Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sierra Nevada Thanksgiving Beer Dinner 2010

I have updated this post with some after dinner reflections. So to skip to the update just click on the link below:
Go to the Update

For the last few years since we have moved our Thanksgiving Festivities to our house from my parent’s we have had a definite beer twist to our meals. Actually I have been refereeing to them as Thanksgiving Bier Dinners. Usually “Bier” since they are mostly Belgians. The beer menu usually consists of a beer for each course and a final digestive/final snifter. This is usually 4 different beers plus and extra one or two to account for personal tastes.

Before I get into this years menu I need say a few words about pairing and what I have done in the past.

Pairings can be complementary keeping to similar flavors and style or Contrasting which would give you an opposite comparison. A complementary pairing would be; a pale ale with a poultry. Contrasting pairings usually come into play more with spicy foods, when you would offer a more malty beer to smooth or cut the spice. The challenge of a Contrasting Pairing is that you don’t want the beer to overpower the meal.  

In previous years for the main Turkey Entrée I have paired beers such as Pauwel Kwak, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, and La Botteresse Brune, Exquisite Artisan Ale brewed with spices and herbs such as sage. I must say that La Botteresse Brune is hands down my number one overall choice for Thanksgiving. This bier really is Thanksgiving Dinner in a Glass. If you have never had this bier you really need to treat yourself to it.

Now that being said I took a completely different route this year. I attended a Sierra Nevada tasting at State Line Liquors last week. I was so impressed with the Sierra Nevada offerings this year that I decided to pair 8 of them with our Thanksgiving meal. Yes there are more beers than courses but I have the luxury of pairing a complementary and contrasting beer plus a few labels just to fill in during the evening.

So here is my Thanksgiving Beer Dinner for 2010.

Thanksgiving Beer Dinner 2010
A Sierra Nevada Celebration

Hors d’oeuvres/ Aperitif

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
American Pale Ale (APA) | 5.60% ABV
An excellent American Pale Ale that will go good with any lighter foods and appetizers.

Grand Cru
American Strong Ale | 9.20% ABV
This may be a little strong for appetizers but it will be a perfect Aperitif to open up the palate. This is a very unique beer; An American Strong Ale with subtle complexities that will get lost if served later in the meal.  

Turkey Entrée

Estate Homegrown Wet Hop Ale, Estate Harvest (Contrasting Pairing)
American IPA |  6.70% ABV
The unique fresh hop complexity and sharpness of this beer should be an interesting contrast to the rich but milder traditional flavors of the Thanksgiving Meal.

30th Anniversary- Charlie, Fred And Ken's Bock (Complementary Pairing)
Maibock / Helles Bock |  8.30% ABV
The smooth malt flavors of this lighter Maibock/Helles Bock should excellently complement the roasted turkey, gravies and accompaniments of the Thanksgiving Meal.


30th Anniversary - Fritz And Ken's Ale
American Double / Imperial Stout |  9.20% ABV
The rich malt and smoky flavors of this Imperial Stout will enhance any sweet dessert. This delicious stout is also suitable as dessert all by itself.

Digestive/Final Snifter

30th Anniversary- Jack And Ken's Ale
American Barleywine |  10.20% ABV
This Black Barleywine is a unique twist on an American Barelywine. This should be an excellent final snifter.

Additional Beers

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
This is probably the best simple complementary American Pale Ale to pair with a poultry dinner. It will make a very good less intense substitute for the Entrée Pairing.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
This “Fresh Hop” IPA could also be a good substitute contrasting pairing for those who are having more then one with dinner.


Well, I’m not sure where to start. I guess a picture of the spent bottles will give you some inclination of how the dinner went.

First of all Kathy provided an amazing meal. Everything was cooked to perfection and tasted great; from the turkey to all the accompanying dishes to the pies for dessert. And all I had to do is chill some beer and stay out of her way.

The only disappointment was the fact that I could not find the stout; 30th Anniversary - Fritz And Ken's Ale. So I substituted the Cape Ann Fisherman’s Imperial Pumpkin Stout.
The good news is that I have a bottle of each left over so I can either review them or save them for Christmas.

I guess I should also mention that we had a few home made beverages also. Molly and I made a Blackberry Mead about a week before that really turned out pretty good. It was a little young yet so I still have a few quarts fermenting. I also made some Eggnog that Pop Pop Burns would be proud of. This Nog has more Brandy and Rum than cream and eggs. 

The day started off with fresh baked cinnamon buns and coffee, yes, Kathy again. Of course I had a little something in the coffee. 

Late afternoon I had a few warm-ups of the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Celebration Ale waiting for the appetizers to come out.

Grand Cru
American Strong Ale | 9.20% ABV
As I figured this was a little robust for the appetizers but it was a great aperitif. Some were taken back by starting off with such a big beer but the complexities of this beer would have gotten lost if I served it later in the meal. It was nice; rich and complex with that Sierra Nevada bite. This is a blend of their Oaked Aged Bigfoot, Celebration Ale and their Pale Ale. It was an excellent beer to start the evening off.

Palate Cleanser
Oude Gueuze, by: Hanssens Artisanaal, Belgium, Gueuze |  6.00% ABV
Boy, I almost forgot that I added a Gueuze to the menu at the last minute. I had to get a Belgian in there somehow. I may have been the only one that appreciated the unique sour flavors of this Old Gueuze. Just one small sip and it cleansed the palate for the next course. If you like Gueuze this one is outstanding.

