Saturday, January 31, 2015

Abita Wrought Iron IPA

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1271) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 31, 2015
Everybody’s been making citrusy “West Coast” IPAs for years. But they all tend to use essentially the same hops. In the case of Abita Wrought Iron IPA, it’s definitely a citrusy-smelling and tasting IPA, but in a different way than most. That’s probably due to the use of Apollo, Equinox and Mosaic hops – new varietals that create for the familiar flavors, aromas and bitterness of the classic hops but in a different way. I always appreciate originality… even if it is familiar.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a mug. It had a best by date of 5/17/15 and cost $2.70 ($0.23 per ounce).

Appearance: Bright, hazy shade of orange/copper. Some visible carbonation. Pours to a large, tan, foamy head which retains and laces well.

Smell: Tropical fruits and a sweet floral bouquet.

Taste: Light bitterness immediately, with a strong orange sherbet flavor. In fact, there’s a remarkable amount of sweet, almost ice cream-like taste to this palette. Passion Fruit and pineapple flavors are quite noticeable as well, creating for a slight juicy-like flavor. Strong dry bitterness on the second half, with perhaps a bit of a tang and astringency. Minor notes of garlic or onion, but they’re barely noticeable unless you really look for them (most likely due to the Mosaic hops). Alcohol is also subtle, but not distracting. This is more than a solid IPA, but less than a great one.

Drinkability: I probably wouldn’t consider Abita Wrought Iron IPA to be all that “big” of a beer at 6.9% ABV, but it’s far from light. There’s a significant presence to the mouthfeel, but not an intense one. Fairly soft, but smooth with light carbonation. There is minor warmth from the alcohol, but it’s not distracting. Definitely the kind of brew to pair with a savory meal, though a single standalone serving is quite satisfying. 
Grade: 8/10

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ballantine India Pale Ale

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1270) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 29, 2015
Everyone that knows craft beer should know by now that what we call an American IPA in the 21st Century bears little resemblance to the original British IPAs of the 18th and 19th centuries. That doesn’t stop breweries from making and marketing beers that claim to be old school as Pabst has done with Ballantine India Pale Ale. It’s clear this beer is inspired by some of the most popular mainstream examples of the current style with its citrusy hops and big body. I highly doubt this is based on an old recipe, but for a new brew it’s not bad at all (especially considering who makes it).

I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 10/22/14 and cost $2.45 ($0.20 per ounce).

Appearance: Extremely hazy shade of dark orange/rusty brown. Particulates can be seen floating in suspension. Pours to a large, beige, frothy head which laces and retains pretty well.

Smell: Yellow lollipop sweetness plus orange juice concentrate. Some pine needles.

Taste: I could probably list off a dozen IPAs that have a similar palette to Ballantine India Pale Ale. It’s pretty traditional for the style: an emphasis on citrus aroma with a distinct malt presence. There’s actually a lot of malt here, so much so that there’s genuine sweetness. It reminds me of lemony yellow lollipops, though that’s often an indication of oxidation. Little in the way of specialty malt except for some toasted notes and caramel. Otherwise, the hops dominate with a strong presence of orange. Light piney/earthy flavor on the backend is also nice. The bitterness is dry through the middle and finish, which isn’t surprising considering the beer is 70 IBUs. Alcohol also plays a role here; it does seem a bit under attenuated. As a straightforward IPA, this beer succeeds.

Drinkability: I was surprised to see the 7.2% ABV indication on the label, as I figured a macro brewery making a supposedly vintage recipe would be much lighter. The weight of the brew is present throughout; the mouthfeel is tepid, chewy and warm from the alcohol. It goes down smoothly and the hops do linger and leave a dry, pasty aftertaste. This would be a good beer to experiment with food pairings, and considering the price it wouldn’t be much of a risk to do so. 
Grade: 7/10

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chimay Dorée (2015 re-review)

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1269) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 28, 2015
Chimay Dorée is the “patersbier” of Abbaye Notre Dame de Scourmont – a Belgian pale ale or “single” if you will. I first reviewed this beer back in 2011 when a friend in Belgium sent me a bottle. Drinking it again nearly four years later, it’s almost nothing like I remember. The first time around it was quite dry and tasted of white grape; this time it’s remarkably fruity, citrusy and spicy – almost like a witbier. It seems like a completely different beer to me (it’s possible they changed the recipe for export). Whatever the case may be, it’s a really good Trappist brew.

I poured an 11.2oz bottle into the official Chimay chalice. It was bottled in 2014 and cost $7.99 ($0.71 per ounce).

Appearance: Clear golden/amber hue with plenty of effervescence visible. Pours to a one-finger, white, soapy head that retains and laces well.

Smell: Strong citrusy notes with a clean floral bouquet. Light esters also present.

