Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown Ale 2010

Estate Homegrown Wet Hop Ale

Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Chino, California, USA

American IPA

6.70% ABV

Commercial Description:
Here in the sun-drenched fields of California’s North Valley, the black soil is rich with promise. In winter, rows of barley seed are laid in the freshly tilled dirt. In spring, trellises are set for hops. From our fields comes a remarkable homegrown ale, made with organic wet hops and barley grown at our brewery here in Chico and one of the few estate-made ales produced anywhere in the world! This Estate Ale is rich with the flavors of the valley—featuring hops with earthy, grapefruit-like flavors and layered spicy aromas and barley with mild sweetness and smooth, toasted flavors. Together, these crops grow alongside the brewery to make a truly unique brew. Enjoy!

General Pricing:
1pt 9.4oz, 750ml bottles: ~$12.00 each

This was a left over from my all Sierra Nevada Thanksgiving Beer Dinner. I feel like I need to apologize up front. I have not done this “Fresh Hop” ale any justice by leaving it in my beer fridge since November. I know the hops will not be as “Fresh” as they were back then. Well, let’s taste it rather then speculating. I guess I also should put out a reminder that I am not a Hop Head but I do enjoy the floral complexity of a Fresh Hop Ale.

The beer pours a clear amber with orange hues and a fairly rich off white to tan head.

The hop aromas on the nose are wonderful with a great combination of floral and citrus notes. There is also a nice malt background to the nose with sweet caramel notes.

Wow, I was right about letting this sit to long. This does not have that great hop bite and complexity that it did back in November. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a great beer but it has aged out of being a fresh hop IPA. It is now more like a regular American IPA but with more of a malt balance. Let me attempt a play by play.

The taste starts out with a caramel malt sweetness up front on the tip of the tongue but that only last for a split second. The sweetness is immediately followed by a building hop bitterness throughout the middle of the sip. This bitterness builds until you get to the swallow but it at no point is overwhelming and it dissipates on the back-end. The back-end is fairly easy drinking but there is a good hesitation at the top of the swallow. There is also a different type of hop bitterness that is experience in the back of the jaws during the swallow. The finish has even more and different hop flavors. There is a nice pine bite to the finish but there is also a good malt balance in the finish as well. As I remember this at Thanksgiving there was a crisper hop complexity and a more floral quality to the finish. Now, this is more like an imperial/double IPA but without the high alcohol. There is a long lingering hop bitterness in the final aftertaste of his beer.

I’m not sure how that sounded but I am really enjoying this beer. Even though I lost the fresh hop aspect of this beer it is still excellently crafted and highly enjoyable.

This would also be a good candidate for cellaring/aging. You will loose the whole purpose of a Fresh Hop ale but you will gain a unique maltier characteristic. I noticed a big difference with just 4 months and those 4 months were in my beer fridge at 40 degrees not a 50 to 60 degree cellar.
Well, I’m drinking this one by myself again and the first glass is empty.

It is also note worthy to say that this is an Organic beer.

The head on the first glass diminished to just a patchy island and a ring around the glass. It also left some impressive lacing.

The head on the second class seemed to be creamer than the head poured from the first glass.

I am getting toward the bottom of the second glass and we are now at 67.4 degrees.

The malt characteristic of this beer becomes even more pronounced as the beer warms and opens up a little. This tastes more and more like an imperial/double rather that a Fresh Hop IPA.

All and all this has been a great experience. I was actually looking forward to a Fresh Hop beer but even before I opened this one I was skeptical. This is still a great beer but because of its age it is lacking that Fresh Hop complexity and floral notes.

Well there is probably not much more to say about this one. I’ll just continue to nurse that third glass while I work on my conclusion.

There are some lessens to be learned here. If you are looking for a Fresh Hop ale you also need to consume it fresh and not let it cellar for 4 months. Than on the other hand if you want to mellow the hop bitterness in an ale like this just cellaring or age it for a while. I saw a significant difference in this one and that was only 4 months in cold 40 degree storage. It should get much maltier after a year or so at 50 to 60 degrees.