I started off the entrée course with the 30th Anniversary- Charlie, Fred And Ken's Bock (Complementary Pairing) Maibock / Helles Bock |  8.30% ABV  
I found this to be an excellent complementary pairing. This bock is great. It was nice and smooth with a clean finish. It almost has a little bite to it. The malt characteristics of this beer really blended nicely with the roasted turkey and gravy. It really complemented the meal well.

With my second helping I went with the Estate Homegrown Wet Hop Ale, Estate Harvest (Contrasting Pairing) American IPA |  6.70% ABV.
This was also an interesting pairing. It may have been too hoppy for some but the hops never overpowered the meal. Then again if you were a hop head this would be a perfect pairing. There was in interesting hop complexity to this beer that was still present during the meal. I think my son John and I were the only ones to have both beers with our meal.

This is where I had a substitute; the Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout by Cape Ann Brewing Company,  Pumpkin Ale | 11.00% ABV. It turned out to be a great dessert beer especially with Kathy’s Pumpkin Pie. Wow, it was really good. This is smooth and rich with just a nice hint of natural pumpkin on the finish. And at 11% it’s and interesting warmer too.

Digestive/Final Snifter
30th Anniversary- Jack And Ken's Ale. American Barleywine |  10.20% ABV
I must say by the time I got to this beer I was beat. I really don’t think it was the alcohol, no really. We can blame it on the tryptophan, yeah that’s it, it was the tryptophan. At any rate I do remember commenting on how dark and malty this was for a Barleywine. It was very smooth and not too overpowering. This almost seemed light for Barleywine, well at least I don’t remember it being boozy. But this is one that I need to have again.

So that’s how Thanksgiving went down this year. All and all it was an excellent beer pairing to an excellent meal.   

I’m still not sure what to do with the beer leftovers; I will most likely be reviewing them soon.

I hope everyone had a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving! 


Friday, November 19, 2010

Cape Ann Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout

Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout
Brewed by:
Cape Ann Brewing Company
Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA

Pumpkin Ale

11.00% ABV

General Pricing:
12oz bottle, ~$7.00 each, ~$72.00 case

Last year I had the regular Fisherman's Pumpkin Stout and really liked it. This Year when I saw that they had an Imperial version I just had to pick it up to review. I must say however that it has been sitting in the fridge for about two months waiting for me to get to it. So let’s see what this imperial version is all about.

The beer pours a dark brown completely opaque with no light showing through the glass. This beer also produced a fairly rich tan to chocolate milk colored head.

The nose is rich with dark roasted malt aromas, a unique sweet fruit aroma that I can only assume is from the pumpkin and sweet alcohol. There are also notes of chocolate on the nose.

Oh My! This is good, Very good.

The experience starts out with sweet dark roasted malts upfront followed by a smooth rich and creamy mouthfeel in the middle of the sip. The back end is very easy drinking for an imperial stout. There is also a slight release of carbonation during the swallow. This also masks some the flavors a little. The finish is where it all comes together. The flavors on the finish are impressive, rich dark roasted malts, pumpkin, and notes of chocolate, coffee and dark fruit. There is also a nice sweet drying effect from the alcohol on the finish. This is not boozy but there is a sweet alcohol finish to it. The most impressive thing about the finish is the pumpkin flavors. It is a really nice natural pumpkin flavor that is just amazing. The final aftertaste is also impressive with the classic lingering malt flavors of a stout but also that delicious pumpkin.

All and all this is a very impressive pumpkin stout and the imperial aspect of it just sends this over the top. I can’t wait to see what happens as it warms and opens up a little.

We are now at 61 degrees.

The nose has more robust aromas as it warms. I can really pick up the roasted malt, chocolate and even more of the pumpkin aromas at this temperature.

This is really opening up nicely. All of the flavors are more enhanced now at this warmer temperature. It is also much smoother now. The carbonation release during the swallow in no longer there so these flavors are no longer masked on the back-end. There is a robust malt flavor and malt bitterness that now starts to build though the swallow. The finish is now outstanding with rich flavors. The rich dark roasted malts are more robust, the pumpkin is richer and even the alcohol is more noticeable at this temperature.

The end of this second snifter is now at 66 degrees and this beer is amazing. It is interesting how; on one hand it is more robust but on the other hand it is richer and smoother. At any rate it’s just getting better and better as it warms.

Well I’m down to the last few ounces in the bottle. I have been nursing this for about two hours and I am still starting to feel the effect of the alcohol.

Ok, all good things must come to an end and so must this beer. I’ve nursed this one long enough.

This has been at room temperature for quite some time now and it is smoother than ever. Even at room temperature this never picked up any off flavors; smooth rich and delicious to the last warm drop.

This is a solid A. I am very impressed with this unique imperial pumpkin ale. All the rich malt flavors of a high quality stout with very natural pumpkin flavor and imperial aspect at 11 % ABV makes this one impressive beer.  

