Friday, December 16, 2011

Dogfish Head's World Wide Stout: a Kick in the Teeth

I figured I was in for a mouthful when cracking this one open and boy was I ever right. I'm not sure I've ever had a 12oz bottle that took me longer to drink than this one.

Even after taking it out of the fridge a half hour or so before opening it, the beer was still way too cold to be enjoyable. When over-chilled, you get a touch of roast and a touch of dark fruit, but what you primarily get is the 18% ABV of this beast. Based on my impressions of World Wide Stout cold, I really thought I was going to hate this.

Only when it begins to warm and the surprisingly high carbonation begins to fade does WWS come into its own. That is not to say that the 18% goes away; it's 18% for Pete's sake. When it warms to a proper drinking temperature, it really opens up and becomes much more complex in terms of flavor. The booziness of it is always there with you in the passenger seat, but it's no longer what drives the beer. The dark fruits (raisins, plums) really come out as the temperature rises, along with a hint of smoke, coffee, and caramel. It is a pretty sweet beer, yet is never cloying.

The carbonation at first really detracts from the thickness and weight of the beer, but once it calms down a bit, you get a sense of how thick and mouth-coating this beer really is. It's not milkshake thick (ala: Dark Lord), but it is heavy and filling.

All in all, by the time I was finished with this, I was sad my glass was empty. It took me almost two hours to drink it, but the hours were well worth it. This is the perfect beer to exemplify what serving temperature does to a beer's taste and smell. I'll probably have a hard time justifying the upwards of $10 a 12oz WWS commands, but I would love to try to get my hands on an aged bottle or two to see how it has mellowed with time. Overall, a great effort from DFH which is far, far better than their other big beer I've tried (120 minute). I'd recommend it if you haven't tried it before and also recommend perhaps splitting it with a friend. This was definitely the only thing I drank that night.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Cherry Porters

Today's craft beer scene has an amazing variety of selections available to the average consumer. Today, more than at any time in the history of beer, you can find pretty much anything you could ever want and a lot of things you didn't think you would ever want or even knew existed. The variation not only between various styles of lagers and ales, but between the sub-styles of beers is absolutely amazing. Case in point: cherry porters.

No, cherry porters are not a "style" of beer I drink often. Frankly, I don't see them too often and fruit-influenced beers don't really get me riled up, so it's nothing I've much considered in the past. I just happened to be at the store, though, and saw singles of both North Peak Darkangel and Short's Black Cherry Porter (both Michigan breweries). I decided that it would be a nifty comparison experiment and picked up a single of both to contrast.

The differences couldn't have been more stark, which I suppose is somewhat expected considering the method of imparting the cherry flavor and considering the breweries involved. Darkangel is made with cherry juice added, which contributes a clean, somewhat tart edge cherry quality to the roast and chocolate of the porter. It's more evident in the smell than the taste, which is somewhat disappointing. It seems to fit with the impression I get from other North Peak beers: solid, yet somewhat uninspired. I wouldn't turn down it someone offered me one and I might even buy one at the bar if there wasn't much of a selection, but it just doesn't have anything 'WOW' about it.

The Short's offering is a completely different animal. Rather than adding juice, Short's Black Cherry Porter employs a cherry puree. The differences between the effects of the different approach is striking. Where Darkangel is subtle, the Black Cherry Porter is in your face. Both the smell and taste is dominated by the earthy, deep black cherry flavor. I suppose this would be a drawback if you wanted a straight-to-the-style porter, but if you wanted that, why in the heck are you drinking a cherry porter? No, this Short's offering falls in line with the rest of their experimental, food-tasting beers (Key Lime Pie, PB&J, etc.) as a bold departure from the base beer that is knocked about my the later additions. If you want a cherry porter that tastes like cherries, this is your beer. If you want a traditional porter with a slight wisp of cherry, check out the Darkangel.

With all of that in mind, what is your favorite cherry (or other fruit-based) beer?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Huma-lupa-licious by Short's Brewing

A great floral, hoppy beer I picked up while in Frankenmuth, MI. A knotch below Two Hearted and IPAs of that caliber, but I'd love to be able to get this off the shelf. Solid as all get-out It tasted even better in my Michigan glass.

P.S. If you're ever in Frankenmuth, stop by the Lager Mill. It's the best craft beer store in the city and they have an amazing selection of Michigan-brewed beers that aren't available here in Cincinnati

...and winding it back up.

Okey dokey, folks. I've had a nice breather since my last post, and I think I'm ready to re-rock and roll. During this breather, I broke my 100+ day streak of a new beer every day (gasp!), but have also drank a ton of good beer and met some great folks doing so. The break allowed me to re-discover that drinking beer doesn't have to be a chore of drinking, reviewing, and posting to a blog.

So from now on, things are going to be a bit more casual. I won't be trying a new beer every day, but when I do find something I like and I think others will like, I'll make sure you're all aware of it. Also, to make these posts a little more timely, I'll be posting the pictures and brief (emphasis on brief) review from my phone. This will allow me to share on the fly and make content a little more time-relevant. I hope to share more than just what I'm drinking, though, and will try to focus on events, great finds on beer runs, and various other minutia. I'll also be hosting my debut beer dinner this Saturday, which I hope to make a recurring thing for Cincinnati-area folks who are interested in good beer and good food, so keep an eye out for the sign-up for the next one.

I'm back and hopefully ready to keep you all entertained. Drink and be merry!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Winding this baby down...

So, I think this little experiment is going to come to an end. Not necessarily the drinking a new beer everyday, which I am thoroughly enjoying, but the annoying process of review each and every one of these beers. It has just come to the point where I can't dedicate time to sitting down in front of my computer, going over my notes for a given beer, and then typing out something that someone wants to read. It's more time-intensive than it seems, and since I'm contributing to two other blogs already, it's just gotten to be too much.

To those of you who've read over the past 80 or so days, I really appreciate it and I hope you've liked what you saw. I'll probably still pop in every so often and review something I found outstanding or a summary of a cool event I attended, but the everyday reviewing is done. If you still are interested in following the quest and what I'm drinking everyday, you can see it in real time at Untappd or by following my personal Twitter account.

Also, I'll still be contributing periodical beer and otherwise related posts at CincyVoices and, if you're an avid reader, I'll still be reviewing books at A Boy and His Books. Thanks again for following! Hopefully I'll still make it a year!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Day 82 (10/14/2011): Petrus Aged Pale by Brouwerij Bavik

I've seen this all over the place, but until recently I had no interest in sours, so it was completely lost on me. Now that I have caught the bug for them, I've been looking for affordable alternatives to Cantillon/Drie Fonteinen. How does this stack up?

You can smell this one right when it's poured. The dominant smells are vinegar and white wine, with some wood from the aging process and some light fruit. It's a little too much vinegar for my likings, but I have to remember that this is an our bruin and not a lambic. The taste introduces more balance than the smell, with a clean malt sweetness countering some of the mouth-puckering sourness. Again, the white grape taste is here, almost lending a champagne-like touch (if the champage was aged in wooden barrels). The taste is much nicer and more complex than I expected.

