Thursday, April 24, 2014

Due South UXO American Strong Ale

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1087) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 24, 2014
I poured a 12oz can into a tulip glass. There was no freshness date. I got this in a trade with a friend from Florida (thanks, Matt!).

Appearance: Gloomy shade of brick red/orange. Pours to a huge, beige, frothy head which laces and retains very well.

Smell: Mostly rich malty sweetness with a slightly buttery note, though significant hop presence as well.

Taste: The “American Strong Ale” style is kind of an umbrella term for beers that aren’t quite imperial IPAs and not quite barleywines. Due South’s “UXO” definitely fits the bill for the style, though. It’s got plenty of malt to its body, but with an equally strong hop presence, though not especially bitter to truly be an IPA. Perhaps “Imperial Amber/Red Ale” would be the more apropos description for those of us hung up on styles.

The palette to this beer is actually quite complex, though difficult to describe. It has the sweet confectionery-like maltiness of an English strong ale, but with piney/resiny hop flavor and bitterness of American hops (I’m guessing Chinook). Hints of cherry can be found throughout, along with some toffee and butterscotch. Despite all that, it’s not what I would describe as delicious, but rather just plain good.

Drinkability: Due South UXO American Strong Ale probably isn’t meant to be something you suck down quickly considering it’s 8.1% ABV. A full-bodied beer in every aspect with a noticeable, but gentle, alcohol presence in terms of taste and warmth. The actual mouthfeel is extremely comfortable with a soft, smooth texture and easy finish. A beer ideal to pair with (or enjoy as) dessert. 
Grade: 7/10

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Williams Brothers Scottish Joker IPA

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1086) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 23, 2014
I poured a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint glass. It had a best before date of 10/14 and cost $4.49 ($0.27 per ounce).

Appearance: Clear bright golden color, not unlike that of a lager. Plenty of carbonation visible. Pours to a small, bright white, foamy head which retains and laces well.

Smell: Initially a skunky smell (though the bottle is brown). Could possibly be due to the hops used. Faint citrus scent as well.

Taste: India Pale Ale, though originally English is origin, is usually considered to be an American style. Therefore, when a brewery from the UK brews an American-style IPA, it’s often a curious drink. Williams Brothers Scottish Joker IPA doesn’t seem to be overly American or English in style, but rather drinks like a pale ale. It’s possible this bottle is old and the hops have faded, or maybe it’s just not meant to be a huge brew (it is only 5% ABV after all).

A bit of a tangy flavor up front (possibly due to lightstrike or some other handling flaw), but quickly subsides and gives way to a lightly sweet lemony candy taste. A minor taste of citrusy hops through the middle, though not an especially bitter beer I’d say. It’s actually reminiscent of Sprite soda with a lemon and lime character. A touch of dry peppery spiciness on the finish, but it fades away cleanly. Overall, a decent palette whose only major crime is being underwhelming.

Drinkability: With a thin mouthfeel and light body, Williams Brothers Scottish Joker IPA is highly drinkable. It’s lightly crisp and refreshing and leaves a fairly clean aftertaste. At only 5% ABV it’s probably too light to truly be an IPA, but as a pale ale it works very well. 
 Grade: 6/10

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Smuttynose Robust Porter

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1085) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 22, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into a nonic pint glass. It had a best by date of 7/9/14 and came as part of a mixpack for $15.99 ($1.33 per bottle or $0.11 per ounce).

Appearance: Opaque black body with a large, fluffy, frothy, dark tan head which retains and laces extremely well.

Smell: Classic dark malty aroma with hints of dairy and milk chocolate and a faint floral scent.

Taste: I drink so many experimental style beers so often that I forget how good a beer brewed in a classic style can be. Smuttynose Robust Porter is a definite to-spec robust porter and would hit every note on a BJCP taste test. It’s tasty and well-balanced, though not quite to the point of a being a mind blower.

The palette begins with a sweet taste of dark malts, and looking at the recipe on the brewery’s website, there’s quite a lot of them here. An interesting combination of milk chocolate, cola, and maybe a hint of cherry. It becomes a little bitter through the middle with a slightly toasty flavor. This grows stronger towards the end as the Cascade hops make their presence known and impart a slight citrusy or flowery taste. Additional notes of dark chocolate complement the bitterness well.