I highly recommend this beer to anyone that likes Pumpkin Ales and Stouts. This was a very nice enhancement over last years Pumpkin Stout. It is a big beer at 11% but it is not boozy at all; the alcohol is masked nicely.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Het Alternatief Ambetanterik

Het Alternatief Ambetanterik

Brewed by:
Brouwerij Het Alternatief
Izegem, Belgium

Belgian Stout

11.00% ABV

Commercial Description:
Ambetanterik is a stout 10% vol alcohol.
This includes access naughty taste in dark chocolate, coffee and chicory bitterness. You can taste the roasted malt very carefully dispensed. This beer offers a complex tapestry of roasted aromas and flavors. Unfiltered beer with secondary fermentation in the bottle.
Colour 144 EBC. Bitterness 43 EBU style: heavy stout.
(Translated From the Het Alternatief Website by Google Translator)

General Pricing:
11.2oz, 330ml bottle, ~$5.50 each

I am continuing my quest to try everything that 12 Percent Imports, imports. So far everything that I have had from 12 Percent has been exceptionable. This will be my fourth bier from this brewery. The Hik Blond was very good and the Piet-Agoras is an Outstanding Artisan Bier and just last night I had the phenomenal The Bitter Truth. I am really looking forward to trying this bier. I can’t wait to see what Piet Salomez does for a Belgian Stout. Fasten your seatbelts this could be a bumpy ride.

The bier pours a dark brown almost completely opaque with just a hint of dark ruby hues showing if the glass is backlit. The bier produced a fairly rich tan head and it looks like the head will be sticking around for a while.

The nose is delightful with dark roasted malt aromas, rich chocolate, coffee and dark fruit notes. My mouth is watering in anticipation of this bier.

Wow, this takes unique to a whole new level. It’s an interesting Flemish twist on a Belgian Stout. This is another amazing bier from Piet Salomez; just incredible.

The taste starts out with a dark malt sweetness up front then a creamy, smooth and effervescence in the middle of the sip. Yes there is some contradiction there. The middle of the sip is smooth and creamy until you start to get towards the back-end in which there is the most pleasant effervescence over the tongue. The back-end is very easy drinking with more carbonation releasing and this is where you start to pick up that Flemish twist. There is a unique sourness that starts just around the top of the swallow. The sourness builds slightly throughout the swallow but it is never dominate or overwhelming. Towards the end of the swallow into the finish is where all of these amazing flavors come together. The flavors on the finish are sweet with dark roasted malts, notes off dark fruit, chocolate, a touch of coffee and the most exquisite Flemish sour twist. The sourness is just enough to give this bier uniqueness but not enough to overpower the experience. The final aftertaste has some lingering roasted malt sweetness, a hint of that sour twist and of course those classic lingering Belgian yeasty notes.

This is just a phenomenal bier, a real Artisan Brew.

The head, as predicted never went away. It did diminish but into a thick, rich and creamy layer over the top of the bier. The lacing is more like a coating. You really can not see level changes it’s just a continuous sheet of lacing down the entire glass.

As this bier warms up there is an interesting bitterness. It’s not hops and it doesn’t seem like the typical malt bitterness of a stout either. I’m wondering if this is the Chickory? At any rate it’s not offensive at all just more noticeable as it warms. We are now at 65 degrees.

It’s a shame that I ain’t got to many big words to use to describe this bier because this is incredible. I know I’m not doing this justice.

That last sip was at room temperature and was just exquisite. It had the most interesting finish of sourness and malt bitterness. This is one of the most unusual biers I’m ever had.

I gingerly poured a few more ounces into the glass trying not to disturb the lees.

Just Exquisite!

The Lees
Well you know I got to try the lees; even if it’s just to tell you again not to pour them into the full glass of bier.

These lees are actually lighter in color then the regular bier was but also very dense and completely opaque.

Actually these are not too bad; funky, bitter and yeasty but lacking that strong sourness that I expected. Every time I try the lees they are different and unpredictable.

Final Thoughts
Well, these Belgian Artisan Biers are outstanding. I can not imagine going to the local pup and drinking biers like this on a regular basis. That must be just this side of heaven.

This is a solid A+. An exquisite Belgian Stout with a Flemish twist. The rich sweet roasted malt flavors with dark fruit esters, notes of chocolate and coffee along with the most unusual sour twist make this Artisan Bier an experience I will never forget. Hat’s off to Piet Salomez for and another amazing brew.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Het Alternatief Bittere Waarheid (Bitter Truth)

Het Alternatief Bitter Truth

Brewed by:
Brouwerij Het Alternatief
Izegem, Belgium

Belgian IPA

10.00% ABV

Commercial Description:
Bitter Truth is a bitter beer blonde of 10 vol% alcohol.
This beer is certainly not the most bitter in the market. But perhaps the balance between bitter and aromas seduce you. 70 Despite the EBU is still easily drinkable beer. There were four types of hops added at four different times. A very strong beer for people with a strong personality. Unfiltered and with secondary fermentation in the bottle.
Colour 11 EBC. Bitterness 70 EBU. Style triple IPA.
(Translated From the Het Alternatief Website by Google Translator)

General Pricing:
11.2oz, 330ml bottle, ~$5.50 each

This is a continuation of my quest to try everything that 12 Percent Imports, imports. So far everything that I have had from 12 Percent has not only been good but exceptionable. This will be my third bier from this brewery. The Hik Blond was very good and the Piet-Agoras is an Outstanding Artisan Bier. I cannot wait to see what Piet Salomez does for a Belgian IPA. This should be interesting.

The bier pours a clear deep golden color with a very rich bright white head. This is highly carbonated with a tremendous amount of tiny bubbles rising up from the bottom of the glass.

