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