Drinkability: The word “robust” in a beer’s name tends to imply strong flavor and a huge body, but that’s not really the case here. Though the palette is plenty flavorful, Smuttynose Robust Porter is not intense or intimidating. The mouthfeel is calm and soft with a smooth texture and finish. It does leave a slightly dry aftertaste akin to burnt toast, but it’s easily tolerable. For 6% ABV, this beer has the right amount of taste for its weight and is satisfying just one serving at a time. 
Grade: 8/10

Monday, April 21, 2014

Miami Brewing Big Rod Coconut Ale

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1084) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 21, 2014
I poured a 12oz can into a goblet. There was no freshness date. It was sent to me in a trade from a friend in Florida (thanks, Matt!).

Appearance: Pure golden hue, slightly hazy but plenty of massive carbonation visible. Pours to a large, white, frothy head which laces and retains very well.

Smell: Pungent coconut smell, similar to sunblock, though a distinct orange citrus component as well.

Taste: My experience with coconut beer is rather limited, most of them have been stouts or porters. Miami Brewing Big Rod Coconut Ale is much different as it’s a lightweight, blonde ale with a lot of coconut presence. That makes for an interesting brew to say the least.

As I hold the glass to my lips, the coconut is so strong I can actually taste it just by inhaling. What’s ironic is that I’m not usually a fan of coconut, though I’ve found it works pretty well in beers. It’s definitely the strongest flavor in the palette and is equally present from start to finish. Through the middle there’s a touch of dry bitterness and some light malty sweetness, too. Perhaps a touch of orange citrus towards the back, but nothing too strong. These flavors are repetitive, but not cloying or boring. This is such a unique flavor profile it’s appealing on its individuality alone.

Drinkability: Marketed as a golden/blonde ale, Miami Brewing Big Rod Coconut Ale is probably better categorized as a spice/herb/vegetable beer. It has the fuller body and stronger taste of the latter, but the light weight of the former. Not exactly refreshing, and there is a bit of an oily coconut aftertaste, though the raw drinkability is pretty high. For only 5.3% ABV, this beer has a lot of flavor; a lighter body would make it truly sessionable. 
Grade: 7/10

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sierra Nevada Nooner Session IPA

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1083) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 20, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into a mug. It was bottled on 1/22/14 and came as part of a mixpack for $15.99 ($1.33 per bottle or $0.11 per ounce).

Appearance: Slightly hazy, dark gold hue with consistent carbonation visible. Pours a large, bright white, frothy head which laces and retains extremely well.

Smell: Slightly skunky/herbal notes at first, though close inspection reveals some distinct citrus aromatics.

Taste: The so-called “session IPA” sub-style has been rather controversial lately. Some dispute whether it’s a true style and not just a hoppy pale ale. In the case of Sierra Nevada Nooner Session IPA, I can say it definitely is more than just a hoppy pale ale as it has the malty backbone to support the IPA label. Many of this genre are ridiculously light in body with a lot of hops added for flavor, but this one is a truly light IPA.

Naturally, the hops are the star of the show here. But not in bitterness, rather, in flavor. A light zesty herbal character of dry potpourri spice right from the get-go. Some citrus pith (lemon and orange) across the middle with additional spicerack seasonings on the finish. Throughout it all there’s genuine malt flavor at core. Two-row Pale, Wheat, Munich, and Chocolate according to the brewery’s website, though I wouldn’t describe it as a particular complex palette – just a solid one. A tasty beer to be sure, with enough hop character to satisfy hopheads, but not to the extreme of scaring away everyone else.

Drinkability: If there’s one thing a “session IPA” ought to be good for, it’s drinkability and Sierra Nevada Nooner definitely excels in this aspect. Unlike other brews of the style, it’s not thin and watery, but a true medium body and weighty mouthfeel. There’s a crispness throughout and it goes down smoothly, leaving just a slight aftertaste of herbal character. The only thing I would fault this beer for is the fact it’s 4.8% ABV, which is a little too high to be considered an American-style session beer. If they could knock it down to 4.5% it’d be perfect. 
Grade: 7/10

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Abita Purple Haze

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 13/20
Chad9976 (1082) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 19, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into a mason jar. It had a best before date of 6/15/14 and cost $2.50 ($0.21 per ounce).

