But there's yet another new addition that has been made to this family of IPAs, and that's the 75 Minute IPA.

The idea for this came about when the brewery decided to see what would happen if they made an interesting fusion of their 60 Minute and 90 Minute IPAs. The result was the middle-of-the-road 75 Minute IPA. So they decided to start brewing it as its own bottle-conditioned entity and selling it in 750 mL bottles.

This tasty beverage is hopped with whole leaf Cascade hops (my absolute favorite in the IPA world) and spiked with something unusual: maple syrup. But one doesn't look at the words "maple syrup" on the label and walk away immediately because they're so weirded out because, well, this is Dogfish Head we're talking about. Y'know, the brewery putting ancient ingredients from long-dead cultures in their beer. How could a bit of maple syrup hurt?

Let's find out!

Appearance: 5/5
75 Minute IPA looks like a very clean, yet slightly dark IPA. It's a rich golden amber color, much like the color of honey, and is about 75% (ha) opaque. There is a good amount of carbonation, and I'm led to believe, based on various descriptions of this ale, that this retention of carbonation has to do with the infusion of maple syrup. So there's one bonus the syrup gives this ale. The head is great! It pours a frothy one and a half to two fingers thick and leaves really nice lacing.

Nose: 4/5
The familiar scent of citrus hops graces your nose with a wallop. But the smell is not so much earthy citrus, but rather sweet orangey citrus. The maple syrup is coming through in the nose as well, making the hops smell sweet and fresh. In fact, one may even smell traces of fresh pine coming on from combination of maple and caramel malts.

Taste: 4/5
I get notes of a bunch of different things from this IPA. The maple syrup is kind of like a sweet backbone tying all the other flavors together, which is nice; it's just there as a sort of frame for this beer. There are notes of orange citrus balanced with nutty, earthy malts. The hoppy bitterness you'd come to expect from a DFH IPA is there, but it's very well balanced by the maple and nut malt notes. I'd say DFH has done something special with this beer, having such nice flavor combinations. And because this is bottle conditioned, it means the flavor is always changing within the bottle. I'm very tempted to get another bottle of this and have it sit at room temperature for a month to do a follow-up comparison.

Mouthfeel: 3.5/5
75 Minute is lightly carbonated and very smooth. It has a medium body which doesn't overpower the palate. It's nice, and not too overwhelming, which you kind of come to expect when diving in to a DFH IPA.

Finish: 4/5
This ale goes down smooth with a dry hoppy finish. Bits of nutty sweetness linger behind on your palate, as well as notes of citrus. It finishes rather clean.

Total Score: 80/100

This is a very welcome, interesting, and not quite ordinary addition to the Dogfish Head IPA collection. I believe it's tied for second place in the hierarchy with Sixty-One, their grape-infused big brother to 60 Minute IPA. Of course 90 Minute IPA is still on top, but that's a hard hurtle to get over. Still, 75 Minute is awesome: sweet, tangy, nutty, and smartly crafted. Go pick yourself up two bottles, one for now and later.

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake



Thursday, September 5, 2013

Review: Uinta Brewing Co.'s "Punk'n" Harvest Pumpkin Ale


In Utah, there resides a brewery with an interesting, fresh perspective on brewing and a healthy collection of good beers to offer. I'm speaking of Salt Lake City's own Uinta Brewing Co. And I must say, I've taken a bit of a shine to this brewery. I've sampled their Hop Notch IPA and their Dubhe Imperial Black IPA (yeah, it's as mouth-watering as it sounds), which is named after the Dubhe star in the big dipper.

And can I also take a moment to say I love Uinta's bottles? They're a little shorter than average, and they curve down gracefully from the top to the base, rather than having a neck which simply ends when the body begins. Also, they have a compass embossed on the bottle just above the label. How nifty is that?

Anyway, the beer I'm focusing on today is one of their fall seasonals: "Punk'n" Harvest Pumpkin Ale. I've had quite a few pumpkin ales, so I'm rather picky. You can't really de-throne Southern Tier's Pumking (see the review for this brew here), and there are some more fully enjoyable pumpkin beers out there than most. It's a tough market. But I think Uinta has produced a beer which really shines in this category. Let's take a look at it, shall we?