So my dilemma is in rating this by style. After all I really did not consume a “Fresh Hop” ale. In this case it really does not matter because I would give this experience an A either way. So whether this is consumed fresh or aged for a few months the overall experience is still an A+. I am going to look for this next year and review it fresh just to cover all of my bases. Plus it may be worth reviewing each year anyway. I am convinced that there are subtitle differences in each years hop harvest that effect the outcome of that years “Fresh Hop Ale”.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale

Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale

Old Man (Winter Ale)
Brewed by:
Southern Tier Brewing Company
Lakewood, New York USA

Old Ale

7.20% ABV

Commercial Description:
With the onset of winter, the brewer’s mind turns to providing warmth. For our winter seasonal, Southern Tier offers Old Man Winter Ale, a rich and complex amalgam of hops and barley that will put the feeling back in your toes and lift your spirits above the snow. Old Man Winter throws a deep and inviting hue with a thickness that clings to the glass and the warmth of an open flame. Because of its high alcohol content, Old Man Winter is a heady brew that encourages sipping and pondering its essential richness. Drink it fresh now, or cellar some bottles to see how this old man becomes wiser with age. (

General Pricing:
12oz bottles: ~$9.00 6pack

I stopped in State Line Liquors to pick up some beer for a party a few weeks ago and this one jumped into my cart. Funny how that happens. I did manage to bring one home with me to review. I am a big fan of Southern Tier and I’m really looking forward to this review.

The beer pours a dark brown with deep ruby hues and an off white head.

The nose is nice with sweet caramel malt aromas along with a very interesting hop complexity of floral and citrus notes.

Oh my, that’s nice. This is a really interesting winter ale. The experience starts out with sweet caramel malts up front on the tip of the tongue, then a slight effervescent followed by a building malt and hop bitterness toward the back-end. This bitterness at no time overwhelms the experience. The back-end is robust and not very easy drinking. It is however very enjoyable for a rich winter ale. The finish is very robust and this is where the complex hop flavors come into play. The hop flavors are very nice, floral along with a good pine bite. Again at no time overwhelming, there is still a nice caramel/toasted malt background to this ale. There is a lingering hop bitterness to the final aftertaste. Not as lingering as an American IPA but still a lasting bitterness.

All and all I am really pleased with this Winter Ale. I will certainly have to look for it again next year.

I have managed to let the last few ounces warm up a little. That was not easy, I have really enjoyed this beer and it was hard to just let it sit for a while.

At any rate we are now at 69 degrees.

Wow, this beer really opened up. It is much smoother now at this temperature. The malt flavors are richer and the hops seem to be less bitter.

I’m going for B+ maybe even an A-. This is an excellent winter ale. The robustness and hop bitterness may not be for everyone but this is a great full bodied winter ale with rich dark malt flavors and a complex hop bitterness.

Sunday, February 20, 2011



Brewed by:
Brouwerij Palm NV

Belgian Pale Ale

5.4% ABV

Commercial Description:
PALM Ale has long been one of Europe’s top-selling specialty beers. Made with English hops, French Barley, and Belgian yeast, PALM represents the best of European beer-making traditions. It’s the roasted Champagne Malt which gives PALM its amber color, but without being heavy. Also available bottle-conditioned as Palm Hergist. (

General Pricing:
11.2oz, 330ml bottles: ~$9.00 6pack, ~$34.00 case

I had this beer on draft several years ago when in Long Island NY and really liked it. I have not been able to find it in bottles until I stopped in State Line Liquors a few Friday’s ago and found that they were having free rep tasting. This was one of the beers offered at the tasting. I bought a 6 pack along with several other beers to take to a party that night. I managed to bring one back home with me to review.

The bier pours a clear amber with copper hues and a white to off white head. This bier is darker in color than I expected or for that matter most Belgian Pales.

The nose is also different for Belgian Pale or Blond. This nose is more like a lager. There are not the typical citrus notes and fruit esters on the nose. Don’t get me wrong the nose is nice with pilsner type malt aromas and light floral hops. The hops on the nose are also a little unusual for a Belgian Pale. All and all this nose is very inviting; different for a Belgian but very inviting.