Appearance: Hazy orange color with a slightly pinkish hue (but not purple). Pours to a small, white/magenta soapy head which does not lace or retain very well.

Smell: Typical raspberry beer aroma – sweet and fruit, but nothing fake. An underlying lager scent as well.

Taste: Most light-bodied fruit beers tend to be of the general American wheat beer style, but Abita’s Purple Haze is actually a lager, and a light lager at that (it may have been a wheat ale at one time). I don’t think this beer is intended to be anything other than what it is: a drinker-friendly fruity beer. While there’s nothing overtly wrong with that approach, it doesn’t make for much than simply a drinkable beer.

Fruit beers of this class tend to be rather simple in their approach, and this is a perfect example. Raspberry is, not surprisingly, the dominate flavor. It’s lightly sweet at first and blends with the general wheat/pale malt base, but finishes with a strong tartness. That’s pretty much all there is here, which makes it rather repetitive since there isn’t much in the way of hops or actual lager to concentrate on. However, I like the taste enough to warrant this a positive review. As far as mainstream fruit beers go, you could do a lot worse.

Drinkability: I was actually surprised to see the 4.2% ABV indication on the label, as you do not tend to find craft beers of such light weight so readily available. I was worried the beer was old and wouldn’t be flavorful, but my bottle of Abita Purple Haze had plenty of taste. The body didn’t feel as light as the numbers indicate, though it definitely does not weigh heavy on my system. It’s crisp and refreshing while in the mouth and would be an ideal session beer for the summer. 
Grade: 6/10

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Southern Tier 2XONE

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1081) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 15, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into an official Southern Tier goblet. It was bottled on 1/17/14 and cost $3.15 ($0.26 per ounce).

Appearance: Beautiful orange hue. Clear with carbonation visible (until the yeast is added and murks it all up). Pours to a small, white, foamy head which retains and laces fairly well.

Smell: Pungent spicy/herbal hops, plus some “cat pee” scent and a touch of citrus.

Taste: Southern Tier 2XONE is a daring beer as it’s only brewed with one malt and one hop, yet the the finished product is a tasty and fairly complex brew. Difficult to categorize as far as style, though it’s probably best described as an imperial pale ale (but not an IPA, per se).

The Mosaic hops are the primary flavor component here. There’s a continuous one-two punch of spice and herbs from beginning to end. Notes of cannabis, garlic, onion, and earthy/rustic notes are all found in the palette here. Bitterness is strong, but not out of control. The malty backbone provides a perfect balance of sweetness with some caramel or honey flavors, though the beer is not particularly sweet. A little cleaner tasting sans yeast.

Drinkability: Weighing in at 8.1% ABV, Southern Tier 2XONE is pretty hefty to be sure. Yet, it is basically a pale ale and does drink like one despite the big body. The palette is strong, but not intense. The actual mouthfeel is medium with a consistent crispness. A hint of alcohol warmth on the finish and some residual starch-like dryness lingers, but otherwise it’s quite refreshing while in the mouth. 
Grade: 8/10

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hudson Valley Hops 2014

The third annual “Hudson Valley Hops” was held at the Albany Institute for History and Art on Saturday. This was the first topic I wrote about here on the Times Union “Beer Nut” blog, so this event has some sentimental value to me. It’s basically a little beer festival held within the AIHA, but also an educational symposium as there are several presentations held throughout the day. It’s a unique format to say the least, I mean, how often do you get to drink beer in a museum?
I’m not going to recap each presentation this year since they were essentially the same as those from 2013 (though Craig Gravina and Alan McLeod’s talk about the Albany Ale Project was the best by far). I thought I’d just do a photo gallery this time around. Enjoy!IMG_2632IMG_2637IMG_2655IMG_2653IMG_2648IMG_2631IMG_2654
IMG_2639IMG_2646 IMG_2661

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1080) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 10, 2014
I poured a 12oz can into a mason jar. I was canned on 1/8/14 and cost $2.65 ($0.22 per ounce).