The nose is light with pilsner type malt aromas along with some yeasty notes. A gentle swirl of the glass produces the most unique floral hop aromas. This is beyond inviting; I can’t what to see what this taste like.

Wow, the subtle complexities are amazing. This is going to be difficult to explain. This bier is light, clean, crisp and refreshing. I’m having a hard time believing that this has 10 percent alcohol. The masking of the alcohol itself is most impressive. I have never had a 10 percent bier taste like it had the alcohol of a 6.8 percent Blonde. That alone is amazing. Sorry I have a lot of stuff ran through my head from that first sip. Let me attempt a better play by play.

The experience starts out with a light pilsner type malt sweetness up front on the tip of the tongue. That is followed by the most refreshing middle of the sip effervescence. The back-end is extremely easy to drink. There is another pleasant release of carbonation during the swallow that helps mask the alcohol and it masks the malt and hop flavors as well. This carbonation also enhances the refreshing aspect to this bier. Toward the end of the swallow into the finish you start to get the most pleasant hop complexity. There is nothing bitter, these hops dry with the most pleasant floral flavors; just outstanding. By the time you exhale in the finish is when you start to detect some alcohol. But once again it seems more like 6 to 8 percent not 10. There is not much of a final aftertaste. The finish is so dry there is not much of anything left over. There is however a slight lingering hop presence along with some sweetness that I assume is mostly from the alcohol and maybe a little from the malts.

Wow, what a phenomenal experience.

Another amazing thing that I can’t quite understand is how clear this bier is. According to the description this is unfiltered and bottled conditioned. This is amazingly clear. It will be interesting to see what is left on the bottom of the bottle.

I’m still trying to hold back the lees but the second glass was a bit more cloudy than the first.

The head on the bier is also impressive. It did diminish quite a bit from the first pour put left a nice thick protective layer over the top of the glass with impressive lacing. This second pour (half pour) also produced a rich bright white head.

I am also glad I chose a tulip glass for this experience. After having some of Piet’s other biers I assumed this one would also generate a nice creamy head and I wanted to capture that as much as possible. It is apparent that with this second pour the creaminess adds to the mouthfeel and smoothes out this experience.

All my reviews start out around 45 degrees. The bier fridge is at 40 and by the time I get the pictures taken and settle down to review it usually warms to around 45 or so. We are now at 63 degrees.

At this temperature you can start to sense the alcohol, well a little anyway. It still is never boozy, but you can taste the sweet alcohol in the finish.

It’s interesting that the head seems to be hanging around more with this smaller second pour than it did with the first large pour. I think the tremendous amount of carbonation rising up from the bottom of the glass helped to implode the head. Now since the bottle has been open for a while and it was such a smaller pour the head seemed much creamier and is sticking around longer. This lingering creamy head is definitely adding to the smoothness of this bier.

AHHH, that last sip was just exquisite. I know I did not do any justice to this in my feeble attempt to explain the experience. This was an amazing experience. 

The simple elegance, subtle complexity and artistry of this beer is beyond my ability to explain. If you get a chance to try this bier don’t waste it by drinking it. Take your time and savor every sip. Small nuances of complexity can be experienced with every sip if you take you time with it.

The Lees
Well this is one that I have to try the lees.
Wow, what a difference in the clarity. The lees are very dense, almost opaque and very intimidating.
What a contrast to the original bier.

I know I sound like a broken record with this but once again this is a perfect example on why you should not pour the lees into the bier.

The last few ounces of this bottle are drastically different from the rest. These lees are much more bitter. These flavors are not representative of anything that I tasted in the bier. The final aftertaste of the lees is very chalky, bitter and yeasty. The bitterness is not a hop bitterness either just a bitter unpleasantness. Well, that is unless you like the bitter funkiness of lees.

Final Thoughts
There is not much more to add to this. I’ve been babbling about this bier enough already.

I’m giving this an A+. This will be a candidate for an O, outstanding if I ever decide to add that to my rating system. The subtle complexities, unique hop presence and the masking of the alcohol make this one of the most pleasurable and unique biers that I have ever had. This truly is a phenomenal Artisan Bier.

I highly recommend this bier to anyone that likes the artistry and subtle complexity of the Belgians. However I do have two recommendations if you try this one. First of all take you time. If you rush throught this one you will miss out. Second, please save the lees and taste them separately if you like.

Know I can’t wait to try the Ambetanterik from this brewery. That’s chilling in the fridge for my next review.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne

Duchesse De Bourgogne

Brewed by:
Brouwerij Verhaeghe

Flanders (Flemish) Red Ale

6.20% ABV

Commercial Description:
Duchesee de Bourgogne is the traditional top fermented reddish-brown ale from the West-Flanders region of Belgium. This refined ale also known as "The Burgundies of Belgium" is a blend of 8 and 18 months old ales following careful maturation in oak casks. 100% natural and unpasteurized.

General Pricing:
11.2oz, 330ml bottle, ~$6.00 each, ~$22.00 4 pack, ~$121.00 case
750ml Bottle, ~$12.00 each, ~$135.00 case

I have to admit up front that this is my favorite Flemish Red and what I consider the Gold Standard for style. This particular bottle was a left over from the tasting table at the last Belgian Event.

