Sunday, January 31, 2010

Samuel Adams Noble Pils


Samuel Adams Noble Pils

Brewed by:
Boston Beer Company

(Samuel Adams)
Boston, Massachusetts

 

German Pilsener
5.20% ABV







Commercial Description:
2009 Beer Lover’s Choice Contestant - Sample A. Similar to a traditional Czech Pilsner, our Samuel Adams Pils is brewed with a blend of 5 Noble Hop varieties from each of the world’s only remaining Noble Hop growing regions. The spicy, herbal and citrus hop character is well balanced by the Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner malt, adding honeyed malt character and full body without sweetness.
(RateBeer.com)

General Pricing:
12oz Bottle ~$8.00 6pack, ~$14.00 12pack, ~$25.00-$29.00 case

Background:
I reviewed this beer a couple of weeks ago and thought it was one of, if not the worst beer I have ever had. It was absolutely horrible and I was merciless in blasting Samuel Adams for producing such a bad beer. By the end of the review I did mention that I could have gotten a bad bottle and would review it again if I got another bottle.

After seeing a review by betterpoetmadman (http://www.youtube.com/user/BitterPoetMadman#p/a/u/0/n-Ru1PXgIkU ) I really suspected that I had a bad bottle. Just a few days ago I was at Stateline Liquors for a stout tasting and asked Robert Murray about it. Well, after that conversation it put the icing on the cake and I was determined to try this beer again. So here we go.

Review:
The beer pours a golden straw color with a bright white head. This also looks like it has good carbonation with a fair amount of bubbles rising up from the bottom of the glass.

That’s a nice nose for a pilsner. Light pilsner malts and nice inviting hop aromas are on the nose of this beer. It’s a good old fashion beer aroma.

Wow! This was a completely different beer than the one I had a few weeks ago. This is a good pilsner.

There are nice sweet pilsner malts up front then a nice carbonation with a building hopiness. The back-end and finish are full of hops but not really very bitter. This may be the most complex hop flavors I’ve ever had in a beer. What’s really impressive thing about his beer is that with all of those hopes this is still nicely balanced with those light pilsner malts. It does not have a lingering bitter finish and it remains a very clean and refreshing beer throughout.

I’ve never tasted a beer with such a hop complexity. This beer does not have the single hop flavor of your standard Pilsner; you can really taste an interesting multi-hop variety of flavors that is very unique to this beer. This is really a well crafted beer. It’s a great old fashioned pilsner with an interesting hop complexity twist.

That was so good I’m going for round 2.

The head on this beer does have some staying power. It has diminished to a nice film on top of the beer and a ring around the glass. I am also very impressed with the lacing, quite remarkable for a Pilsner.

This beer also warms nicely. It is now at 65 degrees and it is actually seems a little smoother now. All and all this is a very good beer.

I have to offer my complete and sincere apologies to Samuel Adams for that first review. That was obviously a bad bottle not a bad beer. I have removed the old post so you probably don’t even know about it. It just wasn’t fair to keep that around after tasting a fresh bottle of this brew.

I can not find anything wrong with this beer. It is an excellent Pilsner. It has all those classic Pilsner qualities and then some. It has a great old fashion crispness that has been missing in American Pilsners for years. This is an very easy drinking beer. I highly recommend this beer to anyone that likes the taste of a classic pilsner; what American Premium beers use to be back in the day. The flavors in this beer are nostalgic with a craft beer hop complexity twist to it.


This beer has gone from an F to a B+ maybe an A-. Pilsner Urquell is still my gold standard for a pilsner. This beer is a true craft beer version of this Pilsner style, which may place it just outside of an authentic Pilsner. It’s like a souped-up version. But unlike some other American souped-up versions of beers this one remains highly refreshing and should be widely drinkable by just about anyone that likes beer. I do however think that Pilsner Urquell is a more drinkable and more refreshing Pilsner.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sierra Nevada Porter


Sierra Nevada Porter

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Chico, California

American Porter
5.60% ABV






Commercial Description:
A delicious, dark-colored, medium-bodied ale made with roasted malted barley. It has a creamy head and a very rich, yet smooth, malty flavor.
Bittering Hops: Nugget
Beginning Gravity: 14.5 Plato
Finishing Hops: Willamette
Ending Gravity: 3.5 Plato
Malts: Two-row Barley Malt, Caramel Malt, Chocolate Malt, Black Malt, Dextrin Malt (RateBeer.com)

General Pricing:

12oz Bottle, ~1.49 single, ~$8.00 six pack, ~ $28.00 - $31.00 a case

Background:
I will most likely post a style discussion about Porters. Basically I’m a sucker for a good porter. I think historically for me it was a porter that first led me into believing that there were better beers out there. The style varies quite a bit but my favorite type of port is a medium bodied with good flavor and easy drinking. In my mind there should be a wide difference between a porter and a stout but the really isn’t much difference in the current Craft Beer market.

Review:
The porter pours a clear but very dark brown with amber hues around the edges of the glass only and a very rich tan head.

Rich dark malts on the nose with an almost vanilla sweet aroma and a slight hop presence. This is a very inviting nose I can’t wait to dive into this one.

That’s a nice straight up porter. It has a fairly light mouthfeel, not watery but lighter than a stout but with very robust malt flavors. Again this is a real porter not a stout.

There is always a gray area between a stout and a porter. Especially since a stout is really just a stout porter; how stout does your stout porter need to be before you call it a stout.

Sorry let me get back to the taste.

It starts out just like you would expect with a dark roasted malt sweetness up front. The middle of the taste has more robust malt flavors. The back-end and finish dries a bit as you pick up some hop and malt bitterness. The final aftertaste is a lingering maltiness but you don’t have that stout like malt coating throughout your mouth.

All and all this is a very pleasant but somewhat robust porter. It also has nice medium bodied mouthfeel. The only negative for me is that it may be a little too robust for my liking. But don’t get me wrong it is not too robust for an American Porter.

I think this will be a B- for a grade by style.

High & Mighty Home for the Holidays


High & Mighty 
Home for the Holidays

Brewed by:
High & Mighty Beer Co.
Holyoke, Massachusetts

 

American Brown Ale
7.00% ABV







Commercial Description:
Home for the Holidays is a smooth, malty, warming brown ale, brewed with loads of roasted malts to give hints of chocolate and raisin, liberally dosed with noble Halletauer and Saaz hops, and fermented with a Belgian yeast strain. It’s perfect for evenings with that special someone (or your dog, or ideally, both) in front of the fire, or to celebrate the return of a family member who’s been away . . . Profits from the sale of this product will be donated to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.iava.org).
(RateBeer.com)

General Pricing:

22oz Bottle ~$5.00-$8.00

Review:
The beer pours a dark amber, almost brown with reddish hues with an off white head.

Dark malts almost, an almost burnt aroma is on the nose of this beer. There are also some fairly strong hop aromas along with a medley of spices. The spice and hop aromas are almost blending together into one aroma. This is one interesting and very inviting nose.

This is a very interesting tasting beer. I may have a hard time explaining this one.
The taste starts out with sweet but dark roasted malts. By mid-sip these toasted malt flavors build to a malt bitterness. The back end and finish are both malty and hoppy. There is definitely a hop bitterness to the finish but the final aftertaste is a malt bitterness with also a spice element to it. It almost has a smoky characteristic to it.