Appearance: Slightly hazy shade of orange/copper. Pours an average sized, off white, foamy head which laces and retains fairly well.

Smell: Sweet malty scent with orange marmalade notes.

Taste: Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale is not your typical American pale ale, in fact it’s probably better classified as a British pale. The British malt character seems to be the star of the show as it imparts a distinct malt character you don’t find in American offerings. Orange marmalade is the predominate flavor, coupled with light nutty character and perhaps some toasted bread. The hops impart some mild spicy/dry bitterness, though they also accentuate the orange taste. Additional sweetness on the finish, which is nice. While this palette is satisfying, it’s a little average and familiar. Perhaps the age of the can has diminished the beer a little, but it’s still more than decent.

Drinkability: This beer has exactly the mouthfeel and drinkability you expect in the style. Medium body, crisp mouthfeel, refreshing for a moment, but a little residual dryness. At 5.1% ABV it’s not particularly heavy nor robust, though not light enough to session. Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale works fine as a standalone beverage. 
Grade: 7/10

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sierra Nevada Snow Wit White IPA

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1079) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 8, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 1/31/14 and came as part of a mixpack for $15.99 ($1.33 per bottle or $0.11 per ounce).

Appearance: Golden sunshine hue over a slightly hazy body. Suspended yeast creates a lavalamp-like effect. Pours to an average sized, white, foamy which laces and retains fairly well.

Smell: Clean citrusy aroma of lemon along with minor spice or herbal notes.

Taste: The trend of turning every style into an IPA style has kind of annoyed me lately. However, I find there are a few gems to be found in these weird mutant styles and Sierra Nevada Snow Wit White IPA might be one of the best of them. It really does have the best of both worlds: a fruity, spicy character from the witbier base brew, but a pleasant hop flavor and bitterness from the hops.

Belgian Whites tend to be brewed with orange peel and coriander, but this one opts for lemon peel instead. That lemony flavor is immediately recognizable – giving the beer is slight sweet and tart taste. It’s followed by a light herbal character from the “experimental dwarf hops.” These complement the coriander perfectly – creating for a dry peppery spiciness, but still mild enough to not overshadow the fruity taste at the core. The Belgian yeast is noticeable on the finish, leaving a light candy-like flavor, though there is some residual dryness from the hops. This is probably better classified as a very hoppy witbier than a true “White IPA” (if such a style exists), but it’s really delectable and that’s what matters.

Drinkability: There are certain beers that just taste like a season, and Sierra Nevada Snow Wit White IPA is definitely summer in a bottle. The mouthfeel is medium, but consistently crisp – yet never spastic. The beer is refreshing while crossing the tongue, and the spicy/hoppy finish makes it a good palate cleanser. At 5.7% ABV it’s deceptively light as it feels like a true session beer since it doesn’t overwhelm and is amazingly easy to drink. 
Grade: 9/10

Monday, April 7, 2014

Stone Go To IPA

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1078) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 7, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into a nonic pint glass. It had a best before date of 5/28/14 and cost $3.15 ($0.26).

Appearance: Lemon-skin yellow hue over a clear body with visible carbonation. Pours to a small, white, frothy head which laces and retains well.

Smell: Interesting combination of various hops, with notes of lemon, cat pee and cannabis.

Taste: Stone Brewing is known for their huge hoppy beers. Though they do make a light beer called “Levitation Ale,” it never really caught on. With their new “Go To IPA,” Stone seems to have re-invented the so-called “session IPA” style. This beer is exactly what it sets out to be: a light bodied brew with the hop taste and bitterness you want in an IPA.

Obviously, the hops are the stars of the show here. But this beer opts for hop flavor rather than raw bitterness. An interesting combination of hops as well. There’s notes of herbal or skunky/earthy character that gives it a saison-like spiciness. Lemon citrus comes through the middle, which is to be expecting considering which coast this comes from. Dry bitterness on the back end with a slightly starchy/pasty aftertaste, though it fades quickly. Overall, a genuinely flavorful beer that I’ll bet would fool a lot of judges in a blind tasting as it can hold its own with any other standard IPA.