Appearance: 4/5
I have to give credit where credit is due. While Pumking tastes like a king, it doesn't actually look like a king. Punk'n looks much more like an autumn pumpkin beer. It's a deep amber color, much like the color of late October foliage. There is a good amount of carbonation in this beer, which tapers a bit as it sits in the glass, but is still present enough to note. The head is very slight, probably only half a finger maximum. Still, the color is what draws me in.

Nose: 5/5
Spices galore! Get ready for an aromatic treat when nosing Punk'n. The forefront of the spicy barrage upon your nostrils is cinnamon and nutmeg, two spices which work in perfect harmony in any pumpkin beer. But it smells warm, almost like the aroma of a pumpkin pie. It's a full, very powerful scent which will leave you dying to try it.

Taste: 5/5
The malts in this beer are fully present, balancing out the spices you're almost sure are going to be the main feature of the brew upon nosing it. But no! There's a bready, earthy malt flavor to this ale, enough so that it almost tastes like a brown ale brewed with pumpkin. And yes, there's a good jolt of pumpkin malt in there, too. And there's even a hint of bitterness as an added bonus. It's a very fulfilling taste.

Mouthfeel: 2.5/5
Now here's where this beer falls short of a great pumpkin beer. It's a very tasty and aromatic brew, but it lacks in body, I feel. Punk'n has a light-to-medium body because of the pumpkin and earthy malts. However, it's nothing that fills your palette and makes your eyes widen.

Finish: 2/5
Some spice and hints of pumpkin linger upon the finish. However, these flavors quickly fade. Perhaps this is because Punk'n isn't particularly strong, clocking in at a very sessionable 4% ABV. But the finish just felt lackluster to me.

Total Score: 88/100

This pumpkin ale tastes great, smells great, and looks quite appetizing. However, it's not a full experience. The mouthfeel and finish are weak. But that doesn't mean it's not a very tasty pumpkin beer. I think there are a lot of great flavors to be had in this brew and Uinta really nailed that on the head. They really know what they're doing when it comes to making a good-tasting brew that are good for you, too. Yeah, Punk'n sports 3% organic ingredients. So I wouldn't knock this beer until you've tried it this fall.

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: Hop Box Imperial IPA


Hello, fellow beer connoisseurs! It's time for a new beer review. And this time it's not of a fall beer. Fancy that!

So I picked up an IPA, because I love them so much. Y'know, they're definitely one of the two most complex types of brews on the planet, next to stouts. And when you get your hands on an imperial IPA, it's even more special. And that's what I have today.

I picked up the Hop Box Imperial IPA, brewed by Joseph James Brewing Inc., based in Nevada. Hop Box is 9.3% ABV and sports a whopping 90 IBUs. This is my first time coming across a beer from this brewery, so I'll just dive right into this review.

Appearance: 5/5
Hop Box pours really nicely into a glass. I poured mine into a Weizen glass because it's the closest thing I own to an IPA glass (like the one Dogfish Head put out). The beer is a hazy opaque golden color that looks quite rich. The head is impressive as all hell; it comes out to a full two fingers of white, frothy foam that sticks around for a good while and leaves a considerable amount of lacing. It looks mouth-watering.

Nose: 3.5/5
Definitely citrus notes coming from this beer, and strong ones. This is the Cascade hops working their magic. They're my favorite kind of hops next to Centennial ones.

Taste: 4.5/5
I really enjoy the bitterness and citrusy flavor of this beer. The Cascade hops really shine, as the beer is primarily tangy with citrus goodness. There is some malt behind the overpowering bitter citrus. The malt is primarily light biscuits and, dare I say, some touches of caramel. But overall it's just a nice, deep, bitter IPA.

Mouthfeel: 3/5
Hop Box is a rather dry IPA with a medium body. The alcohol content and the decent amount of depth of flavor help make this beer full enough to enjoy.

Finish: 3/5
Pure bitterness lingers after each sip of this beer. It's not an overbearing bitterness, and it incorporates the piney notes from the Simcoe hops and a lot of the citrus tones from the Cascade hops. It's citrus from beginning to end with this beer.

Total Score: 79.5/100

As far as imperial IPAs go, this one is pretty good. It's hoppy, bitter, and features a whopping amount of citrus tang which I love. You'll definitely want to pick up a bottle of this or a whole four pack if you want. It's good enough where you may want two.