Ahh, that’s a nice refreshing ale; clean, crisp and refreshing. The taste starts out with sweet light malts up front followed by a very refreshing effervescence over the tongue in the middle of the sip. The back-end is very easy to drink with an effortless swallow. It is fairly light and floral but there is a definite hop presence on the finish of this beer. There is little to no aftertaste; just a slight light hop and malt flavor.

I like this bier but it is also a little confusing. It does not really taste like a lager but it is more “lager like” and definitely does not drink like a typical Belgian Pale or Blond.

The light hop bite on the finish really adds to the refreshing aspect of this bier.

It’s so different from most Belgian Pales I’m going to give this a C+ for a rating in style. That may not be fair for an overall rating. I really did enjoy this beer. It does not have the typical sweetness and fruit qualities of a Belgian Pale. It really does drink more like an English pub ale with a lager characteristic.    

Warsteiner Premium Dunkel

Warsteiner Premium Dunkel

Brewed by:
Warsteiner Brauerei


Munich Dunkel Lager

4.90% ABV

Commercial Description:
A light bodied clean dark lager.

General Pricing:

11.2oz, 330ml bottles: ~$15.00 12 pack, ~$23.00-$27.00 case

I’m a sucker for a good porter or a good dark lager. I was looking for something to drink for the super bowl and I saw a case of this at Costco for $23.00 so it just jumped into my cart, funny how that happens. I did manage to some to review.

The beer pours a clear dark brown with amber hues and an off white head.

The nose is subtle but nice with toasted caramel malts along with a low floral hop presence.

This is a nice light bodied dark lager with toasted malt flavors. It is surprisingly refreshing for a dark lager.

The taste starts sweet caramel malts up front followed by a more robust malt flavor but with a very refreshing carbonation during the middle of the sip. The back-end is very easy drinking and remains quite refreshing. The finish has just a hint of hops but mostly that nice toasted malt flavor. There is little to no lingering aftertaste.

I really like the simple dark lagers. It’s impressive to have a darker beer also have a light and refreshing body. The extra dark malt also makes this smoother than your typical lager.

All and all I really like this beer. As it warms however there is a slight harshness that comes out. This is not unexpected for a lager so I’m not really worried about it.

I’m going for a C+ maybe a B- on this one. It’s a nice dark lager, very refreshing and light bodied with a nice clean hop finish. This is a great beer when you looking for something a little extra but also want to keep it refreshing.

Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier (Hefeweizen)

Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier

Brewed by:
Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan



5.40% ABV

Commercial Description:
Nothing refreshes you more than this naturally cloudy wheat beer with its wonderful yeasty fragrance and taste. Goes well with dishes that do not have too intensive a flavour, especially that Bavarian speciality 'Weisswurst' or white sausage. (

General Pricing:
12oz bottles: ~$10.00 6 pack, ~$38.00 case
500ml bottle ~$3.50 each, ~$59.00 case

It’s only early February and I’m getting tiered of winter. No, not  necessarily the beer but winter in general. So what better beer to review than a Hefeweizen to break those winter blues.
This particular beer happens to be another gift from my friend Gene.

The beer pours a cloudy deep golden color with rich orange hues and a fairly rich bright white head. Part of this cloudiness comes from swirling the last few ounces in the bottom on the bottle and pouring that into the beer.
Side Note on lees and wheat sediment:
This is the only exception on not pouring the sediment or lees into the beer. With wheat beers this practice is not only acceptable it is a must. There are a lot of nice flavors in the unfiltered wheat sediment that should be poured back into the glass and re-suspended in the beer. This sediment is mostly unfiltered wheat that should be re-suspended back into the beer. The sediment in a Belgian bier and other bottle conditioned beers is funky yeast sediment due to the bottle conditioning. These bottle conditioned lees will alter the taste of the beer and should be consumed separately. OK that’s my PSA, now back to the review.

The nose is classic with citrus, banana and clove notes on top of a sweet wheat malt aroma. Wow this is really inviting I cant’s wait to dive into this one.