Drinkability: The problem with session IPAs is they can often drink like blondes with lots of hops. Stone Go To IPA, though light in weight at only 4.5% ABV, is not a light-bodied beer. There’s genuine body to the brew. The mouthfeel is crisp, but not thin or watery. It’s refreshing for a moment as it crosses the tongue, though the bitterness does linger but it’s easily tolerable. I could see this being ideal for summer. The only problem: it’s not available in cans! 
Grade: 8/10

What lengths will you go to for beer?

Last week, the world renowned beer Founders KBS was released in a few stores in the Capital District. This is one of the most sought-after beers in the world, and for good reason – it’s absolutely fantastic! It’s nice that we are able to get this beer locally, even if the supply is extremely limited (most stores only got a case and limited sales to one bottle per customer).

Of course, whenever a must-have beer like Founders KBS goes on sale locally there’s always a small contingent who scoff at how crazy folks will go just to get a certain beer. After all, in order to get this beer, chances are pretty good you had to adjust your work schedule just to be able to get to a store on a weekday mid-morning because you know it’s going to sell out quickly. However, I would argue that simply going to a local bottle shop and paying the MSRP isn’t going all that crazy.

So what does constitute going to an extreme length for beer? I can think of some common actions that could be considered going to a lot of trouble for beer: trading for it; going on a road trip or beer vacation; and brewery-only bottle releases.

Beer Trades

Beer trades tend to be a popular method of obtaining rarities from out of town, across country, or around the world. I’ve traded with friends in Michigan, California, Quebec, Atlanta, Florida and even France. But trades can be risky for a few reasons:
  1. If you’re trading with a stranger you’re taking a major gamble that they will send you the beers you want; that they know how to properly pack a box; or that you’ll even get your beer at all.
  2. Mailing beer ain’t exactly legal (there’s supposedly legislation in the works to change that).
  3. Sending beer through a courier service is tricky since different companies have different rules, handling procedures and surcharges.
  4. Because beer is heavy, it’s expensive to ship no matter how you send it. You’re also going to have to invest in proper packing supplies.
  5. Bottles can break and cans could rupture during handling. Additionally, extreme heat in the summer can spoil the beer (winter trades are much less risky in this aspect).

I’ve traded many times over the years and I’d say almost all of them went smoothly. I’ve only had one incoming bottle break and have never had an outgoing bottle break, nor had a package go missing. By trading, I’ve been able to acquire many “white whales” such as Westvleteren 12, Three Floyds Dark Lord, Cigar City Hunahpu, Pliny The Elder (and many other Russian River brews), as well as The Bruery’s Black Tuesday and Chocolate Rain. There aren’t too many beers left on my “bucket list” after all these trades. The only problem is they didn’t come cheaply. Between the price of the beers and shipping I usually spend around $50 per trade (though that’s usually for a box of 4-6 beers). So I’m in essence paying $12-$15 per bottle – would you consider that going to an extreme length for beer?

Road Trips

What’s nice about being a beer geek in Albany is that we’re within driving distance of a lot of great breweries. I know a few people in this area that seem to spend at least one weekend a month exploring the New England states as well as the outer reaches of New York to try beer that’s not available locally. It’s one thing if you’re bringing the family along, visiting friends, and seeing other tourist attractions to make it an efficient road trip. It’s quite another to drive four hours to buy bottles and growlers and turn around and come home. That’s essentially a 400-mile-long beer run. I think that definitely qualifies as going to an extreme length for beer.

To be fair, I have bought bottles off my friends when they go on these expeditions because the beer often tends to be really good. I’ll pay a premium to be able to stay at home while they burn a tank or two of gasoline and spend most of their Saturday driving.

Beer Vacations

I’m sure a lot of us fantasize about spending a week in San Diego or Belgium or the UK because of their beer scenes. Sure, there’s plenty of other sights to see and things to do besides drink beer and tour breweries, but the beer is what makes places like these so appealing. I’d imagine it could be difficult to sell the wife [and/or the family] on the idea of going somewhere far away because you want to drink their beer. However, of all the stories I’ve heard of couples and families who have gone on beer vacations, they’ve always said it was totally worth it and would do it again. Is this going to an extreme length for beer? Possibly, but the expense might be more extreme than the effort.