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: Southern Tier's Imperial Pumking


The fall beers just keep on being awesome, so I'm going to keep on drinking them! This particular review is about the big fall release from Southern Tier which everyone looks forward to: Imperial Pumking.

Southern Tier can be a bit of a grab bag of good and not-so-good beers. Some beers they do quite well are their 2X Stout, 2XMAS, Phin & Matt's Extraordinary Ale, and most of their Imperial series. Some beers they don't do too well are their IPAs (which come off a bit bland), and their Live Pale Ale (same problem). However, this review is about one of their seasonal Imperials, so you (and I) are in luck!

Pumking is an absolute treat I discovered last fall. I fell in love with the brew. As its name suggests, it is the king of the pumpkin beer world. It's a strong beer, clocking in at 8.6% ABV, and tastes so damn good. The best description of it would be liquid pumpkin pie. So let's break down this brew and find out just what about it there is to enjoy!

Appearance: 3.5/5
Pumking pours a surprisingly light color with a slight orange/amber tint to it. There isn't much head to be had, but there is plenty of carbonation upon first pouring it. However, that carbonation doesn't stick around as long as I'd like.

Nose: 5/5
Pumpkin is what you'll be smelling when you nose this brew. It's a rich, deep aroma that shows this beer means business when it says it was brewed with pumpkins. Nutmeg and cinnamon undertones help boost this aroma and will make you salivate. It's a very full aroma!

Taste: 5/5
Utter perfection. The nutmeg and cinnamon aren't just undertones in this beer's flavor, and they attack your palate full-force upon first tasting it. Then, as you process the beer, you can taste the powerful amount of pumpkin in it. There's also the presence of vanilla as you finish each sip, which is a nice addition: almost like the whipped cream atop the pumpkin pie that is this beer. Pumking has a nice, full body too. The ABV could have something to do with that, but it's a thick, rich beer despite its light appearance. Overall, Southern Tier knocked it out of the park with this brew's flavor.

Mouthfeel: 4/5
Pumking has a nice body that really makes itself present on your palate. The carbonation is pretty light, which, combined with the rich flavor, creates an almost creamy feeling to the beer.

Finish: 4/5
Here's where the vanilla kicks in. The light, creamy flavor sneaks in upon the finish and makes for a nice icing on the cake, so to speak. Cinnamon lingers afterward as well, leaving a pleasant late-autumn taste on your palate.

Total Score: 94.5/100

Despite having a slightly underwhelming appearance, Pumking is a full-flavored, thick, rich beer that will easily make it into your top 5. It's definitely in mine. You can try as many autumn beers as you want, but Pumking is guaranteed to be the end-all for you (most likely). So pick yourself up a bottle now, or in October... or November. This beer is usually on sale for a good few months, which is great because it's so damn good!

Well, until next time, cheers!

-Blake

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: North Brewery's Holy Grail


If you live in New York, then you know the craft brewing business is a booming business throughout the state. The Binghamton area is no exception to this. We have the Water Street Brewing Company, the Galaxy Brewing Company opening next week, the Binghamton Brewing Company opening next year and the Farmhouse Brewery in Newark Valley next year.

But the one that I have been to and is only about 10 minutes away from my house and is fan favorite of mine, the North Brewery in Endicott New York. This nanobrewery is run by a father and son who truly love the brewing business - and it shows in their beers. The North Brewery specializes in dark (and I mean dark) beers with high alcohol content. IPAs, stouts, and specialty beers can be found in their arsenal. I love this place and I won’t hide it. The beer I will be reviewing is their Holy Grail, which is a cherry honey dunkelweizen that will change your life. If you are unsure of what dunkelweizens are, they are German-style dark wheat ales, much like the popular weissbier which is a light wheat style ale.

Appearance: 4/5
This beer pours a real nice deep reddish-brown color that you cannot, and I mean cannot, see through. The head is a very light tan color, which is prominent at first but dissipates very fast and leaves little lacing.

Nose: 5/5
This beer smells so damn good. The smell of honey is so prominent that it graces your nostrils with a great experience. The smell of cherry is very, very faint and you can barely smell it but it is there at the end mixed with the honey making for a very complex and bold aroma that will surely make you salivate.