The tartness is delivered on a prickly, clean carbonated body that is really light and refreshing. You could drink this pretty quickly, but you would really lose out on the nuances of the flavor if  you did. This one really changes as it warms up, too. The sweetness emerges, calming a lot of the sour down.

Overall, not a bad buy at $3-4 a bottle. If you're new to the style or just don't want to shell out the money for something sour when you need a fix, you could do far worse. I will definitely be keeping this one in mind for the next time I'm in the mood. The vinegar might be a little bit too pronounced, but I can deal with it. I give Petrus Aged Pale by Brouwerij Bavik a B+.

Style: Flanders oud bruin
Beer Advocate: B+/A
Ratebeer: 96/68

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Day 81 (10/13/2011): Old Guardian Belgo Barleywine by Stone Brewing Co.

I figured this one wasn't going to be very good judging by the reviews, but I always like to give Stone beers a chance. Unfortunately the reviews were spot on.

The nose on this isn't terrible. You get a slight whiff of the Belgian yeast employed, with dark fruit, some caramel, a good amount of hops, and (unfortunately) some hot-smelling booze. The taste is just not very good. Like the smell, you get some good flavors like the esters from the Belgian yeast, dark fruit, and caramel/toffee, but they are all overwhelmed by the combination of a very strong alcohol and hop flavor. This beer was just way out of control: way too much alcohol and way too much hop flavor. It's been a long, long time since I tasted a beer this hot. The body is maybe a tad light and the carbonation a tad high, but these flaws pale in comparison the the booziness.

This year's version of Belgo Old Guardian could stand to sit for a few years to let the hops and booze calm down a bit. It was not easy to finish this whole bottle, but it wasn't so bad that I drainpoured it. It could be good one day; just not today. I give Old Guardian Belgo Barleywine by Stone Brewing Co. a C+.

Style: American barley wine
Beer Advocate: B/C+
Ratebeer: 96/77

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day 80 (10/12/2011): Either by Cigar City Brewing Company

I was sure what to think of this one before drinking it or after. I wasn't familiar with the "black ale" style and I'm still not sure what qualifies something as one. It seems almost a catch-all style like "strong ale". I suppose you should expect these sorts of wacky things from collaborations; this one between Cigar City and Hill Farmstead.

It smells like a slightly hopped mix of a Belgian quad and an imperial stout. It had the dark fruit of the quad and the malty sweetness and roast of the stout, both on top of a layer of wood. It was bizarre, but not terrible. The taste was the same: dark fruits, sweet milk chocolate, coffee, and caramel with a small bit of hop notes. The alcohol is moderately present, but not overwhelming. The body isn't as big as you would expect or hope for from a 10+% beer, but it is medium, at least. The carbonation is just a tad under medium, though the creaminess of it makes it seems lower.

I actually quite enjoyed this beer, despite how I make it sound in the review. The flavors actually work together quite well. I could have used a little more body on it, but that's not a huge deal. The problem is: I like imperial stouts and I like quads for what they are. Both have remarkable qualities that, when added together, seem to lose the best of each. This one is worth a try, though, and I would love to get ahold of the rest of the bottles from this series. I give Either by Cigar City Brewing Company a B+.

Style: American black ale
Beer Advocate: B+
Ratebeer: 99/100

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Day 79 (10/11/2011): Wynona's Big Brown Ale by Voodoo Brewing Company

I'm not a fan of brown ales. I just can't get into them. My favorite is probably Sierra Nevada's Tumbler, mostly because the roastiness of it is more subdued than most.

Wynona's Brown Ale is not subdued in any manner. It is roasty, boozy, and well-hopped. It is certainly not your English grandfather's brown ale. That is for sure. The smell is roasted malts, a nuttiness, and caramel, with a slight whiff of hops. The hops hit your palette first, bittering things out before is fades into a sweet, nutty malt finish. There isn't a ton of complexity in the flavor. I was hoping for a little coffee or chocolate, but if it's there, it's subtle. The carbonation is about right: just under medium, with a tad bit too thin of a body. The alcohol is somewhat present with a little burn, but it's not bad.

For a brown ale, this isn't bad. There's still a ton of beers I would drink first (including Tumbler), but I was able to finish the whole bomber, so it can't be that bad, right? I give Wynona's Big Brown Ale by Voodoo Brewing Company a B.

Style:: American brown ale
Beer Advocate: B+
Ratebeer: 91/96

Day 78 (10/10/2011): Devious Imperial Pumpkin by Fegley's Brew Works

Another pumpkin ale, this one from Fegley's Brew Works, Pennsylvania brewery I had never heard of before. This imperial pumpkin ale has the highest ABV of any I have tried so far, clocking in at 9%.

In both the smell and taste, this is on the higher end of the spice spectrum, with cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg making their presence known right up front. I don't get much else from the taste other than the spices, a good bit of caramel malt sweetness, and a tad of the alcohol. Not much pumpkin flavor here. The alcohol also provides a slight burn in the mouthfeel, which is magnified by higher than expected carbonation and a thinnish body. I sort of expected a bigger-bodied beer than this.

This isn't bad by any means, but I think it's probably at the bottom of the pack in terms of pumpkin ales I've tried so far. I could definitely go for more pumpkin flavor in it, along with a bigger body and less carbonation. Despite these flaws, it's not a bad beer; it's just that there are probably better choices readily available no matter where you live. I give Devious Imperial Pumpkin by Fegley's Brew Works a B-.

Style: Pumpkin ale
Beer Advocate: B
Ratebeer: 64/74

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day 77 (10/9/2011): Super awesome beer tasting!

Thanks to a couple of awesome acquaintances, I got to try some amazing beers while watching the Packers keep their undefeated season going forward on Sunday night. Here's a quick roundup, relatively in chronological order, of what was opened that wonderful night.

Thank God this was opened early, because I did not want to forget a thing about it. Aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels for 24 months, this is an amazing beer. The smell is like you have your face right in some of the best bourbon barrels in the world. The barrel characteristics overwhelm almost everything, wiping out any sort of bitterness while imparting amazing sweet caramel and vanilla notes. Drink this slow, drink it with friends, and enjoy every minute of it. Remember, it's not being bottled again.

The next up was Deliverance, a strong ale from Lost Abbey. This suffered terribly from following Rare, which is amazing considering that Deliverance is a RateBeer Top 100 beer. It is a mix of a stout (Serpent's Stout) and a strong ale (Angel's Share), so it's somewhat all over the place. Not a stout, but with stout characteristics. I'm glad I got to try it, but knowing Lost Abbey's prices, I don't think I would buy a bottle.

Next, we popped a can of Heady Topper by the Alchemist Pub & Brewery. For as much hype as this has got recently, it is worth every little bit of it. Super hoppy, but perfectly balanced. I will be pursuing more of this for sure.