Brewery-Exclusive Events

Three Floyds’ Dark Lord, Cigar City’s Hunaphu Imperial Stout, Russian River’s Pliny the Younger and Portsmouth Brewing’s Kate The Great have become rather controversial beers in the last few years because of the way they are sold. These beers, among others, are only available one day a year at the brewery or are sold in limited quantities on draught only in the brewery’s locale. I know people who have gone on road trips of hundreds (if not thousands) of miles just to attend these events.
Critics complain that these types of events do more harm than good as they place hype, hipster credibility and the event itself above the actual beer. Personally, I have mixed thoughts on this. On one hand, no one’s forced to go to these events; everyone is there by choice. If the people who are attending these events genuinely enjoy the beer, can afford to travel and have a fun and memorable experience, then it definitely is worth it for them – so who’s harmed? On the other hand, exclusivity does indeed generate hype whether it’s warranted or not. It creates a speculator market which involves hoarding, sniping and price gouging. The beer becomes more of a trophy than a crafted beverage to be enjoyed.
  1. What’s the most extreme length you’ve gone for beer? Was it worth it?
  2. Is the craft beer community helped or harmed by the occasional fanaticism?
  3. Are the beers mentioned in this blog must-haves because of hype, or are they hyped up because they’re genuinely good?
  4. How far are you willing to travel for beer? Would you go (or have you gone) on a beer-centric vacation?
  5. Do you do beer trades?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sierra Nevada Blindfold Black IPA

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1077) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 5, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. It came as part of a mix pack for $15.99 ($1.33 per bottle or $0.11 per ounce).

Appearance: Jet black body with purple/indigo highlights. Pours to a large, tan, frothy head which laces and retains wonderfully.

Smell: Combination of pine and citrusy hops and a touch of roasted malt. Surprisingly light overall, though.

Taste: Sierra Nevada is a legendary West Coast brewery that makes classic West Coast styles. It’s no surprise, then, that their black IPA – “Blindfold” – would have a distinct West Coast feel to it. Going by the description on the brewery’s website, as well as the finished product itself, it seems that this beer is essentially just a standard IPA with some roasted malt thrown in. Cynics might argue that’s what ALL black IPAs are, but I’ve noticed a lot of sub-styles within the genre. This isn’t bad at all, it’s just far from great.

The hops are the first thing I noticed here; a combination of light pine and light citrus flavors. It’s quite bitter right away, though this isn’t surprising considering the beer is 70 IBUs. A distinct dry bitterness is present from beginning to end and it lingers on the tongue as well. The second half of the palette is the best part, when the roasted malt arrives. In the vein of Guinness or a similar mild stout, the roastiness is noticeable, but not intensely robust. Perhaps minor notes of coffee and chocolate, which are a nice complement to the hops, but a little too light and thus unbalanced. Overall, the palette is tasty and appealing, but I bet more could be done here.

Drinkability: Whether or not you enjoy the taste to Sierra Nevada Blindfold Black IPA, one thing’s for sure – you won’t have any trouble drinking it. The mouthfeel is on the thinner/calmer side, giving it a comfortable presence and smooth texture. There is a lingering dry bitterness, but it’s at least tolerable. At 6.8% ABV, the beer is a tad inefficient, but robust enough to pair with a hearty meal. 
Grade: 7/10

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Yuengling Bock Beer

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 13/20
Chad9976 (1076) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 3, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into a lager glass. It was bottled on 1/7/14 and cost $2.20 ($0.18 per ounce).

Appearance: Dark shade of copper/brown over a clear body with carbonation visible. Pours to a small, tan, foamy head which never completely dissipates and leaves trace lacing.

Smell: Surprisingly nutty for a bock. Though there seems to be some vegetal character (DMS?).

Taste: Yuengling is a brewery known for making drinker-friendly beer, not gourmet beer. While I’ve always enjoyed their flagship Traditional Lager (despite the fact it’s made with adjuncts), I’ve never really be impressed with their output otherwise. This bock is a good example of what I mean. Yes it’s a bock, yes it’s slightly flavorful, but no it’s not any better from the rest of the brewery’s portfolio.