This one was brought to the event by my friend Gonzolo. I have had this several times but I have not reviewed it before. So last see how the Duchesee holds up in a review.
The bier pours a clear dark amber almost brown with deep ruby hues and an off white to tan head.

The nose is exquisite. Well, that is if you like the Belgian funky sour aromas. The nose is full with sweet dark fruit esters with sour tart notes all with that classic Belgian yeasty background. This is extremely inviting, if this is your thing.

Oh My, That is Goood. I’m afraid that this may be a short review. This is so delicious it may end up going down too fast.

The taste starts out with a fruit sweetness up front on the tip of the tongue then that is immediately followed by a tart and sour effervescence throughout the middle of the sip. Still fruity and sweet but now also tart and sour. The back end is very easy drinking but also highly carbonated. The flavors toward the end of the swallow into the finish are quite impressive. The flavors are of sweet dark fruits; cheery, raspberry and a wine like red grape and old flavor. These flavors are so refreshing in the finish. There is also a very dark malt flavor in the finish but mostly these are sweet fruit flavors. There is a lingering aftertaste of sweet fruit along with a sour/tartness and yeasty notes. However this sourness is never overwhelming.

I have heard other reviewers comparing Belgian biers to wine and I usually disagree with that analogy but in this case it really fits. This bier is really more like a moderately sour/tart carbonated red wine than a bier. The actual official glass for this bier is a wine glass.

The taste of this bier also reminds me of some of the Fruit Lambics; sour in the background but with strong fruit sweetness up front. Although this bier is not as sweet as the fruit lambics. This also has a nice malt and oak flavor to it.

This is really an exquisite brew.
It is extremely good but it is also very sweet. Because of that, this is one of those biers that I have to be in the mood for. I have had this in the fridge since the end of September just waiting for the right time to have it. I don’t know why but I was almost craving this tonight.

Well, just like I thought in the beginning this went down to easy and was so delicious that it is just about gone.

The final sips have warmed up quite a bit. It is much smoother now and much richer.

The head on this bier never quit. Even the last sip had a nice protective layer over it and there was very nice lacing left on the glass.

This is an A+ in my book. It is a perfect blend of old and young ales and aged like a fine wine to a simple perfection. Not for everyone, this is sour, sweet and a little yeasty. It really drinks more like a carbonated yeasty wine rather than a beer but it is so delicious.

Barcelona Estrella Damm Lager

Estrella Damm Lager

Brewed by:
Damm S. A.
Barcelona, Spain

American Adjunct Lager

5.20% ABV

Commercial Description:
This beer is the jewel in the crown of Damm’s century-long beer-brewing experience. Since 1876, when Alsatian August Kuentzmann Damm founded the company bearing his name, numerous generations of master brewers have perfected this lager until it has become a landmark in the world of beers. This lager beer with a universally appreciated character and taste is ideal for drinking at any time. Its high quality is due to the finest selection of raw materials and the meticulous brewing process. It stands out for its creamy hops-flavoured froth and refreshing taste.

General Pricing:
12oz bottle, ~$10.00 6pack, ~$37.00 case

This was yet another gift from my friend Gene. I don’t know where he comes up with these beers but it is fun to review something that you know that you would not normally buy. So let’s see what this Barcelonan has in store for us.
The beer pours a clear pale golden straw color with a bright white head. There is a fair amount of combination, evident by the tiny bubbles rising up from the bottom of the glass.

The nose is very grainy almost skunky with some light floral hop aromas as well. It is not a very inviting nose; I actually would have expected this to be from a green or clear bottle.

Ok, well, yeah, well, I don’t know, let me try that again. I’m sorry it’s not bad; there are just some interesting flavors here that I did not expect. This is not your typical Adjunct Lager. Let me attempt a better play by play.

The taste starts out with little to nothing up front followed by a nice carbonation over the tongue in mid-sip. Toward the back-end you start to pick up some flavors. Somewhat nondescript at first then during the swallow it starts to turn a little skunky. There is an interesting hop profile that also comes out from the end of the swallow into the finish. The finish is pretty dry with a nice bit to it. There is a slight aftertaste of some lingering skunky flavors and a light hop bite. My tongue is tingling from the hops and effervescence.

I’m not really doing this justice. At no time was this foul or bitter. What I’m referring to as skunky is an earthy flavor that I can’t quite put my finger on. The closest thing that comes to mind is that flavor that you get from a green bottle German beer that is past its prime and light has changed it to a skunky flavor.

This is actually quite refreshing for an American Adjunct. It certainly is better than any of the American Macro counterparts.

Well I have to hand it to my friend Gene for fining the most unusual common lagers. This one is not bad. And that is best evident by the fact that it is almost gone. I only have a sip or two left.

I must say that the head on this beer never really quit. Even now that there is only a sip left in the bottom of the glass there is still a nice protective layer over the top of the beer. There is also very distinct level marks left by the lacing. Again, this is very unusual for an Adjunct Lager.

Actually as I look back at my empty glass the lacing is quit impressive.

My general rule is not to rate Adjunct Lagers but this is better than most. I really think I could get use to drinking a few of these at a party. Not that I would go out and buy it but I certainly would not refuse it either.

This is a very drinkable American Adjunct Lager. There are some interesting earthy almost skunky flavors with it and very nice hop bit on the clean finish. All and all it was pretty enjoyable for this style of beer.