I’m having a hard time with the bitterness at the end of the taste. The malts seem to be more toasted with a lighter mouthfeel then a roasted thicker malt. I’m getting that from the initial flavor and mouthfeel of the beer. The problem I’m having is that the malt bitterness I’m getting is usually from a dark roasted malt not a lighter toasty one. There is also a coffee almost espresso bitterness. That could be killing this beer for me. I usually don’t like a coffee bitterness in a beer.  Well I told you I may have a hard time explaining this one.

The back-end bitterness just set’s me back. LOL

As this beer warms that back-end bitterness is turning unpleasant. Yeah, this beer is not warming very well. 

I had this beer in December at a Christmas Beer Tasting and I really liked it. Of course at a tasting you are only getting about 5 ounces in a sample glass so I full glass will always be a little different. I’m just surprised on how different this is.
Here is my tasting note: Very Good with a little smoke and Belgian Yeast Funk

At the tasting I perceived that malt bitterness as a smoky flavor and I picked up the Belgian Yeast. But now the bitterness overwhelmed the back-end where you would have picked up those yeasty notes.

This is the first time a really liked a sample but did not like the full glass. It’s not a bad beer but I would rather it be a little smoother especially on the back-end.  So I’m giving this a C- I really did not like this as much as I did at the tasting.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Samuel Adams Boston Ale


Samuel Adams Boston Ale
(Stock Ale)

Brewed by:
Boston Beer Company

(Samuel Adams)
Boston, Massachusetts

American Pale Ale (APA)
4.94% ABV




Commercial Description:
Samuel Adams® Boston Ale was first brewed to celebrate the opening of our Boston Brewery. Like Samuel Adams Boston Lager®, it was an old family recipe that was rescued by Jim Koch from his father’s attic. Samuel Adams® Boston Ale, a Stock Ale, has a complex, caramel malt character balanced with distinct spicy and herbal hop notes. Our proprietary ale yeast imparts a variety of fruit and ester notes in both the nose and flavor which are indicative of the style. Stock Ale, one of the few classic beer styles to have originated in the United States, has a strong New England heritage. The style draws its name from the cool "stock cellars" in which it was aged. This technique imparted a smoothness and body which became the hallmark of this style. Keeping with the Stock Ale style, Samuel Adams® Boston Ale is fermented at cooler almost lager like temperatures and conditioned much longer than most ales. It also is Krausened and dry hopped.
(RateBeer.com)

General Pricing:
12oz Bottle ~$6.50-$8.00 6pack, ~$25.00-$29.00 case

Background:
I had this beer for the first time last week at a party and I thought it was pretty good. Everyone at the party was drinking their beers out of the bottle. It was hard to control the beer snob in me. I wanted to pour it into a glass take a good sniff, hold it up and check out the color etc. I did restrain myself and drank my beer like a normal person. It’s hard to be normal when it comes to beer, darn hard.

Review:
The beer pours a nice copper color with amber hues and a fairly rich off white head. This brew is also highly carbonated with lots of tiny bubbles rising up from the bottom of the glass.

Nice aromas on the nose; sweet caramel malts, almost a toasty aroma with the malts. There is also a light hop presence on the nose.

The taste starts out with sweet light malts up front then a very nice effervescence over the tongue. The back-end is a building hop bitterness by the end of the swallow but it seems to dry nicely. There really isn’t a lingering aftertaste. The aftertaste is very light with malts and hops bitterness and diminishes quickly. This is a very clean and refreshing beer.

I think I like it, Hey Mikie! Sorry a little 70’s flashback.

This is a nice drinkable beer. It is very refreshing with a nice malty backbone to it and just the right amount of a hop bitterness to give a dry finish without leaving a lingering bitter aftertaste.

The head has diminished to just a nice protective film over the top of the beer with a decent ring around the glass. It is also leaving some very nice lacing.

This could be one of the best regular offerings that Sam Adams has. There is no wow factor but even more importantly there is nothing offensive with this beer.

It is a pretty decent APA, American Pale Ale. Well, this is a good ale, I’m don’t know why it’s an APA and not an American Amber Ale. I guess that’s why I’m writing a free blog and not getting the big beer bucks.

At any rate this is good for an APA or an Amber Ale. I’m going to give this a B-. Like I said this may be the best of their standard offerings. I do recommend this to anyone that is looking for more full bodied beer, well fuller than the typical American Macro lagers anyway. It is a good fresh clean beer. Plus it’s not a price if you can pick it up ~ $6.50 for a 6 pack.

Fordham Scotch Ale



Fordham Scotch Ale

Brewed by:
Fordham Brewing Company

Dover, Delaware
 

Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy
 

8% ABV





Commercial Description:
This unique seasonal comes out just in time to warm your soul on those chilly winter nights. We brewed this beer with a touch of Beechwood smoked malt for a smooth & subtle smokiness that we know you’ll enjoy all winter long.

General Pricing:
12oz Bottle ~$8.00 6pack, ~$29.00 case

Review:
The beer pours a nice dark amber with an off white head.

The nose is excellent; sweet rich caramel malts along a light hop aroma.

Not bad, but there is something odd on the back end and finish I just can’t put my finger on.

It starts out with sweet caramel malts up front then a nice mouthfeel in the middle. There is a odd taste on the back-end. It’s not bad I just can’t quite put my finger on it. The finish has more of that taste plus a lingering almost toasted malt goodness.  Now that I think about it the taste in the back-end may simply be a slight malt bitterness.

This beer warms nicely also. The beer really seemed to have opened up and the malt flavors are even better no that it warmed a little. Sorry batteries in my digital thermometer died so I don’t have any real temperatures. I know, disappointing.

I have not mentioned the hops yet in this review. As with most Scotch Ales the beer has more of a malt presence than hops presence. There is a slight hop bitterness on the finish, just enough to dry the finish a little. This taste like possibly a Fuggle hops but I would have to look that up to be sure. I’m still trying to learn my hops.

This was so good I think I’ll have another while I work on my final thoughts.


I got a much better pour on the second glass.

All and all this is not a bad Scotch Ale.

I have grown accustomed to the malt bitterness on the back-end and it’s really not bad. It still does not seem as smooth as some other Scotch Ales but it’s a pretty darn good ale on its own.

I do like this beer but it’s not knocking my socks off. There are much better Scotch Ales out there but this is a fair representation. It’s a good drinkable beer. There was nothing really impressive about it. But more importantly there was noting offensive about it.
I’ll give it a C+ maybe a B-.

PS
Just before posting this I looked at the commercial description from the Fordham. It is quite possible that taste I can’t quite put my finger on is the Beechwood smoked malt. I was not looking for a smoke flavor. It is possible that is what I picked up as malt bitterness. Just goes to show you that I’m learning every day. As if you couldn’t tell.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wolaver's Alta Gracia Coffee Porter


Wolaver's Alta Gracia Coffee Porter

Brewed by:
Otter Creek Brewing / Wolaver's
Middlebury, Vermont

American Porter
ABV ?







Commercial Description:
Brewed with organic roasted barley and chocolate malts for a rich, dark and robust flavor with an infusion of organic vanilla beans and coffee from the Dominican Republic farm community Alta Gracia.
(RateBeer.com)

General Pricing:
12oz Bottles, ~$8.00 to $10.00 6 pack

Review:
This beer pours dark brown almost completely opaque with just a hint of color at the bottom edge of the glass.