Just like the nose, the first thing I notice about the palette is a nutty character. Faint earthy or herbal character with some dry bitterness through the middle. There is some sweetness, but it’s quite faint. I also pick up some green bean or vegetal character. I’m not sure if this is DMS or possibly just an adjunct flavor coming through, but it’s a little off-putting. Not that Yuengling Bock is bad-tasting, no, I’d characterize it as pedestrian (which is probably what it’s intended to be, so mission accomplished).

Drinkability: If there’s one thing you’re going to get out of a Yuengling beer it’s raw drinkability. This is not exception. The mouthfeel is on the thinner side with some crispness, but otherwise comfortable and goes down quite easily. There’s no aftertaste, but I wouldn’t consider it refreshing. The palette doesn’t improve as it warms, though. The ABV appears to be around 5.1%, which seems a tad high considering how mild it is. Something a less experienced drinker could session. 
Grade: 5/10

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Brooklyn Blast

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1075) - Albany, New York, USA - APR 1, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 1/17/14 and cost $4.10 ($0.34 per ounce).

Appearance: Clear dark gold/light orange hue. Some carbonation visible. Pours to a large, off-white, foamy head which mostly dissipates and leaves a little lacing on the glass.

Smell: Citrusy hops, especially orange. Minor malt character. Not very pungent though.

Taste: The idea behind Brooklyn Blast was to combine classic American and British styles of IPA and see what happens. The result is a brew that does seem to be a pleasant hybrid of the two. The Maris Otter malts and German pilsner malt create for a lightly sweet, somewhat bready foundation. A touch of honey and some cracker-like starch character can also be found. The hops are standard West Coast citrus, though not especially high in bitterness. Orange seems to be the dominate flavor with a slightly herbal or spicy component on the back end. Not quite as bitter as a double IPA should be, though the appealing taste more than makes up for it.

Drinkability: I don’t always know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing when an imperial IPA drinks like a standard one. Brooklyn Blast is a perfect example of what I mean. The mouthfeel is comfortable, smooth and there isn’t any cloying hop aftertaste. But at the same time the palette itself is not as robust as you’d expect from an 8.4% ABV brew. This makes it more drinkable, but seems to lack efficiency. 
Grade: 8/10

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Bruery Chocolate Rain (2013 vintage)

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 18/20
Chad9976 (1074) - Albany, New York, USA - MAR 30, 2014
I split a 750ml with five friends. I poured my share into a snifter. It was bottled on 12/5/13 and sent to me in a trade (thanks, Christopher!).

Appearance: Dark brown proper with blood red highlights. Pours to a tiny, tan, soapy head which fizzles away and leaves no lacing.

Smell: Not quite as aromatic as expected. Barrel character, vanilla and strong alcohol presence.

Taste: The Bruery’s “Chocolate Rain” is a variation of their “Black Tuesday” imperial stout. The difference being this brew is aged on cacao nibs and vanilla beans. I was a little apprehensive going into this beer as I found Black Tuesday to be cloyingly sweet – imagine that beer with added chocolate and vanilla notes. I was surprised to find the opposite to be true – Chocolate Rain was actually less sweet and more balanced, though the flavor wasn’t quite as appetizing (but still tasted great).

I guess it goes without saying that the palette here is pretty similar to Black Tuesday. A strong presence of vanilla, wood, grape, plum and cherry are present from start to finish. Ironically enough, I didn’t get a lot of chocolate flavor per se, though I don’t think this is intended to be taken as a chocolate-flavored beer despite its name. Bitterness is low, though the overall sweetness is low, too. The alcohol is a major component of the palette and it works quite well. A bit of nutty or earthy character on the back end, though not much roasted malt flavor. Overall, a tasty, interesting palette, and definitely one of the best extreme beers I’ve had.

Drinkability: I was surprised to see that Chocolate Rain is 18.5% ABV, just a little lighter than Black Tuesday. The alcohol makes up a bigger part of the palette here, imparting warmth throughout – not just on the finish. Regardless, it’s tame and not harsh, hot or slick. The mouthfeel itself is calm and comfortable with a smooth finish and relatively clean aftertaste (I was expecting a sticky, syrupy body). An interesting and impressive beer best enjoyed as a novelty and shared with friends on a special occasion. 
Grade: 9/10

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Bruery Black Tuesday (2013 vintage)

   AROMA 9/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 17/20
Chad9976 (1073) - Albany, New York, USA - MAR 30, 2014
I split a 750ml bottle with five friends. I poured my share into a snifter. It was bottled on 9/18/13 and sent to me in a trade (thanks, Christopher!).