So this is another drinkable American Adjunct Lager from my friend Gene. I guess it’s time to start returning the favor and share some good beers with my friend.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dos Equis Special Lager

Dos Equis Special Lager

 Brewed by:
Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma, S.A. de C.V.

American Adjunct Lager

5.00% ABV

Commercial Description:
Dos Equis Special Lager is a refreshing, crisp, golden, lager style beer imported from Mexico. Made with roasted malts, choice hops, a unique strain of yeast and purified water, this distinctive brew is known simply as “Lager” in its homeland.

General Pricing:
12oz bottle, ~$6.00 6pack, ~$22.00 case

I’ve only had this once; it was at a family party last October. I didn’t think it was too bad at the time. Just last week my good friend Gonzalo gave this to me to take home and review. I do have to admit that I love those “most interesting man in the world” commercials. So let’s see why the most interesting man in the world drinks this when he’s drinking beer.

The beer pours a clear pale golden straw color with a bright white head. The head diminished fairly quickly. There is a fair amount of carbonation with tiny bubbles rising up from the bottom of the glass.

I would have expected the green bottle to be a little skunky but that is not evident from the nose. The nose has light pilsner type malt aromas and with a gentle swirl a light hop presence is realized. All and all the nose is not too bad. The aromas are light but nothing wrong or offensive.

Well from the first sip I must say that this beer is drinkable anyway. Sorry, that was a bit snobbish. The first sip wasn’t too bad with nothing unpleasant or offensive. Gee that wasn’t much better. At any rate this is light in flavor but still a very drinkable beer. There, that’s better.

The sip starts out with just a hint of light malts up front then a very pleasant effervescence over the tongue in mid-sip. The back-end is effortless in the swallow. There is also another release of carbonation during the swallow that makes this very refreshing. Not much flavor but refreshing. The finish is very dry. There is not really a hop bite or bitterness but the hops are there. Again there is not much a flavor but more importantly there is nothing offensive either.

This is not a bad Adjunct Lager. It does not seem to have the grassy corn or rice notes that you would expect in an Adjunct. It is however very light but also refreshing. I certainly would drink this over any of the big Macro American Adjuncts any day.

We are now at 56 degrees. As it warms a little I am picking up more of a malt sweetness on the finish. This is actually quite pleasant.

I am also starting to pick up a hint of off flavors in the final aftertaste as we are now finishing this at 60 degrees. Still not too bad for an Adjunct, it was quite enjoyable. Well as enjoyable as an Adjunct Lager can be.

I have not rated any of the other adjunct lagers so I will not rate this one either. Even rating by class the best Adjunct Lager can not compare to an all malt lager or any real craft beer. It would end up being something like an A in class but a D- overall. So I have chosen not the rate Adjuncts.

That being said I have to tell you that I would not turn this down if it were offered to me at a party and I would actually buy it in a restaurant that did not serve and craft beer. I certainly would purchase this over any of the American Macro's. There is not much to it but it is a somewhat enjoyable and refreshing American Adjunct Lager.

I guess I should end this by saying "Stray Thirsty My Friends".

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Michelob Ultra

Michelob Ultra

Brewed by:
Anheuser-Busch, Inc.
Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

Light Lager

4.20% ABV

Commercial Description:
Bottle: Filtered.
Ingredients: Pale two-row and Munich six-row barley, select grains, all imported hops and a pure cultured yeast strain.
Introduced in 1978.
Michelob Ultra, the new low-carb light beer with taste smooth enough to carry the Michelob name.

General Pricing:
12oz bottle, ~$5.50-$6.50 6pack, ~$16.00-22.00 case

OH YEAH! We got a big one tonight. This is ranked number 5. No, not that number 5, this one  this currently ranked number 5 of THE WORST BEERS IN THE WORLD. So why am I reviewing the fifth worst beer in the world? Well, my sister told me that she really liked it and gave me one to review. I must say it’s been in the beer fridge for a long time as I have been building up the nerve to give it a whirl. So last see how good the fifth worst beer in the world really is.

The beer pours a crystal clear pale straw color with a vanishing white head. This beer is highly carbonated with a tremendous amount of tiny bubbles rising up from the bottom of the glass.

There are aromas on the nose; light pilsner type malt along with some grainy corn or rice notes and slight floral hops are also present on the nose.

Wow, this is the most tasteless beer I’ve ever had. I really can’t say it’s bad because it really has no flavor. I’ll have to refer back to my first impression of the Bud Light/Miller Lite review to see if I had the same reaction to them.

There is really no point in a play by play because there is not much of any experience to detail. There is really nothing up front then effervescence over the tongue. There is nothing on the back-end through the swallow that would give an indication of beer yet. There is a very slight, extremely light malt, I can’t even say flavor it’s just a hint of flavor on the finish. There is no aftertaste what so ever.

I have never experienced this before. I described other light beers as training wheels for real beer. Keeping a similar analogy this would have to be a tricycle.

I guess this has a place on an extremely hot day. I can see it being refreshing ice cold but I still think I’d rather have water or lemonade.

We have warmed to 55 degrees.

I must say it’s getting a little odd. There are definitely off flavors developing as this beer warms.

We are only at 58 degrees and this is almost unbearable. I am really not a masochist so I’m going to kill this now.

Boy that was a bad finish. I guess this own really has to be drunk ice cold.