Cantillon! It's not often that I get to drink these, so this was a special treat. It is probably one of the top five best sours I've ever had. The cherries are there in abundance along with a good amount of oak and, of course, a great deal of funky sourness. Very, very delicious.

Rounding things up was the bottle I brought, Cigar City Marshal Zhukov's, a big imperial stout. This was like a chocolate milkshake: sweet, thick, and (of course) chocolate-y. I really, really enjoyed this one even though it was the nightcap. I'll be grabbing another bottle of this so I can taste it as the front of the lineup and not the end.

What a night! Luckily I had Columbus Day off of work, so everything worked out just fine. That would have been a rough day at work. I want to thank the friends who allowed me to tag along and open all of these bottles with my poor soul. I really appreciate them and all of their awesome beers. Great friends with great taste, for sure.

Day 76 (10/8/2011) Baltic Porter by Uncommon Brewers

I've never heard of this brewery before, but I'm enough of a fan of Baltic porters, plus it's brewed with anise. Somewhat interesting.

The smell is somewhat straight forward: roast, coffee, bitter chocolate and, as advertised, some licorice. The taste follows the same lines with a strong roast countered only slightly my malt sweetness. The addition of anise is there, but only just slightly. The roast lends a charred and bitter flavor that I don't much care for and dries it out a bit. The body is thinner than I expected at medium, with a tad higher than medium carbonation.

Overall, nothing too exciting, but not bad by any means. I'd drink it again, but I'm not sure I would seek it out. I give Baltic Porter by Uncommon Brewers a B.

Style: Baltic porter
Beer Advocate: B+/B+
Ratebeer: 94/80

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 75 (10/7/2011): Grapefruit Jungle by Sun King Brewing Company

The hops continue!After Zombie Dust and White Rajah, I'm onto Grapefruit Jungle. A buddy picked some of this up at the brewery a week or so ago and graciously offered me a can. Very nice of him, considering it was more than $4.00 a can.

There is most certainly grapefruit on the nose, along with a slight sweetness. It's not super hoppy, but it's fragrant enough to warrant the name of the beer. The taste is grapefruit hops and s pale malt sweetness, but not much else. The malt backbone is definitely solid, there is no doubt about that. Both carbonation and body is medium; just about right for what it is.

I think this really suffers from following those two world class hoppy beers. While Grapefruit Jungle is a good beer, it doesn't have the complexity or balance of the other two. At a more reasonable price, I would happily drink this if it was available to me in Cincinnati (it's not, of course), but at more than $15.00 for a four-pack, it's just not doable. There are just too many good IPAs out there to pay that much. Despite that, I give Grapefruit Jungle by Sun King Brewing Company a B+.

Style: American IPA
Beer Advocate: A
Ratebeer: No Score (requires more ratings)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Day 74 ( 10/6/2011): White Rajah by The Brew Kettle

I'm going to preface this review by going big: in my opinion, this is possibly the best Ohio-brewed beer that is widely distributed. If not the best beer in general, it is certainly the best Ohio-brewed IPA and it's not even a close competition.

On the back of the bottle it states that malts will take a back seat. They are not kidding. This is your prototypical West Coast IPA, except that it's better than most West Coast IPAs that are actually brewed on the West Coast instead of Strongsville, Ohio. Its smell and taste both err on the side of citrus fruits rather than the floral hops found in Midwest/East Coast IPAs. In addition to the grapefruit and other citrus fruits, there is a slight caramel sweetness there, but it does indeed take a back seat to the fresh,earthy, spicy hops. The taste is fruitiness up from with a slight sweetness that fades into a bitter finish. It's almost like chewing on a grapefruit wedge with a bit of sugar on it. Both the body and carbonation are appropriate from the style and contribute to a very refreshing experience.

I could not be happier that I am going to be able to buy six packs of this going forward. The Brew Kettle really surprised me with this offering. I haven't really enjoyed anything else from them in the past, but this is just phenomenal. It's one of the best West Coast IPAs I've had the pleasure of drinking, locally distributed, and is pretty affordable (just over $10 for a six-pack). If production keeps up with demand, TBK is going to have a very good thing going for it for a very long time. Kudos to them for putting out such an awesome product. Other area breweries should  take notice. I give White Rajah by The Brew Kettle an A.

Style: American IPA
Beer Advocate: A
Ratebeer: 97/96

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 73 (10/5/2011): Zombie Dust by Three Floyds Brewing Company

Ever since Three Floyds decided to bottle its super-popular citra hops-based pale ale, the crowd has been going wild. As you can see from the ratings on the two sites (an A on BA and it being in the 99.947th percentile of all pale ales on RB), people seem to think its a great beer. Since it's not widely distributed, I didn't think I would be able to get any of its any time soon, but a local Beer Advocate made my dreams come true. He did note that he thought it has fallen off a bit since he had purchased it a month ago, but I didn't think it would be so old that the quality would be significantly decreased.

The smell is great, even after a month of fading. The citra hops are the most distinct feature, bringing (duh) citrus fruits: grapefruit and citrus peel. You can tell it is not a hop bomb, though, as the malts shine through with a slight sweetness and some caramel. The taste is much like the smell, but a tad bit more balanced. The citrus mixes with the malt sweetness to make an almost candy-tasting flavor that fades into a dry-er hop bitterness in the finish. It's a hop forward beer, but not overwhelmingly so. The body and carbonation are both on the dot perfect for the style. Maybe a tad lighter than medium on the body and a tad higher than medium for the carbonation.

I would put this in my top 2 of American pale ales that I've ever drank before, tied with Alpha King (also Three Floyds). These guys definitely know how to make a pale ale. Amazing balance without being boring, the use of citra hops puts this thing over the top. Here's to hoping that, with Three Floyds now in Ohio, I can get my hands on a fresher six pack of it. I don't think it's being distributed out of the brewery currently, but here's to hoping, right? Even with it being a month old, I give Zombie Dust by Three Floyds Brewing Company an A.

Style: American pale ale
Beer Advocate: A
Ratebeer: 99/100

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 72 (10/4/2011): (512) Whiskey Barrel Aged Double Pecan Porter by (512) Brewing Company

(Sorry, no bottle photo this time. Too crappy of lighting!)

I never thought I'd get to try this one, but thanks to a new acquaintance who was kind enough to split a bottle with me, here I am!

It pours a brown as close to black as possible, with a large mocha-colored head. The smell is dominated by the barrel, with vanilla and oak making up the most it. There is some roast, dark fruit and sweetness in the background, but it's very slight. The taste is, again, the barrel up front with whiskey, vanilla and oak. Frankly, I don't remember as much of the taste as I normally would because I was having a conversation during it, but I remember that it did taste good. Everything was going well until the mouthfeel. This beer is waaaaaaay overcarbonated. It takes away from everything else that was good before it. It distracts from the flavor immensely. I'd say it's probably one of the most carbonated stouts I've ever tasted.