Wow, do you want some beer with that coffee? The nose is all coffee, and I mean COFFEE! With just a gentle swirl there is also some dark roasted malts and a sweet note that I can’t put my finger on, possible a light hop note or vanilla. What ever it is it’s getting lost in the coffee.

Sweet roasted malts upfront, then a nice creamy mouthfeel in the middle of the sip. The back end and finish has a slight bitterness but it’s more of a roasted malt and espresso bitterness rather than a hop bitterness. The final aftertaste is of roasted malts and coffee with some chocolate notes but once again mostly coffee.

I can’t tell you how surprised I am. Not that this beer tastes like coffee but that I like it so much. I like dark roasted beers but I usually don’t like coffee adjuncts in the beers. I do like the natural coffee and chocolate notes that come from the roasted malts. Usually the coffee adjuncts just add and artificial coffee taste and sometimes an odd bitterness that just does not seem normal for a beer.

As this warms it just gets better. The rich roasted malts are leaving a creamier mouthfeel. I may also be picking up some of that vanilla sweetness now.

This is an excellently well crafted and natural tasting beer. It is a very good American Porter with natural coffee flavors.
My only problem with this beer is that the coffee flavor is the most predominate flavor.  The coffee flavor is superb but I think it is just too much for the beer.
This beer does not have that coffee bitterness that most beers that are brew with coffee in them have. This is the best coffee flavor I’ve ever had in a beer. The flavor is more like a whole coffee been flavor not a bitter ground coffee flavor. Even the nose smelled like whole roasted coffee beans not a cup of coffee. I suspect that the “infusion” that they talk about on the label is just that. An infusion of whole coffee beans not ground coffee added to the brew kettle.

Here’s my dilemma. This may be the best coffee flavor I’ve ever had in a beer but I think it’s just too much for the beer. There are probable some nice roasted malt characteristics that just never got a chance to come out and play. They were completely dominated by the coffee. I also had to struggle to find the vanilla in this beer and I’m not really sure I did.

As it stands I’m giving this a B+. This is a very good beer. With a little less coffee and more dark roasted malt and vanilla flavors and this would be an A+, easy. In my humble opinion it just needs a little tweaking to be an outstanding beer. I’m going to keep my eye on this beer and purchase one periodically to see if there are changes from batch to batch.

Wolaver's has a winner here and with just a little tweaking it could be out of this world.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Victory V-Twelve

Victory V-Twelve
 

Brewed by:
Victory Brewing Company
Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Quadrupel (Quad)
(beeradvocate.com)

Belgian Strong Ale
(ratebeer.com)

12.00% ABV

 


Commercial Description:
So simple in its creation, so magnificent in its maturity, this wonderful ale begins with Nature's most humble offerings, water, malted grains and hops. Our soulful yeast breathes life and depth into each brew. The steady hand of time orchestrates this alchemy into the splendid ale before you. Cheers!
(RateBeer.com)

General Pricing:
750ml Bottle ~$8.00 to $10.00

Review:
This beer pours a dark amber with deep ruby hues and a fairly rich off white head. It also seems to be highly carbonated with lots of tiny bubbles rising up from the bottom of the chalice.

This is a very interesting nose for a quad. The sweet malts are more of a caramel malt rather than a roasted malt. This also would explain the light color. The other interesting aspect to the nose is hops, not your normal aroma for a Belgian Style Quad. Plus these hops smell like a typical American cascade hop. Also missing from the nose is that classic yeasty aroma. Well, maybe they are there but it is not those normal Belgian yeast and dark fruit esters of a Quad.

The Belgian purist in me is having a hard time so far with this beer. I’m finding everything wrong for the quad. Hopefully the taste can redeem this brew.

The taste is not bad, not bad at all. I going to regroup here because I’ve been reviewing this as a Quad based on the BeerAdvocate.com classification. Victory does not call this a quad on its label or website. It is a Belgian Inspired…Amber Ale…of 12%ABV. In short; I’m going to lighten up.

Sweet caramel almost toasted malts up front followed by a nice effervescence. The back end of the taste is filled with sweet fruity notes and a creamy mouthfeel. The finish is fairly dry with hops and the high alcohol in the beer. Not nearly a quad but this is an excellent strong ale.

As this beer warms the alcohol is more pronounced not only on the nose but also in the taste.

This beer is now at 67 degrees. It has warmed nicely; it is much smoother. The effervescence is almost gone and it was replaced with a creamier mouthfeel.

Well, as it turned out I am very impressed with this beer. The last few sips were at 69 degrees. This is an Excellent Brew.

Once I overcame my Belgian Bier Snobiness I really did enjoy this beer. This is an excellent Belgian Inspired American Strong Amber. We just have to wait for someone to create that category. Or did it just happen?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale



Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Chico, California,

American IPA
6.80% ABV


 




Commercial Description:
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale represents a time honored tradition of brewing a special beer for the holiday season. There are generous portions of barley malts and fine whole hops of several varieties, creating a brew with a full, rich and hearty character.
(RateBeer.com)

General Pricing:
12oz bottles: ~$8.00 6 pack, ~$15 12 pack
24oz bottle ~$3.30

Background:

I have had this many times before. It was a staple around the holidays last year. Although this years brew is a little different. It is much more hoppy then last year but I need to put it through a formal review and see how it holds up.

Review:
The beer pours a clear amber with ruby hues and an off white head. this is also highly carbonated with a lot of tiny bubbles rising up from the bottom of the glass.

Nice nose; sweet caramel malts, nice hop aroma and there is also a hint of some spice. This is a very inviting nose, can’t wait to dive into it.

Up front I have to tell you this is different then I expected and what I have already had earlier this season. It could be that this beer matured a little in the bottle.

Caramel malts upfront then a building hop bitterness along with effervescence at mid-sip. There is a strong but different hop bitterness on the back end still yet another hop taste on the finish. The lingering aftertaste is a hop bitterness along with a slight malty background. There is also some spiciness to this beer also but it is pretty well masked by the hop bitterness.

Make no mistake this is an American IPA. Personally I think this would be a lot better if it was a little more balanced but then again I’m not a hop head.

That brings me to a point I started to make after the first sip. Although this was still hoppy last year it had more of a malt balance. Because of the malts it let more of those Christmas spices come through. This years brew isn’t much more then an IPA. That is until I tasted this bottle. This 24oz bomber does not seem as hoppy as the 12oz bottles or the drafts of this beer that I’ve had this season. It gave me the idea to get one of these bombers and age it for next year.

I really don’t know why this beer taste better to me then the previous versions. I can only assume it may have matured a little in the bottle. Wait until next year when I open a 2009.

This beer warmed well. The last few sips were at room temperature. The hops were more subdued and the malts where more pronounced. The last few warm sips of this beer were my favorites.