I can feel summer coming now and that’s only after my first sip. It’s so nice to have a lighter refreshing beer for a change.

The experience starts out with sweet light wheat malt up front on the tip of the tongue followed by a very refreshing effervescence over the tongue in the middle of the sip. The back end is extremely easy drinking with an effortless swallow. Just toward the end of the swallow into the finish is where all the flavors start to make there presence known. The finish is great; sweet but also refreshing with just a hint of some spice. All the flavors anticipated on the nose are present in the finish. There are nice sweet finishing notes of banana and citrus riding on a nice bead of sweet wheat malt. The final aftertaste is of lingering wheat malt and banana notes.

I really enjoy a good Hefeweizen and this may be one of the best. My only hesitation is that I have not had a Hefeweizen since last summer so they are not fresh on my mind or palate.

We are now at 60 degrees.

Man, I am always impressed when a beer warms well and this one is still excellent. The carbonation has diminished and you don’t have that effervescence over the tongue but all the flavor is still there and it still maintains a very refreshing character.

The flavors have not enhanced any but it also has not picked up an off flavors. This beer tastes as good now as it did when we started around 45 degrees.

I’m going for an A on this one. This is an excellent Hefeweizen, clean and refreshing with nice wheat malt flavors and notes of banana and citrus and clove. The only reason this is not an A+ is because I enjoyed the Schneider Weisse more than this one and I give that one an A+.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2010 Vs. 2009

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
2009 Vs. 2010
Brewed by:
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Chico, California, USA

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.

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

This is a favorite of mine over the Holidays. This particular tasting will be an aging/cellaring comparison between a 2009 vintage that I have cellared for a year and a current 2010 vintage. I have individually reviewed both years. Last year I thought the 2009 vintage was much hoppier than the previous 2008 year and I wanted to see what the effects of cellaring a bottle for a year would be. Well lest see what effect a year in the beer cabinet make on this 2009 bottle.  

The 2009 pours with a slightly darker head; still off white but a darker shade than the 2010. The colors of these beers are pretty much identical but the 2009 has a haziness to it that the 2010 does not.

It is also worth noting that there is a good amount of sediment in the bottom of the 2009 bottle. That is somewhat surprising since this is not bottled conditioned.

There is a noticeable difference in the nose of the two vintages. The 2010 has the fresh complex hop aroma but this is subdued in the 2009. The 2009 has much more of a malt background to it. There is still a strong hop presence but that does not dominate the nose as it does on the 2010.

For comparison I’m going to taste the 2010 first and then the 2009.

Clean crisp and refreshing, what a great fresh hop ale.

Wow this is much smoother. It is not as malty as the nose would lead you to believe. This is still an IPA but it is smoother and more balanced than the fresh hop 2010 version is.

I’m really not interested in giving each of these a full review again. I’m going to continue tasting from each glass and appreciate the differences. My initial intent was to see if I would like the 2009 beer better after it aged for a year.

Well I have gone back and forth several times and I have to say that I’m enjoying the aged 2009 bottle more than I am the 2010.

I think I’m going to finish the 2010 bottle first and than savor the 2009. I am really enjoying the balance of the 2009 over the fresh hop bitterness of the 2010. Now you have to keep in mind that I just reviewed the 2010 and really liked it.

Also I must comment that the 2010 seems to be more carbonated. It pours with a much more vigorous head then the 2009 does.

So I’m just drinking the 2010 for now. Man, this is a great little beer. I really do enjoy this fresh hop ale. And I still maintain that I am not a “Hop Head”. But I really do enjoy fresh hop ales and ESB’s. This really is a good fresh hop ale.

Two 24 oz bottles may be a bit much to review by myself. Typically I would have some help with this type of review but my son John is not over tonight. I have to admit that I am only about three glasses into this and I am starting to feel the effects of the alcohol.

I may have noted this before but it is worth mentioning again that this “Celebration Ale” has always been a Fresh Hop Ale but it wasn’t until the 2010 labeling that it was noted as such. I think that is way I find such a difference from one year to another. I really think that is the difference in that years hop harvest. Or I could be imagining the whole thing.

