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!


[Above photo via]

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!


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

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!


[Above photos via (in order):, Untappd user Dave,,]

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!


[Above photo via David Jensen of]

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!


[Above photo via]