Appearance: Dark brown proper hue, slightly black with ruby red highlights. Pours to a miniscule, beige, soapy head which almost completely dissipates and leaves no lacing.

Smell: Strong aroma of sweet vanilla and bourbon, though not boozy per se.

Taste: At 18.9% ABV, Black Tuesday is a big beer to say the least and its reputation definitely precedes it. I’ve had extreme beers before, but this one doesn’t seem to be as over-the-top as others of the genre. It’s sweet and robust, obviously, but it’s not all that complex. The palette is a little repetitive with a constant combination of vanilla and bourbon. That’s okay, because those flavors are quite delectable.

Right away, the vanilla from the barrel aging makes itself known. Intense, confectionery sweetness akin to vanilla extract dominates this palette. Through the middle there’s some minor notes of sour grape, dark cherry along with additional sweetness of caramel and peanut brittle (or some kind of nutty/earthy character). Since the beer is bottle well after a year it was brewed, it’s not surprising that the hops have dropped out. It’s a bit disappointing because the malt character is so rich combined with the alcohol, that it’s quite cloying an unbalanced. Still, this beer tastes great and is more than satisfying in a small pour.

Drinkability: When a beer is as heavy as 18.9% ABV you brace yourself for impact. Though I was pleasantly surprised that Black Tuesday was not a hot mess, and that the alcohol was well-masked by the base brew. There’s definite warmth throughout, but it’s not distracting. Though I found it burned my sinuses on the first swig or two. The mouthfeel itself is soft, but does not have a slick or sticky texture. It’s comfortable and smooth, and finishes relatively clean with just a slight dry sensation from the alcohol. Best enjoyed as a standalone beverage for special occasions shared with friends. 
Grade: 9/10

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dogfish Head Piercing Pils

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1072) - Albany, New York, USA - MAR 29, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into the official Dogfish Head Willibecher glass. It was bottled in December of 2013 and cost $3.80 ($0.32 per ounce).

Appearance: Bright honey-like hue over a hazy body. Constant effervescence visible. Pours to a large, white, frothy head which laces and retains extremely well.

Smell: Initially quite skunky like a green bottle pilsner (though, that’s probably due to the Saaz hops). That smell eventually fades and there is a slight fruity sweetness. Otherwise, it’s rather typical pilsner aroma.

Taste: We all know Dogfish Head is known for making eccentric, experimental beers, but even when they make something rather “mainstream,” they still do it creatively. Piercing Pils seems to be a exactly-to-spec Czech-style pilsner at the core, but the incorporation of white pear tea and pear juice puts a new spin on an Old World product. It’s seemingly brand new and old hat at the same time, though I think they played this one just a touch too conservatively.

If you’re familiar with true, pure Czech pilsners, then you’re already halfway home with this beer. It has the light malty base coupled with the spicy/dry bitterness from the Saaz hops. These hops dominate the nose and the palette in the first few sips, making this reminiscent of Heineken for a moment or two. My palate quickly got used to it and I could eventually taste and appreciate the sweet fruity flavor that emerges on the back end. The pear component is more of a garnish in this case, despite the fact the brewery describes the beer as a perry/pilsner hybrid (the fruit must’ve faded fast I guess). Regardless, it’s still satisfying as a pilsner – no more, no less.

Drinkability: It should come as no surprise that since Dogfish Head Piercing Pils tastes like a pilsner, it also drinks like one. The mouthfeel is on the lighter side, but a little softer and more ale-like, though it is crisp like a lager. It goes down smooth and is a bit refreshing while in the mouth, though the Saaz hops do impart some bitterness and a hint of skunk in the aftertaste. I’m not sure why this beer has to be 6% ABV, as it doesn’t seem to support this much weight and drinks like a sub 5% brew. It’s a bit too strong and expensive to consider sessioning, though.
Grade: 7/10