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!


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!


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.


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?


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!


Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: Atlantic New Guy IPA

So I hit up my local specialty beer store and picked up a mixed sixer of IPAs. A bit of history with me and IPAs: I used to hate them. I thought they were bitter and boring, but they're all my dad would drink before I turned 21 and could go out and get my own beers. But y'know what? I've come to like the hoppy little guys. There's a distinct power they hold in their delicious varieties of hop combinations and flavor additions.

So here's the first review of this six pack: Atlantic's New Guy IPA. It's not the newest guy on the block from Maine-based Atlantic brewery, but it is named in honor of one of their newest employees, hence "New Guy". So let's get to the breakdown, shall we?

Appearance: 3.5/5
New Guy pours real nice. It's a handsome golden-amber color that really makes me say, "Hey, this looks delicious!" Some IPAs can be rather light and bland in color, but this one looks thicker and more interesting. The head isn't spectacular, but it does leave some nice lacing. And another note is the carbonation: it's very present, and that's a nice little plus.

Nose: 3/5
The aroma of New Guy isn't very strong, but it can be broken down. There's a simple, earthy smell from the Columbus hops used to make this brew. This also makes me intrigued by the brew, because a lot of the time brewers try to find two (or sometimes more for imperial IPAs) hop varieties to create a more diverse taste. But Atlantic went the simple route, and I'm glad they went for an earthy hop and not something floral.Although I like citrus and floral hops, earthy ones are nice for a change.

Taste: 4/5
This IPA tastes surprisingly malty. The first thing I taste is definitely the earthy, bitter hops, which is nice. This is an IPA after all. But there's a thick, bread-like malty flavor behind the hoppiness. Though the flavor is limited to those two aspects (the earthy Columbus hops and the bread-like malt), which for some could be a little boring, the flavor is nice. It's powerful to make up for its limitations.

Mouthfeel: 4/5
As I said, this IPA feels very thick. This is due to the bread-like biscuity malt. The malt makes this beer awesome.

Finish: 3/5
New Guy finishes beautifully. It leaves a strong hoppy taste in my mouth, which is welcome after the malty taste. It's like the beer balances out its two components by starting with hops, going to the malt flavor, then finishing with hops.

Total Score: 72.5/100

So New Guy sizes up to be a pretty average, but still very nice "guy". This isn't a top-of-the-line IPA, but it is quite nice and balanced. Pick up a bottle (or six) and enjoy one for yourself!

Until next time, cheers!


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Review: Shipyard Summer Ale

Ah, summer ales. From the fruity and over-sweet Straw-Ber-Rita to the tasty, half-lemonade-half-beer Leinenkugel Summer Shandy. Summer is all about light, refreshing beers with a nice zip to them. Sam Adams busted out a great lemony Summer Ale, and so did the Maine brewery, Shipyard.

I've been blessed to spend the summer in Maine because their brewery scene is off the hook. There's Shipyard, Sea Dog, KBC, Atlantic, and many more. I'm starting to think Maine's big selling point should be beer and not lobster (although the lobster's great). Anyway, one brew I keep coming back to this summer is Shipyard's Summer Ale. It's a great seasonal. How good? Well, let's break it down:

Appearance: 2.5/5
Like most summer beers, Shipyard Summer is hazy and light in color. It produces some nice head, but not anything spectacular. Still, for a summer brew it looks nice and perhaps just a little deeper in color than the average summer brew.

Nose: 2.5/5
Shipyard Summer has a nice lager-esque aroma to it. It smells like... well, beer. There's a note of lemon in the nose, but otherwise it noses just like the average lager. It's not bad, but it's not the most impressive aspect of this brew.

Taste: 5/5
This beer is delicious! While the average summer shandy or summer ale will go for an overpowering flavor of lemon, this particular brew goes for a less lemony and more beer-y taste. The lemon comes through, for sure, but it's much more balanced by hops and malts (at least in my palate's opinion).

Mouthfeel: 4/5
The lemon aspect to this brew leaves a sour feeling in my mouth, but there's also a great amount of body to this beer. It feels like a beer and not some fruity summer refresher. I like the complexity and it leaves a great taste lingering in my mouth.

Finish: 3/5
The finish of Shipyard Summer isn't spectacular. It finishes with a nice amount of lemony sourness and also a good amount of malty thickness.

Total Score: 79/100

As far as summer beers go, which aren't meant to be 25/25 material, this is a strong frontrunner in the field. If you have the chance, I highly recommend picking this brew up while summer is still in its height. It's refreshing, delicious, and quite enjoyable for beer-drinkers everywhere.

Until next time, cheers!


Review: Rogue's Hazelnut Brown Nectar

Rogue is a brewing company I've only had one run-in with before, that is when I tried their “Dead Guy Ale” on the day of the supposed Mayan apocalypse. Y'know, 2012, ooh ahh scary. That was a nice ale. Nothing ridiculously outstanding, though.

Anyway, this is my second foray into their catalog of beers. In fact, most of their catalog of brews is in 22 oz. bottles, so this is one of the few brews of theirs I've found in 6-pack packaging. The beer in question is their Hazelnut Brown Nectar. My immediate thought: Nutella in liquid form. Sweet. So I picked it up. Here are my thoughts... 

Appearance: 4/5
Hazelnut Brown is a nice, deep amber ale. It almost looks like a porter, but it's not quite opaque enough. It looks nice, almost visibly creamy. The head was great: a nice, thick, 1-inch layer of caramel-colored suds. As I sip on the beer, it leaves nice lacing which doesn't stick around for too long, but looks good nonetheless.

Nose: 5/5
Immediately I get a strong aroma of a light chocolate nuttiness. As contradictory as that may sound, this isn't a stout so it's not going to smell strongly of chocolate like, say, Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout. But I must say, it smells great. I get a good whiff of the stuff before each sip and simply love that.

Taste: 3.5/5
Opposite to how this beer noses, the taste is rather more nutty like a nut brown ale. While it's almost a let-down because of how it smells, I like it. It's nutty and dark and lightly chocolatey.

Mouthfeel: 2.5/5
This ale feels not too heavy, but also not too light. It's medium-bodied and dark.

Finish: 4/5
The ale goes down smooth, with not too much of a crazy or complex finish. But it does leave a lingering nutty/chocolatey taste which leaves me wanting more.

Total Score: 77/100

This is a pretty solid ale. It's dark, rather complex, has a great aroma, and is generally enjoyable without being too heavy. If you're not a porter or stour kind of person, this is a perfect ale to sample the darker end of beers with.