Now for the difficult part of this review, the rating. It’s a good IPA. I don’t particularly like IPA’s so it’s difficult to give this a really high mark. This is a B. By comparison I would have to give last years a B+ or even an A-. This is a good beer that I think could use a little more malt balance.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hoegaarden



Hoegaarden

Brewed by:
Brouwerij van Hoegaarden
 

Belgium

Witbier

4.90% ABV






Commercial Description:
Unfiltered Belgian White, flavored with coriander and orange peel, creating a sweet & sour taste.
(RateBeer.com)

General Pricing:
11.2oz bottle, ~$8.00 six pack, ~$30 a case

Background:
Hoegaarden is a very popular widely available Belgian Wit (white, wheat beer). This always seems to me to be the beer what Blue Moon in modeled after. It is pronounced Who-Gar-Den not the commonly used mispronunciation of Ho-Gar-Den. Sorry just a little pet peeve.  I have had this a few times but I’ve never given it a full review. So lets see what Hoegaarden is make of.

Review:
The beer pours a cloudy pale straw with yellowish hues and a bright white head.

Just a side note
When I had just a couple of ounces left in the bottle I gave it a swirl and pour the sediment into the top of this beer. This sediment is not lees it is unfiltered wheat sediment should be poured back into the beer to be re-suspended. If you are only going to pour a small amount or drink this from the bottle you should gently turn the bottle upside down to re-suspend the wheat that settled in the bottom of the bottle.

Nice yeasty and spicy nose. There are also some citrus and light flowering hop aromas. This is a very fresh clean smelling beer.

This is very refreshing.
There is a sweet wheat taste up front then a highly carbonated effervescence over your tongue. Just after that you have yeasty and spicy flavors on the backend. The finish and aftertaste is unmistakably Belgian. The yeasty aftertaste will give you a hint of that wonderful Belgian funk; slightly sour, sweet and yeasty. This bier just has a slight tease of that flavor.

This bier also has some of those wonderful Belgian spicy flavors of coriander, and citrus. Once again these are subtle, just a tease to some of those bigger Belgian biers. You can tell that beer was designed to be an easy drinking bier or as the English would call it a Session Beer. That’s a beer that you can have several of in a session, like after work, and not get intoxicated. 4.9% ABV is a little high for a real English session but this does have that easy drinking aspect to it.

That was so good I think I’ll have another as I work on my final thoughts.

I have really enjoyed this beer. This is a good refreshing summer ale, for that matter anytime of year. It’s a good Belgian starter bier.

I’m not really sure what to say about this bier. It’s an easy drinking all around good bier. But…to me this seems like it is brewed to be widely liked for mass consumption. It’s like a watered down version of a Belgian Wit. Well, that may not be fair; it’s a less hearty version? It is an authentic Belgian and it is far superior to most of the American versions.

This is one of those style dilemma things I have in trying to rate this. As an authentic Belgian Wit is only a C. As an all around good drinking beer it’s probably a B.

Friday, January 15, 2010

O'Hara's Celebration Stout



O'Hara's Celebration Stout
 

Brewed by:
Carlow Brewing Company
 

Ireland

Irish Dry Stout
6.00% ABV








Commercial Description:
10th anniversary limited edition
Reviving a tradition that had all but disappeared for over 150 years, the O'Hara family established a brewery in their home county of Carlow in south-east Ireland in 1996 producing beers of traditional Celtic and Irish origin, O'Hara's Irish Stout was born in 1998, winning the Championship Trophy and two gold medals at the International Millennium Brewing Industry Awards in 2000. The O'Hara's brand has now arrived at it's 10th anniversary. To mark that occasion we present as a limited edition O'Hara's Celebration Stout - rich in Irish malts balanced by a full bodied bitterness and delicate spicy aroma from Northdown and Fuggles hops with a luxurious chocolate finish.
(RateBeer.com)

Background:
The first time I had this beer was in March 2008 and I have had it many times since. I instantly fell in love with this beer. It was the most unique and best crafted Irish Dry Stout that I have ever had. It instantly became a member of the family. It was at our Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas bier dinners that year. You know you really should do those bier dinner things. I probably have 10 to 12 empty bottles in the basement. (saving the flip top bottles for when I start brewing)

This beer was hands down the best Dry Irish Stout on the planet. Yes, I said was. The only problem with this beer is that it was a limited addition 10th anniversary brew. I went into deep depression by the end of 2008 when I could no longer find this beer. I was the last one to buy a bottle from State Line Liquors because they accidently left one in the office and I asked about it.

My son John (BierVlog) found a few bottles last year. Of course we consumed them but they were a little dated and not the phenomenal brew that it once was.

To my utter and complete surprise John came over the other night with a bottle of this exquisite ale that he bought at a deli in Philadelphia. I just can’t wait to see what this beer holds for me. Is it going to be stale flat dud, the phenomenal brew I fondly remember or something in between? I do know this is way past its prime but I can’t wait to see what the ole girl has left in her.
Well let’s see…

Review:
A good sign right up front. This beer popped when I released the swing top cap, followed by a healthy amount of smoke.

The beer pours a dark “Stout Dark” (VideoBeerReviews) brown. Completely opaque with a dark rich tan almost chocolate milk colored head. The head is sizable. I though I would have to give it an aggressive pour to get a head like this. It turns out I was too aggressive.

Oh my! This smells great! I am really psyched this has all indications of still being that great beer I feel in love with. The nose is luscious. It is filled with dark roasted malts, a velvety chocolate aroma, and there is also that classic dry Irish Stout hoppy aroma. Yes, I did say hops. That was also a unique characteristic of the Irish stout that I loved.

Well, as usual I got my hops up only to be disappointed but not totally. Let me explain. Even though this beer is not the same as it once was, it is still, the best Dry Irish Stout on the planet.

The taste starts out with those sweet roasted malts up front. In mid-sip there is a growing malt bitterness then the back end is both bitter and sweet with those dark roasted malts giving you a creamy mouthfeel. The finish is fairly dry but also with that classic lingering roasted malt coating in your mouth. This is still fairly smooth but it has picked up a bitterness that was not there in 2008.

All and all this is still an exceptional brew. I want to come up with an old girlfriend analogy but I personally can’t relate to that since I married my high school sweet heart and have been married for 29 years. Happily too I may add.

The once young and vibrant girl has aged. She is not as perky as she once was but deep down inside she is still the same ole gal. Yeah, that was pretty bad.

The head on this beer has not quit and the lacing is still very impressive.

I really didn’t expect this beer to still have so much carbonation, it is extremely carbonated for beer that is at least two years old.

I’ve gotten accustomed to the extra malt bitterness that the beer has developed. I am really enjoying the beer for what it is now not trying to force it back into what it was.

As it warms it really opens up nicely. Even the aromas on the nose are richer then they were when it was colder.

The beer is at 67 degrees now and still very nice. It has not picked up any unpleasant flavors whatsoever. The malts seem much smoother now and so does the mouthfeel. I’m not sure if that is the warming of the brew or if that is me getting accustomed to the new characteristics of his fine lady.

Well the old girl still has it. Even though she is far past her prime and just a shadow of what she once was, she is still the best Irish Dry Stout on the planet. Well, at least any of those that have hit this palette.

I really wish they would brew this every year. Even if it was a seasonal.

PS
John went back to the deli and bought two more bottles. So I have at least two more to savor.

Stella Artois


 

Stella Artois

Brewed by:
Stella Artois
Belgium


Euro Pale Lager
 

5.2% ABV







Commercial Description:
Stella Artois is one of the world's best-selling beers and is enjoyed in more than 80 countries. Its full, characteristic flavour and high quality is assured through a superior brewing process and by using the finest ingredients available.
(RateBeer.com)

Background:
Here is a couple interesting historical points. This brewery was founded in 1366 in Leuven Belgium. This particular beer was first brewed in 1929 as a Christmas beer. Stella meaning Star for the Christmas Star and Artois was the family name of the brewery.