Taste: 4.5/5
Let me be the first to say that once you drink this brew, you are in for an adventure, and by adventure, I mean a great time. When you first sip this beer, the taste of honey with a little wheat will be the first to grace your palate. But as the beer flows to the back of your throat, the taste of cherry mixes in with the honey as well as the wheat and really brings out the beer's full potential and greatness. These malts go great together. The flavor is not overwhelming, but it is set up perfectly. Honestly, this is the most complex and interesting beer I have ever tried and I loved the challenge of figuring out the brew. The beer finishes with a somewhat sour taste that becomes more prominent as you continue to drink the beer but it does not ruin the brew one bit. How can you lose with a cherry-honey combination?

Mouthfeel: 4/5
Like I said, this brew in complex in nature. A lot of things are going on in this beer, but that is what makes it a great beer. Even though this is an unfiltered beer, it drinks and finishes smooth making it easy to drink. I think the honey has a lot to do with this. The carbonation is not overdone at all as well.

Finish: 4.5/5
This beer is another case of, when my growler and glass were both empty, damn I was sad. This beer finished out slightly sour with the taste of cherry being the dominant malt flavor at the finish. This only becomes greater with every single sip. The aftertaste was a slight cherry malt with a hint of honey to balance it out. The finish is smooth and the beer goes down easy which makes finishing an entire growler at one sitting very easy.

Total Score: 88.5/100

Overall, this is a great beer. What makes it even better is that it is a local nanobrewery that is close to home for me. A 10 minute drive and I am sitting at the bar drinking a damn good beer every single time. The master brewer is the individual who fills up your growlers and gives you the samples of each of the five beers on tap on that given day. You can instantly tell this man loves beer and it shows when you try your first brew from the North Brewery. The Holy Grail is no exception. This beer has a relatively high alcohol content (somewhere around the low 8s), which is about the standard for most of the beers at the brewery. But don’t let the scare you from drinking too many of these because after the first three, you will want another three. So if you are in the Endicott area, do yourself a favor and go to Washington Ave. and hit up the North Brewery for a great time and some great beer.

-Chris

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: Blue Moon Caramel Apple Spiced Ale


It is that time of the year again when breweries all across the U.S. shell out their fall seasonal beers and the whole country goes nuts for them. I would be included in that category. The great pumpkin flavor as well as the unique spices that breweries put into these beers makes them truly special and satisfying. Now, if you are a friend of mine, you probably know that I am a huge Blue Moon fan and I considered it to be my go-to beer as well as my gateway beer. The fall season is where I think Blue Moon shines with interesting and great-tasting beers with their fall seasonal sampler pack.

But this is not a review of the Harvest Pumpkin Ale from Blue Moon. This is a review of the limited release Caramel Apple Spiced Ale. As I am sitting here drinking this beer with the official Blue Moon styled glass, I figured, "why not write a review of it?" Because every single one of you need to experience this great beer.

Appearance: 4/5
This beer pours a nice, rich copper color with a light tan-colored head. This color makes you think of the fall season and all of its glory. The head was thick at first and dissipated slowly, but maintained a presence throughout. There is also some slight lacing.

Nose: 4.5/5
This is one of the best but also one of the most interesting smelling beers I have ever put my nostrils to. Immediately the scent of cinnamon graces your nose, but that quickly turns into a subtle scent of caramel. Once the caramel scent is deeply imbedded in your senses, the scent of apples enters and you feel as if you are in a small town cider mill. The feeling of fall sets in full force with this scent. It is almost as if you are back home and it's Thanksgiving and the smell of your mom's homemade apple pie is filling up your house. That is the beauty of this beer's aroma.

Taste: 4.5/5
Caramel Apple Spiced Ale is tasty and tastes like nothing I have ever had before - and I have had my fair share of beer. The cinnamon notes are the first to grace your taste buds and are very prominent, but not overpowering. For some, the taste of cinnamon is a turn-off but I think it goes great with this beer. As the brew flows to the back of your throat, the flavor changes to a nice caramel malt and apple taste giving you the sensation of a fresh caramel apple, perfect for fall. The aftertaste stays the same. The flavor of this beer is not overwhelming but is certainly not lacking any flavor. It is bold and bursting with flavor at every sip, even the very last. At 5.8% ABV, this beer won’t knock you on your ass after three or so, allowing you to fully enjoy the great fall experience that is Caramel Apple Spiced Ale.