If it wasn't for the carbonation, this would be a great beer. It's still good, but it doesn't come near some of the better barrel aged stouts and porters out there. I'll try next year's release and see if they get it under control. I sure hope so. I give Whiskey Barrel Aged Double Pecan Porter by (512) Brewing Company a B.

Style: Imperial/strong porter
Beer Advocate: A-
Ratebeer: 98/81

Day 71 (10/3/2011): Black Albert by De Struise Brouwers

I'm still not sure what to think about this one. It's a huge beer in a little bottle that happens to be on the RateBeer Top 100 and cost me $10 for an itty-bitty 11.2oz bottle. Between the last two characteristics, this beer had a lot to live up to from the word 'go'.

The smell is largely dark fruit (mostly raisins, figs, and black cherries), almost Quad-like, some chocolate, roasted malts, and brown sugar/molasses. It smells a lot like a big stout mixed with a big quadrupel, which makes sense considering it's brewed by a Belgian brewery. The taste is kind of the the smell flipped on its head. The roast and chocolate are out in front here, with the fruit bringing up the rear. It's still there, of course, but just not as dominating as in the smell. The roast imparts an almost smoky essence to the beer, which is odd, but actually not a negative here. At 13%, there is pretty much no hiding the booze, but it isn't too overwhelming, just a tad hot. The body is medium, which is a little lighter than I would like in a big stout like this, but the carbonation is just about right.

Verdict? Good, but not $10 a bottle good or Top 100 good. The two Belgian-style stouts I've tried  (this and Allagash Black), I haven't been super impressed with. It seems like the dark fruit and yeast flavors, in my opinion, overwhelm most of the rest of the taste. If I wanted a beer that tasted like this, I'd buy a lot cheaper quad. Despite, this, it is a unique beer and one you should at least try once if you have the chance. You'll just have to decide for yourself if you like it more than I do. I give Black Albert by De Struise Brouwers a B+.

Style: Russian imperial stout
Beer Advocate: A-
Ratebeer: 100/97

Monday, October 3, 2011

Day 70 (10/2/2011): Lips Of Faith Clutch Collabeeration by New Belgium Brewing Company

It's been a while since I was so torn about whether or not I liked a beer. Sour stouts are a weird thing: either they aren't tart enough and they just taste like a weird stout or they are too tart and the flavors don't mesh. I'd say this one was a little more closer towards the former than the latter, but it was just tart enough to keep things interesting.

The smell was largely a straight-up stout, with roasted malts, some coffee, cocoa, and a little tartness in the background more reminiscent of fruit than wild yeast. The taste was tart up front followed by a strong sweetness, cherries and dark fruit, vanilla, and (strangely enough) an oakiness or other wood flavor. The body on this one is more full than I expected and the 9% is pretty much completely hidden.

I don't think I knew where I stood on this until I had pretty much finished the bomber. It is a tremendously unique beer and, frankly, one that I really enjoyed. I would have liked it slightly more sour or more "brett-sour" than fruity tart, but it was still really good tasting. At less than $8.00 a bomber, it's not a bad deal either.

Style: American stout
Beer Advocate: B
Ratebeer: 95/73

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Day 69 (10/1/2011): Allagash Tripel Reserve

This was a beautiful beer. Sadly, since I was drinking it at a hotel out of a plastic cup, I have no pictures. I just couldn't bear degrading it that way. Take my word, though, it was the brightest golden imaginable with a huge billowing white head.

The smell was classic tripel: spices, banana, apple, bread, and biscuity yeast. The taste is a tad sweeter than I expected from the smell and perhaps a tad sweeter than I would have liked, but it still was great. The spiciness is slightly less than in the smell and the fruit (more tropical than the smell) was a bit more dominating. It is also slightly American-ized with a tad bit of hops on the finish that I haven't really noticed in Belgian versions. What is amazing to me is that, at 9%, how little the alcohol comes through. They did a great job of hiding it. Maybe a slight but of warmth, but that's it.

I wouldn't put this quite at the level of my favorite tripel from Westmalle, but it is darn close. A beautiful, fragrant, tasty take on the Belgian classic from an American brewery that surely knows what it's doing. I have a bottle of Curieux, the bourbon barrel aged version of this tripel, that I really, really can't wait to open. I give Allagash Tripel Reserve an A-. 

Style: Tripel
Beer Advocate: A-
Ratebeer: 99/100

Day 68 (9/30/2011): Milk Stout by the Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery

I was actually quite disappointed in this one. I'd heard a good deal about it and read that it represented the style well, but boy was it ever boring. Just nothing jumped out at me to make me pay attention.

The smell is largely coffee, with a good amount of roast and a hint of sweetness yet to come. The taste is pretty much a well-sugared iced coffee: sweetness up front leading to the coffee found in the smell. Strangely, there is no lingering aftertaste at all. It's been a long, long time since a beer didn't leave a lingering memory on my palette. What really let me down was the feel of it. While the have got the creamy carbonation down, the body of the beer is terribly thin. It's almost like drinking skim milk. Certainly it's not the mouthfeel I typically expect from a milk stout.

Overall, too one-dimensional with the coffee aspect and way too thin. Was more like a watered down coffee stout than anything. I give Milk Stout by the Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery a C+.

Style: Milk/sweet stout
Beer Advocate: B+
Ratebeer: 94/98

Day 67 (9/29/2011): Imperial Pumpkin Ale by Weyerbacher Brewing

When I grabbed a four-pack of DFH Punkin Ale a little while back, I was also in the market for Weyerbacher's version. Unfortunately Marty's Hops and Vines was out of it when I was in to visit, so I figured I was out of luck. Fortunately I came across some in South Carolina and decided to give it a whirl.

The one was a departure from what I had tried to far in the pumpkin ale world. Unlike Dogfish Head and Smuttynose's versions, this was far more spiced and less nuanced. Both the nose and taste are dominated by cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. It wasn't terrible by any means, but it was a bit much for me. While I haven't tried Southern Tier's Pumking yet, I have a feeling it's more in that direction.

At 8% it is a substantial beer, too, which doesn't make it conducive to having more than a couple of them. Despite it's imperial status, though, it's never boozy. Fans of more spice-forward beers will probably love this one, and while I didn't love it, I did definitely like it. In the pumpkin ale market, Punkin it still probably my favorite, but this is a very good choice that just happens to go in a different direction. I give Imperial Pumpkin Ale by Weyerbacher Brewing a B+.

Style: Pumpkin Ale
Beer Advocate: B+/B+
Ratebeer: 96/98

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 66 (9/28/2011): Dirty, nasty, gross draft lines

Yesterday evening, smack dab in the middle of my so-far-wonderful beach vacation, we were invited by some friends in Myrtle Beach to check out a local band playing. It was at one of those faux-Irish pub type places, so I figured the beer selection wouldn't be good, and I was correct. I have no problem with places not having good beer selections. BMC sells and, though I refrain from drinking it, I understand that others do like it and that is their god-given right. At places like that I normally will just get liquor and be merry.