I’m not sure what’s appealing about this beer. It must be the low carbs of 2.6 grams or the 95 calories. It’s not the low alcohol because this beer has as much alcohol as Guinness stout at 4.2 ABV.

The logic escapes me but I know this is a very popular light beer. If “light” is to mean light in alcohol then there are a tremendous amount of beers at 4.2% ABV that have really good flavor. If light is to mean light in color and flavor than why are people drinking beer at all. Sorry, I guess this is a topic for a separate style discussion post.

I haven’t rated any other light lagers so I’m not going to start now and good this for Michelob Ultra.

This is the least beer tasting light beer I’ve ever had. There is not any real beer flavor cold and as it warms it’s just nasty. This beer has just the hint of flavor that a light beer has. So like I said earlier if light beers are like training wheels for real beer than this one is like riding a tricycle. So if tricycles are your thing this is the beverage for you.

Well this one was a hoot, thanks Char!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Grimbergen Blonde

Grimbergen Blonde

Brewed by:
Brouwerij Alken-Maes


Belgian Pale Ale

6.70% ABV

Commercial Description:
Ochre coloured top fermented Abbey Beer with an abv of 6.7%. The use of Gatinais barley combined with carefully selected hops creates a perfectly balanced, relatively light tasting beer with a fruity malty taste.

General Pricing:
12oz bottle, ~$11.00-$12.00 6 pack, ~$41.00-$46.00 case

I have never had this bier before. My friend Andre gave me the Grimbergen Dubbel to review and I really liked it. I saw the blond at the store and couldn’t help myself but to buy a 6 pack and review it. So here we go.

The bier pours a clear golden color with copper hues and a bright white head.

Pale malts, light fruit, citrus, light spice and yeasty notes make up the nose of this bier. It is very inviting. The nose is extremely inviting I just hope that this is as refreshing as the nose leads you to believe.

Wow, this is every bit as refreshing as the nose indicates; what a nice Blonde. This is clean crisp and refreshing.

We start out with very light malt sweetness up front on the tip of the tongue followed by a very pleasant effervescence over the tongue in mid-sip. There is not much going on in the middle of the sip other than some combination. The back-end is extremely easy drinking with light carbonation release during the swallow. The finish is superb for a Blonde. It remains very clean and refreshing but with very nice light malt flavors, a hint of spice and just enough hops to give a somewhat dry finish. There is not much of a lingering aftertaste just a hint of citrus and light malt sweetness.

I’m sure glad I bought a 6 pack of this because this first one is gone. That’s one problem I have reviewing a refreshing bier, it doesn’t stay around to long.

I also have to mention the impressive lacing. The head seemed to diminish fairly quickly to just a protective thin layer over the top of the bier. But the lacing remained very impressive for a blond. From the lacing on the glass you can clearly see the new level after each sip. Again this first glass did not have too many level marks since it went down so easily.
I’ve managed to let this second bottle warm up a little. We are now at 57 degrees and it is still delicious and refreshing; it may actually be a little smoother now and the light malt flavors are more pronounced. Granted it is still light, it is a blond after all.

It’s hard to get excited about a Blonde but this one has everything going for it. It is light with a nice carbonation, slightly sweet with light malts, just a hint of spice, citrus and very refreshing. I’m going to have to give this one a A for sure.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale

Founders Dirty Bastard
Brewed by:
Founders Brewing Company
Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy

8.50% ABV


Commercial Description:
Founders flagship beer. Dirty Bastard is an absolute beautiful beer to behold. Dark ruby in color and brewed with ten varieties of imported malts this beer continuously lives up to its reputation as a bold and powerful ale. Dirty Bastard is complex in the finish with hints of smoke and peat paired with a malty richness, finalized with a good bit of hop attitude. This beer “ain’t fer the wee lads”

This was left over from the tasting table at my last beer event John's Second Annual Craft Beer Event
. I have never had this before but I have heard good things about Founders. It is a chilly damp rainy night in early November and this may be just what I need.

The beer pours a clear dark brown with amber hues and a modest but fairly rich off white to tan head.

The rich aromas from this beer are noticed immediately from the pour. The nose is wonderful with rich dark malts and notes of chocolate and dark fruits. With a gentle swirl nice floral hop aromas are also released. Man this smells too good to be and Scotch Ale I can’t wait to see what it tastes like.

Wow, this is too good to be a Scotch Ale. This beer has the most interesting rich malt flavors for a Scotch Ale. It’s more like a robust English Porter but with a very refreshing aspect to it. Boy I’m going to have a hard time giving this one a play by play.

The taste starts off with dark sweet malts up front then a pleasantly smooth mid-sip. There is a malt robustness that builds throughout the middle of the sip. The back-end is very easy drinking for such a rich malt beer. The malt flavors intensify towards the end of the swallow into the finish but these flavors at no time turn bitter or unpleasant just more robust. The finish is fairly dry with a nice malt and hop bitterness. The final aftertaste is a lingering dark roasted malt flavor with an almost creamy stout like coating throughout your mouth.

This was a very unexpected experience for a Scotch Ale. I expected malt flavors but nothing like this; Very Impressive.

I’m going to let this set a bit and warm up. I’m curious as to how it will open up with the increase in temperature.

We are now at 58 degrees.

Oh my, this is good, really good. The rich dark roasted malt flavors are smoother and better then ever. I am really impressed with this beer.