Mouthfeel: 4/5
The addition of fresh apple juice in this beer creates a little different experience than most are used to when drinking a blue moon. The apple juice creates a smoother and cleaner feel than a flagship Blue Moon and the cinnamon creates a nice spiced feeling when you are drinking it. The carbonation is not overdone either.

Finish: 4.5/5
When my glass was empty, I felt a little sad inside. This beer truly finished out a like caramel covered apple that had coating of cinnamon. These are all things that I love, and it truly made this brew shine. The beer finishes smooth and goes down very easily leaving the perfect amount of flavor making you want more.

Total Score: 88.5/100

Overall, this turned out to be all I hoped it would be and then some. I truly got the feeling I was eating a caramel covered apple with a coating of cinnamon. This beer was very drinkable which is dangerous because I could have about five of these without even looking. For anyone who loves the fall season and the beers that it delivers should go pick up the Blue Moon fall sampler pack which contains Caramel Apple Spiced Ale. You get three of these bad boys in it with four different blue moon styles to go with it. How could you pass that up?

-Chris

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Review: Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale


Hi, beer aficionados!

It's a nice, quiet Sunday evening in the late summer, so I figured I'd plop down and have myself a nice fall brew. Ah yes, fall brews are popping up like little buds in stores everywhere. From Sam Adams' Octoberfest (a favorite of mine) to Southern Tier's Pumking (the greatest of all pumpkin beers, in my humble opinion), spicy, rich beers are coming into season.

But this review is about one I haven't seen before. Many breweries have a pumpkin beer. Dogfish Head, Saranac,  and many more. However, other than their Octoberfest, I haven't seen Boston Beer Co. release an actual pumpkin beer until this year. Their release if Harvest Pumpkin Ale. And I'm going to have a glass of it and tell you my thoughts. Here we go!

Appearance: 3.5/5
Harvest Pumpkin pours a nice dark amber color, almost reddish. It's a bold fall color that works. The head left something to be desired, though; it poured a thin layer of head that dissipated much to quickly, and there's no lacing.

Nose: 4/5
I get the pumpkin spices in the nose, exclusively. However, the aroma of these spices isn't very present. I get hints of nutmeg and cinnamon and, luckily, of actual pumpkin. Some pumpkin beers in the business will be called pumpkin beers while they are merely brewed with cinnamon to give drinkers the flavors of pumpkin pie. But ale brewed with real pumpkin is very nice, and that's why it's refreshing to actually smell the righteous gourd in this beer.

Taste: 3/5
Harvest Pumpkin is tasty, but nothing extraordinary. There are notes of cinnamon spice, a tiny hint of pumpkin, and a nice maltiness. The lack of a pumpkin taste kind of left me disappointed because it was definitely present in the beer's aroma, but it falls short in the taste, becoming masked by the spices and malt. However, for what it's worth, I still think the spices are pleasant and not overbearing, which makes this pumpkin ale very drinkable. And at only 5.7% ABV, that's a good thing; you could probably have about 3 of these, still not be drunk, and have enjoyed a nice fall beer experience.

Mouthfeel: 3/5
I think this is where the pumpkin in this brew shines. The body of this beer is not too thick, but medium, and I think the pumpkin has a lot to do with that. The gourd creates a pleasant thickness that sticks around.

Finish: 3.5/5
All that I get in the finish is the lingering of cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg, as well as the thick feeling of the pumpkin. It goes down really smooth and leaves behind just the right amount of flavor.

Total Score: 66.5/100

So overall this turned out to be more of a "pumpkin spice" beer than a real "pumpkin" beer. Don't get me wrong, though: it's nice. It's a solid fall brew that has the right amount of spice and body to be pleasant, but not overbearing. It's good that they released this earlier rather than later in the autumn season because it's a good one for transitioning into fall. Grab yourself one of these in a mixed six pack, or pick up a whole sixer if you wish! It's also available in the Sam Adams Harvest Sampler. Your choice.

Until next time, cheers!

-Blake