Unfortunately, I hadn't had my beer for the day and was hard pressed to find something new. I had a Fat Tire - which tasted a little off and then followed it up with a Sam Adams Summer (which was my new beer for the day), which tasted just like the Fat Tire. I have a feeling that I could have tried anything running through their taps and they would have tasted roughly the same.

This gets right to the heart of a very large pet peeve of mine. I don't care whether you serve good beer or not -- if you serve any beer at all, you clean your draft lines. I understand that anyone chugging a Bud Lite or a Natty Ice out of a plastic cup isn't going to be able to tell the subtle difference between the two, but for Pete's sake, think of the sanitary issues concerning that. If you're not cleaning the lines and hardware between keg changes in a bar or restaurant, that's just disgusting.

I'm not asking your servers to get Cicerone certification, to serve me my beer in proper glasses, or even serve good beer. Just do the same thing for your taps and lines that you're (hopefully) doing for your glassware: clean them. I want even my crappy beers to taste like they're supposed to and I want them to be served in a sanitary manner. Is that asking too much?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 65 (9/27/2011): Bourbon Barrel Porter by Williamsburg AleWerks

One of my favorite things about vacation is getting to try new things I wouldn't normally have access to at home. This means food, attractions, views, and yes, beer. Beer distribution is so crazy that you never know what you're going to find when you head to a state outside your own. Early on in this vacation in South Carolina, I headed to the store to figure out what local/regional stuff I could get my hands on. One bottle that intrigued me was a bourbon barrel porter from Williamsburg AleWerks. I had never heard of the brewery before, but it had a good score on both sites and I'm a sucker for barrel aged beers, so I picked one up to try.

I am very, very glad I did. This might be one of the best surprises I've had since I got into craft beers. Most stellar beers I get to try I expect to be stellar because of the hype behind them. It's not often that I ahold of an amazing beer that I've never heard of before.

The smell of this beer is tremendous. It's very rich, with a chocolate, almost fudge-like scent mingling with your porter-necessary roast. The barrel treatment is what brings this beer to the next level. It imparts a complex scent of vanilla, oak, coconut, and, of course, bourbon. It fits in with the rest of the scents perfectly, never overwhelming the base beer's characteristics. The taste, though still outstanding, isn't quite as rich as the smell. The low carb'ed, somewhat thick body carries a moderately sweet, bourbony goodness, with a solid roast in the finish. The alcohol is present just enough to add a warming characteristic, but it's not hot or too boozy.

I think the best thing I can say for this beer is that I'm going back to get more bottles to bring home. At $7.99 for a great barrel aged imperial beer, this is a hell of a deal. In my opinion, it's not as good as Parabola, but it's also half the price of it. Overall, outstanding. Kudos to a brewery I've never even heard of before putting out a beer of this caliber. I guess hype isn't everything after all.

Style: Imperial/strong porter
Beer Advocate: A-
Ratebeer: 99/92

Day 64 (9/26/2011): Dale's Pale Ale by Oskar Blues Grill & Brewery

Old beer strikes again! In my haste to grab stuff to sip on during my week on the beach, I missed the date printed on these Dale's Pale Ales and grabbed a three month old six pack. Oh well, chalk it up to inattention and a store not moving product quickly. I'm not going to give it a grade since it's no fault of the brewery that this probably doesn't taste as good aged as fresh. As for the smell and taste, it was a typical American pale ale, but without most of the hops. Not terrible, but certainly not very good. I've heard good things about this beer, though, so I'll have to keep my eyes open for it in the future and try to grab some fresh cans.

P.S. Even old beer serves a purpose, though: it worked just fine in a shrimp boil we made last night!

Style: American pale ale
Beer Advocate: B+/B
Ratebeer: 98/100

Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 63 (9/25/2011): B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher by Hoppin' Frog Brewery

Context: Vacation. That's all that matters. Pretty much any beer tastes passable while I'm staying on the beach.

Beer: As an Ohio beer, I've been meaning to try this one forever. Strangely enough, I found it and found it in South Carolina and found it cheaper than Ohio. Beer distribution and pricing makes no sense. Being on the Ratebeer top 100 list, this one had something to live up to and boy did it ever.

The smell of this is chocolate, coffee, and slight roasted malts. The oats are also there, but it's very slight. The taste is much the same, but it comes in waves. It's sweet and creamy up front, with the chocolate, vanilla, and malt sweetness dominating. A slight bitter roast complemented by the coffee flavor finishes things up, balancing up the front of the flavor. Definitely one of the most balanced imperial stouts I've ever tasted. A little more sweet than roast, but that's the way I like it. The feel of this is amazing. The carbonation is pretty low and, with the oats, it makes for one of the most amazingly creamy beers I've ever drank in my life. Very, very impressive.

Kudos to this beer for hitting it on all fronts.It doesn't have the wow factor of some other really big, barrel aged stouts, but it does everything an oatmeal stout does pretty much perfectly. I can not wait to try the barrel aged version of it. I'm not sure how much it will improve it, but I'm willing to find out. I give B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher by Hoppin' Frog Brewery an A.

Style: Russian imperial stout
Beer Advocate: A/A-
Ratebeer: 100/97

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 62 (9/24/2011): Two Gypsies Our Side by Stillwater/Mikkeller

After a six hour drive, I am firmly on vacation. That means sleep, reading, beer, and more beer. Thank goodness.

I picked this up in D.C. during a recent trip and hauled it along just in case I couldn't find anything good around where I was going to be staying. I don't really drink saisons too often, but I figured I had to try a collaboration which features Mikkeller. They make some really great beers, a lot of them exciting and unconventional.

This isn't your typical saison, but it's a tasty and beautiful looking beer nonetheless. It pours a bright, hazy orange with a monster white head. Once it died down a bit, smells of spices, sweet fruit, and a bit of black pepper are followed by the Mikkeller influence - a fruity hop wallop that finishes things up. The taste is a good bit of tropical fruit hops, a nice pale malt sweetness, ester flavors from the yeast, and a slight bit of cloves and other spices. The carbonation is fizzy and a bit higher than medium with a medium body.

This is a good drinking beer. It's a very nontraditional saison, which I would expect from something Mikkeller is involved in. The hops are a bit heavier handed than is typical, but they aren't overpowering. It almost seems like a mix between a saison and an IPA. Very interesting. This isn't one of the best beers I've had recently, but I'm glad I got to try it. I'll have to try some of Stillwater's other saisons that they've done by themselves. I give Two Gypsies Our Side by Stillwater/Mikkeller a B+.