I have had this beer several times before in bottle and draft. Last year I purchased a one half keg (50L) for a birthday party we were having at a hall for my sisters. It was a big hit, especially with the American Marco beer crowd. I even purchased a set of Stella gasses for the event. I found it to be a very clean and refreshing pale lager and have purchased several time since. 

General Pricing:
11.2oz bottles, ~$7.00 Six Pack, $28.00 Case.
50L, ½ keg, ~$135 to $160

Review:
This beer pours a pale straw with golden hues and a bright white head. The head initially looked rich and fluffy like it was going to stick around but it quickly turned very soapy and then collapsed. Good carbonation but with fairly large bubbles on the bottom of the glass. I think that’s what killed the head when they rose to the top.

Faint pilsner malts, light hops and a little skunkiness on the nose.

This is a very refreshing beer. There is a very light malt sweetness up front then a very clean effervescence followed by a nice dry hop finish. The only problem with this beer is that the green bottle allows that skunkiness to develop. This is much better on draft. And I know I’ve had bottles that did not have this skunkiness.

Boy it’s a shame; I know that this is a better beer than what I am currently tasting. This skunk taste never really bothered my before. It just seemed to be there with a lot of German beers with green bottles. At one time I thought it was suppose to taste like that. Now that I know that this skunkiness is an effect of too much light getting through the green bottle it bothers me, especially since it is not there in a “fresh” bottle. I do not have a solution. The only thing I can recommend is to buy this beer from a high volume distributer store.

Since this bottle is so tainted I really can’t give this a rating. I will have to purchase a fresh bottle or review a draft version. And just in case you were interested, NO, I did not buy this at State Line Liquors. Serves me right.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tröegs Mad Elf Holiday Ale





Tröegs Mad Elf

Brewed by:
Tröegs Brewing Company
 

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Belgian Strong Dark Ale
11.00% ABV







Commercial Description:
The combination of Cherries, Honey, and Chocolate Malts delivers gentle fruits and subtle spices. Fermented and aged with a unique yeast, this ruby red beer has significant warming strength that underlies the character of this Ale.
(RateBeer.com)

Background:
I have had this beer several times before. It is a nice reasonable priced Christmas Ale. It will be interesting to see how it holds up in a formal review. I was asked to include some pricing on my reviews. I have strayed away from that, well mainly because it’s all relative to the quality of the beer. As my friend the Newark Bier Ambassador (NBA) states: "Good beer is not cheap. Cheap beer is not good."

But on the other hand some pricing guidelines may be a good thing to include.

Price:
22oz bottle was around $7.00

Review:

This beer pours a dark amber with ruby hues, well in maybe ruby with amber hues and an off white head.

There are sweet caramel malts and cherries are on the nose of this beer. With just a gentle swirl there is a release of some very nice hop aromas. It is a very inviting nose.

Sweet, that just about sums this up, sweet and sweeeet.

As expected sweet caramel malts up front then immediately behind that starts a sweet cherry taste. By mid-sip you can start to feel the alcohol, not really taste it but feel it in your mouth. The back end hits you with hoppy alcohol cherry bomb. It reminds me of those liquid filled cherry chocolate candies. The final aftertaste is still sweet malty cherry goodness and a lingering yeasty flavor. There are also some chocolate notes mixed in the taste.

This is a big beer; the alcohol is not masked at all it is up front and with you through the whole sip. There is an interesting hop finish with this beer also. It’s not bitter but it does dry the finish a bit.  The cherries are also there throughout the sip, really from the beginning nose to the final aftertaste. It is a nice almost organic cherry flavor, there is nothing artificial about it.

As this beer warms it gets even sweeter and the alcohol gets more pronounced. It is now at 67 degrees. The overall taste has changed. It has not picked up any unpleasantness but it has changed. I expected it to get maltier but it didn’t, it is actually dryer with the alcohol being more pronounced.

The bottom line is that this beer does not pick up any bad tastes as it warms.

This is a interesting beer. I like it but it doesn’t have that wow factor. Don’t get me wrong it’s good but it’s not a great Christmas Ale. I also am having issue with the classification of a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. This beer does not have any of the trademark Belgian characteristics. There was a lingering yeasty taste but it did not taste like a Belgian yeast strain to me. It also did not have the dark fruity esters that you usually taste in a Belgian Dark Ale.

Sorry to be so critical. This is a very good Belgian inspired ale. I did really enjoy this beer a lot. I may also age well. At $7.00 for a 22oz bomber it’s not a bad deal for an 11% ABV ale.

For a final grade I’ll have to give this a B-. It is a very good ale but it was lacking that wow factor or the complexities of other Christmas ales.

Salvator Doppelbock


Salvator Doppelbock
 

Brewed by:
Paulaner Salvator Thomasbraeu AG
Germany

Doppelbock
7.90% ABV









Commercial Description:
The Paulaner Salvator with its strong,typically malty taste is the original Paulaner. The bottom-fermented Doppelbock-Bier unites the finest hops and dark barley malt. The Paulaner monks served Salvator as a replacement for food at Lent. Their most famous brewer was Brother Barnabas, who was the head of the Paulaner monastery brewery starting from 1773. Its original recipe is today almost the same as it was in Barnabas' time. In order to protect the original recipe, Paulaner had the trade mark "Salvator" patented in 1896.

Background: 
This is actually review 96 but I seems to have lost it and posting it out of order.


Review:
Pours a slightly cloudy copper with an off white head. The head initially looked pretty rich but it did not stick around.

Nice toasted malts on the nose along with another sweetness, possible a floral hop aroma?

Nice Doppelbock. Sweet toasted malts up front. There is not much going on in the middle of the sip other than a pleasant effervescence. The back end and finish are full of a nice toasted malt flavors and somewhat nutty notes. The final aftertaste is a slightly lingering toasted malt flavor along with a slight malt and hop bitterness. It’s not really refreshing but it is very satisfying. I don’t usually use a term like drinkability but this is a very easy drinking brew.

There is an interesting malty bitterness on the finish.

The beer has warmed to 60 degrees and it has picked up a slight unpleasantness. Well, unpleasantness may not be fair. It’s tasking more German, if you know what I mean. The German malts seem to be picking up a more bitter and un-favorable taste as it warms.

OK, at this point there in only one thing to do. Finish this beer before it gets too warm and open another cold one.

Ah, a new cold one, that’s more better.

This is not a bad brew but like most lagers it doesn’t warm well. I also think the Paulaner Oktoberfest is a better beer then this one.

There is not much of anything to add to this review. I keep saying to myself “it’s not bad” but I have not said “it’s good” either. I have gotten so use to letting beer warm as a bench mark to how good they are. Since this one did not warm well can’t say this is a good beer. As for my gold standard for a Doppelbock, it’s Ayinger Celebrator and this beer doesn’t even come close to that.

I feel like I need to give this a rating, so it’s a C maybe even a C- not bad but I can’t say It’s good either. Also I am just coming off of having some of the best Belgians I’ve ever had.