Sorry for the babble. I’m just about finished the 2010 bottle.

Well, this is interesting I just poured the last few ounce out of the 2010 bottle and it is much cloudier, well, more hazy than cloudy but none the less I am surprised that there was any sediment in the 2010 bottle. I would not call it lees but there is sediment in the bottom of the 2010 bottle.

The end of this hazy glass with some sediment does have a more chalky taste to it. It does not have that fresh hop crispness to it.

I really must also comment that the lacing on both of these vintages has been quite impressive.

After sipping the 2010 excessively I can really tell how much maltier the 2009 is. Also the 2009 has really opened now that it has warmed up a bit.

This is much more soothing, dare I say, comforting, than the 2010.  

Well, I may have to take back the idea that the 2010 was more carbonated. The 2009 is also pouring with a nice head.

I must say that the increased malt presence and the downgrading of the hops in the one year of cellaring has really been note worthy.

I’m not going to give this a letter grade but I must admit that I liked the 2009 vintage better after cellaring it for a year. Now a real Hop Head would have the opposite findings in this experiment because of the lowing of the hop presence.

The overall style did not really change but the subset of the style definitely did. I would still call this aged brew an American IPA but I would not call it a Fresh Hop IPA. At any rate I’m glad I did this. I’m going to look for more cellaring opportunities.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ridgeway Lump of Coal

Lump Of Coal

Brewed by:
Ridgeway Brewing
United Kingdom (England)

Foreign / Export Stout

8.00% ABV

Commercial Description:
Looking forward to a depressing holiday? Here is liquid consolation. This 8% bittersweet chocolate stout is the best you could hope for in these dark times. Come to think of it, considering how bad you’ve been this year, this little coal-black gem is more than you deserve for Christmas. Concocted by the vastly talented -- though, frankly, a little too cheery -- Peter Scholey, Lump of Coal will be hitting shelves and better pubs in November 2004.

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

I thought I had this last year but I do not have any notes about it. This year I bought a few bottles to have as tasting beers for parties over the holidays. I ended up with one left over so I figured I would give it a full review.

The beer pours a clear dark brown almost completely opaque with just a hint of dark ruby hues showing through the narrowest parts of this glass and a fairly rich but modest tan head.

The nose is nice with rich dark roasted malt aromas with notes of chocolate and sweet dark fruit.

Not bad, this is a fairly light stout but it still has rich flavor.
The tasting experience starts out with sweet dark roasted malts up front then a fairly smooth middle of the sip. The back end is surprisingly easy drinking for a stout. It is very smooth and easy going down. The finish is okay but pretty uneventful. There are some nice dark malt flavors along with an alcohol sweetness and an interesting underlining hop bitterness. This does not have the bitterness of a dry stout but there is a definite hop presence on the finish of this beer. There is a lingering dark roasted malt aftertaste but it is light and lacking that creamy mouthfeel and stout coating that is typical of most stouts.

This beer has a very light mouthfeel and body for a stout. It is an English Foreign Export or Extra Stout and at 8 percent it may be considered an imperial by some. I’m just not sure if this style usually has a lighter body like this one does. I don’t know, I’m expecting a heavier body for a stout and this is leaving me short or light as it were.

OK, back to the review.
This beer really does have some nice dark roasted malt flavor and there is a unique bitterness to it. I’m still not sure if its hops or malts but there is a nice bitter sweetness to the finish that I really like.

The beer has warmed a little; we are now at 57 degrees. It’s not getting smoother as it warms. It’s still not bad but there is a slight harshness on the end of the swallow into the finish now that was not there earlier.

We are now at 67 degrees and the off taste is really unpleasant. It’s a good thing that I’ve finished this beer, it may be hard to take if it got any warmer. 

I really started out liking this beer but it develops some very harsh flavors after it warms a little.

I’m going for a C on this one. It started out as a nice dark roasted malt stout that was a little light in the body. It however develops some really off flavors as it warmed. It’s a nice drinkable stout cold but don’t let it warm up on you.