Style: Saison
Beer Advocate: B+
Ratebeer: 96/91

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 61 (9/23/2011): Bonecrusher Stout by Schmohz Brewing Company

This beer was awful. Just really, really bad. I was hoping that the reviews weren't right, but of course they were. They only thing it had going for it was its appearance. A decent looking, tan head covers a dark body. Everything is down hill from here. The smell isn't much at all: just roast with pretty much nothing else there. The taste is terrible. Strong bitterness from the roast mixed with a weird, gross mustiness. It seemed thin, but I don't know that I drank enough to be sure. This baby went down the drain. I'm done with Schmohz beers. I've tried two and was not impressed with either of them. I'm convinced that a beginner brewer could put out better stuff than this. I hate to trash a brewery, but this is just not good beer at all. At least boring maco brews are drinkable. I give Bonecrusher Stout by Schmohz Brewing Company a D-.

Style: English stout
Beer Advocate: C+
Ratebeer: 61/38

Day 60 (9/22/2011): Cherry Chocolate Stout by Stone Brewing Co.

Not particularly impressed with this one. The cherry flavor was not integrated well at all, in my opinion. It almost tasted artificial, though I'm aware that it is not. There is also a good bit of tartness in the flavor which is a byproduct of the roast and the cherries. I could've done without the tart flavor; it was really odd when mixed with the chocolate/cherry sweetness. The beer definitely gets partially salvaged by the smell, which got better and better as the beer warmed. Think chocolate covered cherries. I was hoping that the taste would improve with it, but no dice. A valiant effort, but not particular good, especially at almost $4.00 a bottle. I won't be revisiting this one. I give Cherry Chocolate Stout by Stone Brewing Co. a B-.

Style: Milk/sweet stout
Beer Advocate: B
Ratebeer: 98/98

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day 59 (9/21/2011): Punkin Ale by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Context: Not a bad day at all. An uneventful day at work, some super big and exciting news, and a trip to Marty's Hops and Vines made for a pretty darn decent day. Not to mention I finally got to use my nifty fall-themed glass I grabbed from Kroger (for a buck! What a deal!)

Beer: Another pumpkin beer. I heard this one had been flying off the shelves, so I scooped up a four-pack when I got the chance. My understanding of Punkin is that is aims for the more balanced side of the pumpkin ale spectrum (much like Smuttynose's version, and unlike Southern Tier's Pumking), with the spices balanced well against the brown ale base.

This ended up being completely true and it translated into a tasty drink that you could drink every day without being overwhelmed by the sweetness or richness of a dessert beer. The smell is pretty much all spices, with cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg being the dominant forces here. There is also a bit of earthiness that I'm guessing it from the pumpkin. As I said in an earlier post, I'm not entirely certain what roasted pumpkin smells/tastes like when it's not in a pie. There is also some yeast breadiness and a slight bit of roast from the brown ale base.

The taste comes at you from a different direction. The spices shine clearly, for sure, but the it is much more balanced than the smell. The earthiness is joined by a slight tartness that must be the pumpkin used. A touch of caramel malt evens things out by adding a touch of sweetness. If hops are there, they aren't noticeable. The spices are still the thing that gets your attention here, but it never seems over the top. Both the body and mouthfeel are roughly medium; nothing out of the ordinary there.

I really liked this beer. It's a little more spice oriented and a little less hoppy than the Smuttynose pumpkin ale, but it never gets out of hand. I would say it pushes right to the threshold of becoming a mess without quite getting there. In fact, you can even sometimes get a good taste of the brown ale underneath all of the other smells and flavors. To many people, this is the epitome of a good pumpkin ale and I don't think they're wrong at all. It's a unique beer without even being too unique or cloying. I'm definitely going to keep trying pumpkin ales, but this one is the measuring stick now. I give Punkin Ale by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery an A-.

Style: Pumpkin Ale 
Beer Advocate: B+/A-
Ratebeer: 90/95

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 58 (9/20/2011): Sierra Nevada Stout

Context: An uneventful day at work, a good run, and I finally got time to rack the American wheat I've had sitting in the primary forever onto some mango. Overall, I can't say there's much to complain about.

Beer: Sierra Nevada continues to impress. This one smells like chocolate and roasted malts. Perhaps a little coffee. The taste of this is wonderful and only improves as the beer warms. Like the nose, you get a good deal of chocolate; to a lesser degree, roast; and to an even lesser degree; coffee. It finishes with a slight earthiness which must be the hops. In a pleasant surprise, this stout is actually much more full-bodied than I expected. It's not syrupy or anything, but the body has a weight to it which more than balances the medium carbonation.

This is another outstanding offering from Sierra Nevada. I would put it in my top five non-imperial stouts that I have tried before. Just like their brown ale, Tumbler, there is nothing which jumps out at you and grabs your attention, but it is still undoubtedly enjoyable. In the world of the tortoise and the hare, where the latter consists of expensive, mega-hyped, barrel aged, >10% imperial stouts, Sierra Nevada keeps chugging along with a steady, workmanship-like approach to brewing and selling high-quality, low-price beers. Frankly, I'm ecstatic that I can run to pretty much any reputable beer store (and most grocery stores) in the country and pick up a six pack of this. I give Sierra Nevada Stout an A.

Style: American Stout
Beer Advocate: A-/A+
Ratebeer: 95/94

Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 57 (9/19/2011): Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Context: Terrible headache at work only made worse by a day in front of the computer that was interrupted once. That interruption happened to be a fire alarm. This would have been nice if it wasn't raining outside. I then capped it off by stopping at Kroger on the way home, which of course was packed with screaming children, all of whom seemed to be pushing their parents grocery carts. Absolute chaos. So yeah, I was ready for a beer.

Beer: I had been meaning to pick up some of the classic Sierra Nevada brews and finally grabbed a single of their brown ale, porter, and stout. Though they seem to be making money hand over fist, Sierra Nevada only gets credit for breaking craft beer drinkers in via their signature pale ale. They don't get a ton of credit for their other beers, all of which that I have tried have been both delicious and absolutely true to the style. With how crappy the weather was today, I felt an Autumn-centric brown ale was appropriate.

Sierra Nevada nailed this one. I don't particularly care for brown ales, but this is probably the best one I've had. You get a slight breadiness, malt sweetness, and just the smallest amount of roast in the nose. The taste has the same bread like malts, some nuttiness, and the sweetness is countered by some roast and just the tiniest bit of hops. The carbonation is medium low and the body is about medium. This is a fall bonfire beer if I've ever drank one. Outstanding. If I liked brown ales more I'd rate it higher, but even now, I'll give Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. an A-.

Here's to a better, less headachy day tomorrow!

Style: American Brown Ale
Beer Advocate: B+/A-
Ratebeer: 92/96

Day 52-56 (9/14 - 9/18/2011): Getting caught up with reviews!

As I said earlier, I really need to get caught up on reviews. I'm going to blow through five days really quick here so I can get back up to date and write some more thorough reviews for you all. Here we go!