Related Blogposts

Doppelbock on FoodistaDoppelbock

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Southern Tier Un*Earthly

100



Unearthly

(Imperial India Pale Ale)

Brewed by:
Southern Tier Brewing Company
Lakewood, New York

American Double / Imperial IPA
11.00% ABV


 




Commercial Description:
An Uninhibited Infusion of Hops. We continue our commitment to innovation with our most aggressive offering yet Unearthly is a manifestation of the brewers crafts skillfully balancing art and the forces of nature to produce a divine liquid. Delicately pour a taste into a fluted glass. Smell the enchanting aromas of the hops come forward as your first sip divulges this beer’s fervent soul. To underestimate Unearthly is to trifle with the mysteries of the universe so please consume wisely.
(RateBeer.com)

Background:

Wow, it is hard to believe that this will be my 100th beer review. I didn’t really plan on a special 100th brew but I do have a good one in the beer frig. It was just an impulse by on my Friday stop at State Line Liquors; Southern Tier Un*Earthly. This beer single handedly changed my perceptions on American IPA’s. Well, Imperial/Double IPA’s anyway. This may have been my first American Imperial/Double IPA. I was extremely intrigued by the intense flavors and hop/malt balance. And it is still one of my favorite Imperial/Double IPA’s. This will be the first time I’ve had this beer since starting my blog. It will be interesting to see how this beer holds up through a full review.


Review:
I was so excited about my 100th review I over poured this one.
The beer pours a clear copper color with amber hues and a very creamy white head.

I’m not very good at differentiating hops but I can tell that this nose is filled with cascades. The nose is not limited to hops there are also sweet caramel malt aromas.

Now that’s an IPA that I can love. This is nice, really nice. Sweet caramel almost toasted malts up front. A building hop presence makes its self know in mid taste. The back end and finish has the most intense but nicely balanced taste of hop bitterness and caramel malts. The bitter dry finish fades quickly with the tastes of rich malts and alcohol. The final aftertaste is not really bitter at all. It is more malty then anything. The entire sip leaves your senses wondering what hit them. Then just a second or two later you go for another sip to experience this all over again.

This is a wonderful beer.

The alcohol is definitely there but it is not overwhelming the beer. This beer is however very intense with a high amount of malt, hops and alcohol. It is nicely balanced but still not for the faint of heart.

The head on this beer has not quit. There is still a nice protective layer over the top of the beer with a nice ring around the glass and it is leaving some excellent lacing.

This beer even gets better as it warms. I have misplaced my thermometer so I can’t give you an accurate temperature reading. I assume this beer is in the low sixties now.

This is a beer you have to be ready for. It’s not an easy drinking afternoon ale. It is pretty intense but also very enjoyable under the write circumstances. Like a cold winter night.

As this beer warms you can start to pick up more of that 11% ABV. It is still very smooth but that alcohol is reminding you that this is a sipping beer.

The final sips where very close to room temperature and still excellent.

This is a superbly brewed and excellent balanced Imperial/Double IPA. Like I said earlier this hearty style beer is not an easy drinking beer and not for everyone. For a final grade this is an A or maybe an A+ for an Imperial/Double IPA.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Victory Golden Monkey



Golden Monkey

Brewed by:
Victory Brewing Company
 

Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Tripel
9.50% ABV

 





Commercial Description:
Enchanting and enlightening, this golden, frothy ale boasts an intriguing herbal aroma, warming alcohol esters on the tongue and light, but firm body to finish. Exotic spices add subtle notes to both the aroma and flavor. Strong, sensual and satisfying. (RateBeer.com)

Background:
I have had this beer on several occasions. I always thought it was a good beer but I never thought it was a good representation of an authentic Belgian Tripel. The last time I had this beer was more then a year ago and at that time I thought it was too sweet. It was still a good beer but not quite up to the Belgian purist standards in me. At any rate it will be interesting to try it again.

Review:
This beer pours a pale copper, highly carbonated with a bright white head.

There is no mistaking the Belgian yeasty aromas on the nose. There are also those wonderful fruity and spicy esters; coriander, clove, citrus notes and also maybe a hint of banana.

Wow, I’m pleasantly surprised by this beer. I have had this before and thought it was good but too sweet for a real tripel. This is good, very good.

Sweet light pilsner type malts up front then a high effervescence over the tongue. The back end of the swallow is almost an explosion of Belgian spicy and yeasty flavors. The finish is very pleasant with Belgian yeasty/earthy notes and a lingering yeasty aftertaste.

Excuse me while I eat some crow.

This is really a good beer. It’s not one of the best tripels I’ve ever had by a long shot but it is a very enjoyable Belgian style triple. It does not seem to have the complexity of most of the authentic Belgians but it does have all the most of the classic tastes of a triple.

I misplaced my thermometer so I can’t tell you exactly how warm this beer is. I suspect somewhere in the low sixties. As this beer warms it develops more of a farmhouse ale funkiness to it; that unmistakable earthy, yeasty, sourness funk. That is one characteristic I never noticed in this beer before.


Final Thoughts
I’m not sure what happened with this beer. It is certainly a better brew then how I remember it from a year ago. Now I know I’m not easier, if fact I am probable more critical on Belgians now then I ever was before. I really think Victory tweaked this beer a little. There are esters and flavors that I never noticed before. As I stated earlier this beer also has some of that Belgian funkiness that was not there before.

In my opinion there are very few American brewers that do Belgians well. For a tripel, Allagash and Stoudts are a few that come to mind. This is now one of the few American versions that I like. It is still lacking some the complexities of the authentic Belgian tripels but it is a solid B for me. This is a Very Good Tripel. It is also a relatively inexpensive bottle so it would be worth trying to see if you like this style of beer. You can pick up a 750 for around $6.00, compared to $10 plus for an authentic Belgian.

Stoudts Winter Ale



Stoudts Winter Ale

Brewed by:
Stoudts Brewing Co.
Adamstown, Pennsylvania

American Amber / Red Ale
6.20% ABV








Review:
The beer pours a clear amber with ruby hues and a white head. This is also highly carbonated with lots of tiny bubbles rising from the bottom of the glass.

Some caramel malts but mostly hop aromas on the nose. There are definitely more than one type of hop in this brew. I just don’t know enough to till you what they are from the nose, yet. LOL

Well, I must say I’m a little disappointed, this is really just another American IPA. I was expecting more of a winter warmer. Oh well, I still owe you the normal rundown on the taste.

Gee, maybe I can’t. This is a one trick pony. It’s all hops with little to no malt flavors at all.

OK, I’ll try it again.

The taste does start out with some sweet caramel malts but that only lasts for a split second. Then a hop bitterness starts followed by a high effervescence. The carbonation is not very cleansing because just on top of that is a stronger hop bitterness. By the time you get to the swallow, well, you better like hops. From the top of the swallow to the finish and final aftertaste is all varying amounts and types of hop bitterness’s.

It is not overly bitter but it is overly hopped, in my humble opinion. There is probably a nice malt aspect to this beer but you will never find it behind all of these hops.

Now if you are a hop head then this is a beer for you. Personally I like beers that have some malt balance to them. A beer like this is just too one dimensional for me.

This really is not a bad beer. It’s just not to my liking. There are more ingredients to brewing beer and it’s just a crime to steal all those wonderful beer flavors away and all you have is hops.

I think I’m harder on this because I was expecting a winter ale not a summer IPA. At any rate it really isn’t that bad. I’m afraid I made this sound worse then it really is.