I wanted to let this get to room temperature but it’s too good to let it sit and warm up, it’s gone.

I’m not sure if a beer can be too malty for a Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy but this is so good I don’t really care. I’m giving this an A. No matter what you call it this is one excellently crafted beer. Smooth rich dark malts with a very complex hop and malt finish. This is one of those well crafted beers with the complexity so that you will pick up something different with each experience.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dogfish Head Festina Peche

Festina Pêche

Brewed by:
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Milton, Delaware, USA

Berliner Weissbier

4.50% ABV

Commercial Description:
A refreshing neo-Berliner Weisse fermented with peaches.
Food Pairing recommendations: Grilled chicken or fish, salad.
Glassware recommendation: Pint
Wine comparable: Pinot Grigio

General Pricing:
12oz bottle, ~$8.00 4 pack, ~$45.00 case

This has been sitting around in the beer fridge for a long time. I think it was a leftover from the tasting table at my last beer event; John's Second Annual Craft Beer Event. I have had this before and it’s really not my mug of beer, (cup of tea) if you well. Since another one showed up I thought I would give it a full review.

The beer pours a slightly hazy pale straw with a diminishing white head.

Sweet peach and citrus notes are on the nose of this beer along with a yeasty background.

Wow, pucker up for this one. I forgot how tart this was and it just hit me hard. Now tart doesn’t faze me, I love the Flemish Red’s and the sour Geuze’s of Belgium. But this one sets me back a little. OK, let me try a play by play.

Well, maybe I can’t. This is really tart.

The tart aspect of this beer starts up font in the beginning of the sip. This is where you usually pick up sweet malts. The tart flavor builds the first sensory experience up front on the tip of the tongue throughout the middle of the sip. There is also a tingling over the tongue in the mid-sip. This seems to be effervescence but there is no evidence of carbonation left in the glass. The back end is just an explosion of sweet tart flavors. It almost makes this hard to swallow; it is certainly not easy drinking. The back of my jaw quivers during the swallow from the tart flavors. Surprisingly this building tart experience stops dead at the finish leaving just a hint of tart, citrus and peach notes on the finish and final aftertaste.

Part of my problem with this beer is that I expect some sour and yeast complexity to complement the tartness similar to the Belgian Flemish Red’s and Geuze’s. But this experience is just tart with no other aspects or complexities.

The easiest way to describe the taste of this beer is a peach flavored sweet tart. So if you think that you would like a peach flavored sweet tart than you will love this beer.

I’m not going to give this a rating. I really do not have much of anything in style to compare this too. I find this very tart and without any other malt, yeast, or sour complexity that would make this more enjoyable. Even the Belgian Flemish Red’s and Geuze Sour’s have more going for them than just tart flavors. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lancaster Brewing Oktoberfest

Lancaster Oktoberfest

Brewed by:
Lancaster Brewing Company
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States

6.50% ABV

Commercial Description:
This smooth brew ushers in Autumn with an invitingly tawny color complemented by an assertive maltiness. A noble crispness from German and Czech hops completes this very traditional lager-style beer.

General Pricing:
12oz bottle, ~$8.00 6 pack, ~$30.00 case

I had one of these beers in the beer fridge for a while. I recently drank it and thinking that I had already reviewed it I did not review it at the time. Last Friday night Bill Moore from Lancaster Brewing was at State Line Liquors for a tasting. I had this beer again that night and thought it was worth another review. After I got home I realized that I had never reviewed it; all this time I had this beer confused with Stoudts Oktoberfest. 
I bought a 6 pack of this beer and used several bottles to slow cook Kielbasa and Sauerkraut. It really turned out great, maybe I’ll talk about that at on a different post. This time I made sure to keep one to review. So here it is.

The beer pours a clear copper with amber hues and an off white head. This is also as a fair amount of carbonation with lots of tiny bubbles rising up from the bottom of the glass.

The nose of this beer reaches you as you are pouring it. Rich caramel almost toasted malts and light hop aromas are on the nose of this beer. This is just a wonderful nose; extremely inviting. I can’t wait to dive into this.

Wow, this is a nice clean and refreshing Oktoberfest. It may not be as full bodied as some of the German counterparts but even from the first sip I can tell you that this is good.

The taste starts out with sweet light malts up front on the tip of the tongue followed by a very pleasant effervescence in mid-sip. The mid-sip carbonation adds to the refreshing aspect of this beer. The back-end is extremely easy drinking again with a substantial carbonation release during the swallow that masks some of the malt flavors. The malt flavors start to come through toward the end of the swallow through the finish. There are nice fairly rich malt flavors, caramel almost toasted malts. There are also light hops on the finish, just enough to dry without bittering. There is not much of a lingering aftertaste just a pleasant hint of these nice malt flavors.

We are now at 56 degrees.
As this beer warms the malt flavors are getting robust. The beer is not picking up any off flavors, the malts are just more pronounced now.

I’m really impressed with this beer. Well, maybe impressed isn’t quite right but I am pleasantly surprised how good this is. This may be one of the best American versions of this style.

Well, that was the last sip, almost at room temperature and still very refreshing. I am always impressed when a beer taste this good as it warms.

This is a solid B maybe even a B+. It may not be as full bodied as some of the German Oktoberfest but it ranks up there as one of the best American renditions of this German Classic.