A surprisingly tasty milk stout. It's on the sweeter side and is a tad bit thin, but there are a ton of stouts this beats every day of the week. Bonus points for being packaged in a pint can and for being locally available. Not going to blow anyone away, but I wouldn't mind if someone handed me one. B.

They promise hops and that is certainly what you get. I didn't particularly care for this at all, but I think my bottle was old. Bitter and astringent; the hops don't particularly taste good and doesn't transition into the malt finish well. It overall was a trainwreck of flavors in my mouth. I'll try again when I can be assured of a fresh bottle. C-.

Somehow my first ever pumpkin ale and I picked a good one. I even had an appropriate glass for it. Poured the most ridiculous head I've ever seen. It was as close to stiff whipped cream as you could imagine. I actually had to take it off with a spoon so I could drink the beer. The typical pumpkin spice scent and taste is there, but it's not obnoxious and is countered well with a good hop presence. A very good beer and if all pumpkin beers I get to try are this good, I'll be disappointed I took this long to try them. B+.

(Also, I had a Founders Breakfast Stout this night and it is my belief that it is much better from a bottle than draft. Coffee in a beer!)

A solid barleywine. It nails the style points, but doesn't really do much creative to put it among the upper tier. A good balance of sweet caramel malt and citrus hops work together to make this barley wine American. Some maple syrup and vanilla flavor is also there. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that though Old Horizontal is 11%, the alcohol is hidden masterfully. I'd love to hang onto a few bottles and see how it tastes after the hops fade a bit. B+.

This was a nice, balanced stout. Not too sweet, not too much roast. Gets better and better as it warms up. I enjoyed this much more than Deschute's Black Butte Porter. It's not going to blow your mind, but sometimes beer is just for drinking, not ruminating over for hours. I wish I could get this here. A-.

There we go, folks. All back up to date. Hopefully things will calm down a tad and I can get back to daily updates. Can't promise, but it's worth a shot!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Day 51 (9/13/2011): La Roja by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales

A very tasty, if entirely different sour ale. It pours much darker than I'm used to for a sour, with an off white head. You can see how lively this is from the bubbles streaming from bottom to top like sparkling wine.

It actually smells more funk than sour, with notes of cherry, oak, wild yeast, with the malt present in a bread scent. The taste is pretty darn sour up front, but transitions into a slightly sweeter cherry/malt middle and end. As it warms, the carbonation fades a little bit and fruit and oak emerges. My bottle was very, very highly carbonated. When I opened it I lost a bit to gushing. The body is maybe a tad lighter than medium and you can't taste the booze in this at all.

This is a very, very good beer. It is widely available in Cincinnati and is relatively affordable (at least for a sour ale) at $12-13 a 750ml bottle. I can not wait to try some other Jolly Pumpkin beers. I give La Roja by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales an A-.

Style: Sour/wild ale
Beer Advocate: B+
Ratebeer: 98/87

Day 50 (9/12/2011): Churchkey (Washington, DC)

Last Monday I had a chance to get over to ChurchKey while I was in DC. The restaurant downstairs, Birch and Barley, was closed, but that's not what I was there for anyways. I was there to check out a lambic event at the best beer bar in the city.

Unfortunately I don't have any pictured of the beer or interior since the lighting was low. I was able to try sample of a ton of good beers including Gueuze Tilquin, Oude Gueuze Tilquin L'Ancienne, and Abbaye 
De Saint Bon-Chien.

The first was a clean, crisp blend of new, one year and two year old lambics which are then all fermented and aged in oak barrels. The outcome has a very complex "barnyard" smell, most of which doesn't translate into the taste well. While the puckering lemon and green apple taste is refreshing, not much of the nose factors into it. It is tasting now, but here's to hoping that the flavor will more with age. At 4.8%, you could drink this all day, as long as your palette and stomach can handle the sour.

The Oude Gueuze is essentially the first beer's big brother. At 6%, it has a little more oomph to it, but most of the qualities stay the same. Both have the very funky and complex nose and the simple, straight forward lemony-tart flavors. The Oude Gueuze may be a bit more dry, but that is the big difference.

If the first two were eerily similar, Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien was a huge departure. Where they were straw yellow, Bon-Chien is an almost copper color with no visible carbonation. No head whatsoever. The smell is cherries, vinegar, oak. It almost reminds me of a wine. The taste is tart cherries, oak, and the vinegar up front and fading into a nice malt sweetness. The carbonation is about just as slight as it looked. If you told me there was no carbonation, I would believe you, but I feel like I got just a couple bubbles in there. As still as you can get while still being carbonated. The wine comparison definitely was there. It actually didn't remind me much of beer between the stillness and hugely complex flavor. Interesting, but I don't think I would pay for it again.

I also got to try some of their food while I was there. I got a tasty muffuletta panini and an order of crispy, hot tater tots. They obviously weren't the highlight while I was there, but they were more than just sustenance. While I came here to have a meal with my beer, you wouldn't be in the wrong to flip that on its head and have a beer with your meal either.

I haven't been to a ton of bars in DC while traveling, but out of the ones I have visited, ChurchKey tops the bill. The number of taps and bottles they have is amazing and the food surpasses mere pub grub. If you like beer, this is your place when visiting the Capitol. They have a ton of great brewery events, so check out their event calendar if you're going to be in the area. I know I'll be back the next time I'm in the city.

(P.S.- I am way behind on reviews because of traveling and house work recently, so the upcoming reviews are going to be very short. I'll try to get back up to date in the next couple of days. Cheers!)

Churchkey on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Day 49 (9/11/2011): Pizzeria Paradiso (Washington, D.C.)

I had been meaning to visit Pizzeria Paradiso since the first time I stayed in Dupont Circle for work last year. Good beer and good pizza? Very little can beat that. They have a great tap and bottle list and have a good happy hour on drafts during the week.

I ordered a 2007 Cantillon Iris, a wonderful unblended lambic that uses only pale malts and utilizes a 50/50 mix of dry and wet hops (More info here). This beer has a bit darker of a body due to the malt bill; almost amber rather than the typical straw color. Iris is definitely sour just like any other unblended lambic, but it has a slight caramel flavor that helps to counter a tiny bit of the tartness. A great beer for sure. Not my favorite sour, but it's definitely up there. I'll give it an A-.

They also had Founders Breakfast Stout on tap, so I got to try my first of these this season. If you like coffee stouts, this is your beer. The coffee flavor was a bit overwhelming for me, but it is what it is. There's definitely a ton of roast in the taste and then the rest is almost like a beer iced coffee. It seemed like the carbonation was high for an imperial stout, as well. I'm going to have to get some bottles of this to re-review, because I remember finding this a lot more outstanding than I did here. B+ for Breakfast Stout.

The meal was absolutely amazing. I started off with a caprese salad, with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, and basil, all covered in good, tasty olive oil. I was starving and scarfed it down before taking a picture.