For a winter ale it falls way short of a good grade. It does not have the heartiness and malty aspects of a winter ale. So for that I’ll have to give it a C-. Now if this was marketed as an American IPA I would give it a B.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

N'Ice Chouffe

 
N'Ice Chouffe
2008


Brewed by:
Brasserie d'Achouffe
Belgium

Belgian Strong Dark Ale
10.00% ABV



 




Commercial Description:
A dark brown, fruity, lightly hoppy, sparkling, strong beer and is not pasteurized.
(RateBeer.com)

Review:
This bier pours a cloudy very dark amber with ruby hues and an off white head.

Oh that wonderful unique Belgian nose; rich dark malts with fruity esters escaping from a still fairly rich head. There are also those yeasty and spicy notes on the nose. I can’t wait to dive into this one.



Oh my, this is another one of those great Belgians that just make you melt. Sweet dark roasted malts up front then an exquisite effervescence followed by a very creamy mouthfeel, aided by that creamy head. The backend and finish is luscious, with those lingering dark roasted Belgian malts and that classic yeasty aftertaste. This is just a wonderful experience. 

I have had this before and even recently at a tasting but you really do not fully experience the bier correctly until you properly pour a whole glass. This is much better then I thought it would be based on my last tasting.

This bier is getting better as it warms and opens up a little. Those great roasted malts are smoother and the mouthfeel is even creamier now.

Now keep in mind that these roasted malts are nothing like the roasted malts in a typical stout. These malts are sweet with fruity esters from the Belgian yeast. Typical roasted malts in a stout have a malt bitterness, an almost burnt type of a taste. OK back to the review.

Wonderful, this is just a wonderful experience.

This bier is now at 61 degrees. It is picking up more flavors, no, nothing unpleasant. It seems to be picking up more of a candi sugar flavor. It is hard to describe its not super sweet; it has an almost tart sweetness to it. Sorry, I’m not doing very well describing this newly developed sweet taste. 

The head on this bier has not quit. There has been a nice protective layer over the top of the bier all the way to the bottom of the empty glass.

The Lees:

These lees just reinforce my general rule that they should not be added directly to the bier. These are down right funky and would have drastically changed my bier experience. It is interesting however to taste the lees separately after you have tasted the bier as intended by the brewer. These lees have a very unique flavor, a little sour, tart and obviously very yeasty.

Final Thoughts:
This is not the most flavorful Belgian Christmas Ale but it is highly enjoyable and very easy to drink. It is almost velvety it is so smooth. The 10% ABV is superbly masked. You may think this bier has the alcohol of an English stout it is hidden that well. 

This is one excellent bier. I am very impressed with its craftsmanship. Not in its complexity but in its simple elegance.  There are far more complex and flavorful Belgians but this one really hit me tonight. A very easy drinking and enjoyable brew.

For a rating this is a solid A for me. I highly recommend this bier to anyone that likes a rich malty and yeasty style beer. This should be a very widely liked easy drinking Belgian. This would also be a very nice introductory brew to the Wonderful World of Belgians.

Plus it is also has some cool bottle artwork.
 

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Contreras, Valeir Donker



Valeir Donker

Brewed by:
Brouwerij Contreras

Belgium

Belgian Dark Ale
6.50% ABV



 




Commercial Description:
# Style: Dark Ale, refermentation in bottle
# Abv: 6.5%
# Format: 11.2 oz bottle, 20l keg (limited)
# Color: dark ruby, creamy off-white head
# Tasting Notes: rich fruit aroma; malt sweetness, fig, toffee (12percentimports.com)


Review:
The bier pours a rich very deep amber with ruby hues and a very rich off white head. This brew is also highly carbonated with tons of tiny bubbles rising up from the bottom of the glass. The head seemed to implode from within. The high carbonation seemed to expand the bubbles in the head until they just collapsed.

Sweet malts, fruity esters and hints of those Earthy yeasty aromas on the nose.

Nice, Very Nice! The taste starts out with sweet malts up front then a very refreshing and cleansing effervescence over your tongue. In the back end there is a hint of sour or tartness with a impressive toasted maltiness. The finish is fairly dry for a Belgian and the final aftertaste is a toasted malty goodness.

As the bier warms it really opens up. It is much maltier with dark rich malts. The malts are picking up a much more toasted flavor now.

This was a very good bier. It did not have that wow factor but it was a well crafted Belgian Dark Ale and I would by this again. A very nice clean and somewhat refreshing Belgian Dark, It’s a solid B for me.

Friday, January 8, 2010

't Gaverhopke Extra



't Gaverhopke Extra

Brewed by:
Brouwerij 't Gaverhopke
 

Belgium

Belgian Strong Dark Ale

12.00% ABV

 




Commercial Description:
* Style: Quadruple, refermentation in bottle
* Abv: 12%/vol
* Format: 11.2 oz bottle
* Color: hazy, murky amber
* Tasting Notes:
Yeasty, estery, fruity aroma. hugely complex palate; sour-ish, caramel, dried fruit, vinous, red wine, striking balance
(12percentimports.com)

Review:
The bier pours a cloudy dark brown, almost opaque but you can see some amber hues though it. The bier also produced a very rich creamy off white almost tan head.

Oh my want a wonderful nose on this bier. There are sweet dark malts, dark fruity esters and yeasty notes on the nose. It is unmistakably Belgian!

This is one of the most unique Belgians I’ve ever had. It’s going to be difficult to describe what I’m tasting in this bier. In short it’s a sour quad. Let me try to detail this a little.

Up front is sweet almost candy malts, just for a split second then not really behind that but on top of that is a slight sourness. This sourness builds to the must exquisite Belgian funk. Boy this is difficult, let me try it again.

Let me pick it up from the building sourness, then a nice effervescence but without the typical cleansing because you still get that sourness coming through. Just at the top of the swallow the sourness builds to the point that the back of your jaw starts to quiver. On the back end of the swallow you get more of those dark malts that you started with. The finish dries fairly quickly, I assume that’s because of the 12% ABV. The final aftertaste is slightly tart but more malts and lingering yeasty notes.

It is interesting that the finish is not very sour. The whole taste seems to be a building sourness and just at the finish when you expect it to be the strongest it dries and leaves you with a malty yeasty finish with just a slight touch of sourness.

The alcohol in the beer is amazingly masked. I actually had to look this up again, there is no way I would have guessed 12%.

The Lees:

This may be the funkiest lees ever. The lees is extremely tart and of course yeasty.  A very unique lees to go along with this unique bier.

Well, I’m not sure if I have done this bier any justice. It is really amazing. If you like that sour funky Belgian style ale then your will love this bier. To me it is the best of my two favorite Belgian styles, a Flemish Sour and a Quadruple. Rich malty funk, gotta love it. It has all the sourness of a Flemish Red i.e. Duchesse De Bourgogne, and then some. But not quite to that Gueuze level. Plus this bier has all the rich dark malts of a classic Belgian Quadrupel i.e. St Bernardus 12.