For my pizza, I got an 8" Atomica, which featured salami, black olives, hot pepper flakes, and mozzarella. And not the crappy, shredded stuff that has become standard fare on pizzas today, but creamy, slightly browned real  mozzarella. I also added sausage to it, which ended up being a great choice. The chunks of flavorful, spiced meat added a lot to the pizza. Overall, a great pizza. Probably one of the better ones I've ever eaten before.

I definitely will be back to Pizzeria Paradiso again (most likely the next time I'm in town). Like I said before good beer and good pizza. Can't beat it with a stick!

Founders Breakfast Stout
Style: American double/imperial stout
ABV: 8.3%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A/A+
Ratebeer: 100/98

Cantillon Iris
Style: Unblended lambic
ABV: 5%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A-
Ratebeer: 99/96

Pizzeria Paradiso (Dupont Circle) on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day 48 (9/10/2011): Black Butte Porter by Deschutes Brewery

I had heard that Black Butte Porter is one of the best American porter out there; on the same level as Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald and Founders Porter. Obviously I'm wanting to get my hands on anything that people claim is the best or darn near it and I was lucky enough to receive a bottle of it recently. Knowing that it was brewed by Deschutes, one of America's best breweries, definitely raised my expectations.

Black Butte pours a dark, dark brown with a couple fingers of very light tan head. The smell is primarily roasty, with dark chocolate, coffee, and a slight hint of hops in the background.

The taste, like the smell, is dominated by the roast. It is almost tart from the roasted malts. There is some sweetness to counter it, but this is definitely roasty. I also get some coffee on the finish, along with some hops, but it all second to the roast. I don't care for this at all. The carbonation is medium and a body that is a tad too thin for a porter.

Overall, I'm not impressed. The taste and smell is one-dimensional with the roastiness overwhelming everything else. I'm not sure if this is an out of the ordinary bottle or what, but I have no idea how people rate this so highly. I just don't get it. I would like to try another bottle of this at some point to see what the deal is. Surely my palette can't be that different from pretty much everyone else's. At this point, however, after trying only one bottle of this, I give Black Butte Porter by Deschutes Brewery a B-.

Style: American Porter
ABV: 5.2%
Beer Advocate: A-/A+
Ratebeer: 97/98

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Day 47 (9/9/2011) Salvation by Russian River Brewing

Salvation pours a dark brown with a tint of ruby red when held up to the light. A billowing off-white head leads behind frothy lacing on the side of the glass. The smell is typical of dark Belgian ales: dark fruits, spiciness from the yeast, and brown sugar.

The taste is a little tart up front with just the slightest but of funk. Other than this, it holds true to the scent. Brown sugar and molasses dominate, but the spiciness and figs/raisins are also there for sure.Both the carbonation and body are medium and the finish is quite dry, which I thought was odd for the style. It doesn't seem like any effort was made to hide the alcohol; this one is boozy for sure.

This isn't a special beer, but it competes well with other Belgian dark ales that can be found on the shelves around here. It's not close to being in the same league as the Rocheforts or Pannepot, but I would put it on the same level as Ommegang and others along those lines. I enjoyed it, but not enough that I would pursue it where it is distributed. There are plenty of Belgians that could easily substitute for it admirably. I give Salvation by Russian River Brewing a B+.

Style: Belgian strong dark ale
ABV: 9%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A-
Ratebeer: 99/98

Friday, September 9, 2011

Day 46 (9/8/2011) Oktoberfest by Sun King Brewing Company

 The Oktoberfest Quest continues! I was given this can a few weeks back and hung onto it so I could try it with others of its same style to compare and contrast. The real can won't look like the one above; this one is just a generic Sun King can.

It pours a far clearer, lighter copper than Moerlein's offering, with a lot larger of the head (though the head was the same off-white. The smell has the same caramel sweetness, though this one might smell a little fruitier.

In addition to the appearance of it, the taste and mouthfeel is a huge departure from the Moerleing Fifth and Vine. This is a great deal more sweeter than it, with an almost bubble gum note added to the malty sweetness. You don't get as much hops on the taste either (though the hops in Fifth  and Vine were not in the spotlight, by any means). You don't get much of the Noble hops used at all, but it's not really missed. The flavor is really solid.

What gets me about this beer is the carbonation. It seems very low. I'm not sure if all cans are like this or just mind, but it somewhat hindered the really good flavor. It's not flat or uncarbonated by any means. I just would have liked a little more.

Overall, this seems like another solid Oktoberfest. I've been a huge Sun King fan since I lived in Indianapolis and it always makes me happy to see them put out another good beer. I'd probably knock this one on the appearance and carbonation, but it surpasses Fifth and Vine on the nose and taste. I'd put these about even, maybe with the Sun King variety a tad ahead. Now I just have to find more Oktoberfests to try!

Style: Marzen/Oktoberfest
ABV: 5.75% (?)
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: B+
Ratebeer: N/A (Not enough ratings)

I was given a can of this at Beer and Sweat by an employee of Sun King, but you should be able to get this where Sunk King is distributed, which is neither NKY or Cincinnati. Indianapolis folks will be able to easily get ahold of it though.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day 45 (9/7/2011) Fifth and Vine by Christian Moerlein Brewing Company

I have two confessions to make. First, I'm not a big Moerlein fan. I know, I know; support your hometown boys and all that other good stuff. Outside of the Northern Liberty IPA, I've found the beers largely to be hit or miss. The other confession is that I can probably count the number of Oktoberfest beers I have tried in my life on one hand. During my progression as a craft beer drinker from hoppy to roasty to sour (and on and on), I never really stopped to enjoy the non-stout/porter malty beers. This is much of the same reason I am largely ignorant of Scottish ales and the like.

With that in mind, I decided I would make a conscious effort to dive into the style and considering the time of year, it seems I will have a number to choose from. I will hopefully be trying a number of good ones and, at some point, I'll rank the ones I've tried in order of a combo of preference and adherence to style. I'm not going to rate any of them until I have a little context, though. Bear with me. I'm flying by the seat of my pants here.

Fifth and Vine pours a dark copper with a few fingers of off-white head. The little lacing that is left slides down the glass slowly. The smell is a sweet caramel with an almost fruity tint to it. There is also some breadiness from the yeast.

The taste has a slight roast to it, but the main flavor is the caramel and sweetness that was dominant on the nose. There seems to be some spiciness comparable to a nice Saison or beer utilizing Belgian yeast, which is completely unexpected. The body is just about medium with a tingly sensation from a just over medium carbonation.

This is easily one of the better Moerlein beers I've drank. I don't mind at all that I have five more of these in the fridge. I'm still on the fence concerning what I think about the style, though, but hopefully a broader exposure to the different offerings will allow me to appreciate its nuances.

Next up will be the Oktoberfest offering from Sun King Brewing (Indianapolis). This was a special gift from an employee there and I've been waiting to crack it open.

Style: Marzen/Oktoberfest
ABV: 5.7% (?)
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: B+
Ratebeer: 63/85