Boy, what a treat! This is one phenomenal bier. It is a very unique experience that any lover of Belgians must try; a truly exquisite brew. It really does not fall into any category so I don’t know what to rate it against or compare it to. It’s an outstanding bier in a class of its own. A Solid A+ for me. I can see how this bier could start 12 percent imports.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Gulden Draak Vintage 2009



Gulden Draak Vintage 2009
 

Brewed by:
Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V.
Belgium

Belgian Strong Dark Ale
7.50% ABV



 





Review:
The bier pours a clear very dark deep ruby color with an off white head. This bier is also highly carbonated with tons of tiny bubbles rising up from the bottom of the glass. There is an interesting effect with the head. The head started out fairly rich and almost creamy looking.

The head gradually changed to a very soapy head and then collapsed to just about nothing. I suspect that this was caused by the tremendous amount of carbonation rising up from the bier. I seemed that all of this extra gas created the larger bubbles and then collapsed the head. Just an interesting observation I thought was worth noting.

The nose has sweet caramel malts, some spicy notes, maybe some of those dark fruit esters, all with that wonderful Belgian yeasty/bready/earthy background.

Wow, this is so carbonated I really didn’t taste much. The taste started out with sweet caramel malts but from mid sip on the high effervescence took over and literally washed away any flavors. You regain some use of the taste buds on the finish when the only thing to sense is lingering yeasty notes.

This is so carbonated I am actually getting a bloated feeling. It is also extremely yeasty. Now I drink a fair amount of Belgians and I love their yeasty characteristic but this is very unusual. I don’t remember this bier having this taste and high carbonation last year. I’m starting to think that this particular bottle may be over carbonated.

The bier is still highly carbonated. As it warms the yeasty character now has almost a bitter quality to it. This is strange even for a Belgian; I can’t help but think something went wrong with this bottle.

The high carbonation and the yeast are masking any other flavors this bier may have.

I’m going to stop this review here. This is just not getting any better and I know this cannot be a fair representation of this ale; there is definitely something wrong with this bottle. I don’t know enough to know what it is but I suspect that it was released too early and was not properly conditioned.

This was the second Belgian dud I had this season. Just the other night I opened another bottle of Delirium Noel and it was flat.

I’ll update this post if I purchase another bottle or get a better explanation for this.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

St Bernardus Christmas Ale



Christmas Ale

Brewed by:
Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV
 

Belgium

Belgian Strong Dark Ale
 

10.00% ABV





Commercial Description:
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale is the youngest descendant in the illustrious family of delicious Abbey Ales by Brewery St. Bernardus. This specialty beer of 10% alc. vol. is characterized by its deep dark colour, with a creamy, thick head and a full, almost velvety taste with a fruity nose. It's a seasonal ale, brewed annually for the holiday season. The long winter nights are perfect moments to savour this ale with or without friends and to enjoy its unique, complex taste and after-taste. (ratebeer.com)

Background:

I think this may be my new favorite Belgian Christmas Ale. Corsendonk Christmas Ale was my favorite for several years. That was until I tasted this beauty. I really didn’t now how good this was until I tried by old favorite, Corsendonk the other night and realized the St. Bernardus was the superior brew. I also bought a 1/6 keg of this for our two annual Christmas Parties; Popcorn and Cranberry stringing on Dec. 23 and our Christmas Eve party. We did finally kill the keg when I poured the last two growlers to take over my father’s house on Christmas Day.

Review:

The bier pours a dark cloudy dark brown with a rich tan head.

There are sweet dark roasted Belgian malts on the nose with some of those sweet dark fruit esters and volatiles that are escaping from this rich tan head. There is also just a hint of Christmas spices peeking through.


Oh my, what a bier. Sweet dark roasted malts upfront then a nice effervescence followed by a creamy mouthfeel aided by that rich head. The finish is a sweet malty goodness alone with some very nice Christmas spice and that classic Belgian yeasty aftertaste.

This seems to be a little crisper and definitely more carbonated than the draft was. Duh, I guess that’s all the some effect of the carbonation. The draft also seemed a little maltier than this bottle. I fully expected the bottle conditioned 750 to have a slightly different character to it. You know, that an extra yeasty character from the bottle conditioning. We’ll have to see how it goes one it warms and opens up a little.

It is warming a little, now at 58 degrees, and is much smoother and richer then it was earlier.

This is one of those beers that just keeps getting better as it warms.

Now at 60 degrees and it just makes you melt into your seat. This is such a soothing and relaxing bier; it’s like therapy in a class.

The beer is 65 degrees now. There is very little carbonation left and this bier is smooth, rich and creamy. This is one excellent bier.

This is so good I hate the finish the glass. Wow what a fantastic bier.

I just poured some of the lees into my empty glass to try them. Boy, they are some funky lees. I know I’ve said this time and time again but PLEASE! Do not pour the lees into the glass while tasting the bier. It will completely change the characteristics of the brier. By all means taste the lees but do so separately after tasting the bier as it was intended by the brewer. Sorry I feel like that’s my Belgian Bier PSA.

Well, it’s official. This is my new favorite Christmas Bier. An A+ for St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. It is much like St. Bernardus 12 but with some added Christmas magic.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Great Divide Saison



Saison

Brewed by:
Great Divide Brewing Company
 

Denver, Colorado

Saison / Farmhouse Ale
7.30% ABV



 



Commercial Description:
Our homage to the beers that have quenched the thirst of Belgian farm workers for centuries. Brewed with barley, wheat and rice and fermented at high temperatures with a special blend of four different yeast strains, Saison is fruity and slightly tart, with a dry finish that makes it that rarest of treats–a beer as refreshing as it is complex.

Background:
This is a little out of season. It is January 1st 2010 mid-afternoon and I’m just sitting around the house watching the Mummers Parade on TV. (Sorry if I lost you on that it’s a Philly thing) Anyway with all the rich seasonal Christmas beers I’ve been having I thought it would be a nice refreshing change of pace to have a saison.

Review:
The beer pours a cloudy light copper almost straw with a bright white head. This beer is also highly carbonated with lots of tiny bubbles rising up from the bottom of the glass.

Very light and sweet aromas on the nose; light malts with a nice yeasty aroma, some citrus and just a hint of light hops. Really smells light and refreshing so let’s see how it tastes.

Not bad for an American interpretation. Light sweet malts upfront then a very pleasant and refreshing effervescence over the tongue. On the back end you start to pick up light citrus flavors and a slight hop leading into a very clean, dry and refreshing finish. If there is any final aftertaste it is of a slight citrus flavor with just a hint of spice.

I say not bad for an American interpretation because it is missing that classic Belgian Farmhouse earthiness or funk as us Belgian snobs like to say. There is a little of that earthiness on the nose but it really does not carry through in the taste of the beer. But all and all this is not a bad saison.

This is a very clean light and refreshing ale. It’s just perfect for an afternoon drink in any season.

The head has diminished to just a nice protective film over the top of the beer. There is also a good size ring around the top and it is leaving some nice lacing on the glass.

As this beer warms a little I am starting to pick up some the esters and subtleties of that Belgian yeast. It’s not quite funk yet but it is closer in flavor to an authentic Belgian Saison.

Another interesting thing about this beer is the 7.3 ABV. That’s on the upper range of a saison. They are usually 5-6 for a lighter summer bier but can go up to 8.

The beer has warmed to 56 degrees now and it tastes more and more like a real saison. I am really starting to like this beer as it warms and opens up a little.

Well the last few sips where around 60 degrees. This is a pretty good beer but not quite at an authentic Belgian Saison level but none the less a good beer.

I’ll have to give this a B- or maybe a B, all and all it’s a good beer.