Taste: Like any good classic Belgian ale, the first thing I notice about this beer is how lively it is. An immediate sensation of carbonation, quickly followed by light fruity flavors, especially orange and lemon. There’s an almost American hop presence of flowers and citrus, though not nearly as bitter. The Trappist yeast esters create for some banana character as well, and maybe even a hint of vanilla. On the backend I get a firm spicy character from the coriander, plus more orange zest from the orangepeel. Not much in the way of white grape or any kind of wine-like character. This is essentially a witbier but without the wheat. It’s not the kind of beer I would normally associate with a Trappist monastery, which is probably what makes it all the more appreciable.

Drinkability: Since this beer is bottle-conditioned, it’s no wonder it’s so vigorous across the tongue. Frotunately, there’s no carbonation bitterness. The body is fairly light, and it’s remarkably refreshing while in the mouth. It finishes mostly clean with a slightly dry, starchy aftertaste. At only 4.8% ABV, Chimay Dorée would be easy to session the beer in warmer settings if only the price tag weren’t so high. 

Mardi Gras beer dinner at Café NOLA

I love a good beer dinner, but then again who doesn’t? I’ve been to plenty of expensive beer dinners at fancy restaurants, though something I’m noticing lately is that venues you wouldn’t normally consider beer-centric are hosting them now. A cynic might view this as being part of a speculator craze, but I take a more optimistic view and see it as a rising tide lifting all ships. People are developing a taste for better beer and businesses are responding by catering to those preferences. It’s a win-win. Case in point: last night’s Mardi Gras beer dinner at Café NOLA in Schenectady.

When I began planning the menu with owners Kevin and Robin Brown, I thought we should try to stick to New York-based breweries and also choose beers that are pedestrian-friendly, not too expensive, but still of good quality (that was the approach I took last fall with the beer dinner at Uncle Marty’s Adirondack Grill and it was well-received). Sure, we could’ve went with some of the hottest and most expensive trendiest breweries of the moment, but then tickets would’ve been upwards of $75 per person or more. An established craft beer and/or gastropub-type venue can ask that of their clientele, a casual place like this cannot. In fact, it seems to be a rare thing to see a beer dinner for $50 or less these days ($50 is the maximum I’m willing to pay for a beer dinner since that’s $100 per couple and $120 after tip – that ain’t cheap where I come from).

Anyway, on to the dinner itself…

I don’t have a lot of experience with Creole and Cajun food, though I have been to Café NOLA many times and have always enjoyed it. Pairing the beer to the food was challenging to be sure, but almost everyone agreed that each pairing worked well.

NOTE: I forgot to bring my camera with me so I had to use my iPhone for photographs.


Cajun chicken wings; paired with Sixpoint Brewing’s “The Crisp” 

If there’s a better appetizer than chicken wings I’d love to hear about it. You don’t tend to see what is generally considered to be just bar food at event like this. Then again, most pub’s wings aren’t Cajun-style. Café NOLA uses their own seasoning to spice the wings which gives them a zesty, peppery flavor without the intense heat from Capsaicin you get in most hot wings.

Pilsners like Sixpoint’s “The Crisp” are intended to be refreshing (as well as flavorful) and in this instance the beer did its job perfectly. Though it was cold and snowy outside, eating the wings and drinking the beer made it feel like summer for a moment. The lemony/spicy hops and clean finish complemented the wings to a tee. Everyone at the table remarked at how much they enjoyed the opening course.


Baby field greens with blackberries, strawberries, olives and shredded cheese; paired with Ommegang’s “Hop House” Belgian-style pale ale

I’m not usually a fan of salad, but when the greens are soft and actually flavorful (as opposed to crunchy and bland like iceberg lettuce or Romaine) it can be pretty tasty. The dressing was a raspberry vinaigrette which includes Abita’s Purple Haze as an ingredient.

I’m glad we went with Hop House. Though bitter like an American pale ale, it still has a lovely floral bouquet and a clean, citrusy taste. I think this beer took a few of the diners by surprise, though I believe everyone remarked how much they enjoyed the smell and the orange flavor of the beer.

NOTE: Originally, we were going to use Southampton’s “Double White Ale” – a strong witbier – but it was unavailable. This was a fun substitute, though.


Seafood gumbo (crawfish tail meat, shrimp, and Andouille sausage); paired with He’Brew’s “Death of a Contract Brewer” Black IPA

Gumbo is an underrated soup, in my opinion. It’s thick, hearty and spicy, and can be a meal in and of itself. Good thing the serving size was just a cup as this was plenty spicy and savory.
Additionally, Black IPA is an underrated beer style. It’s also quite versatile as it has the bitterness and hop flavor of an IPA, but also the roasty/malty quality of a stout. In fact, I’ve found “Death of a Contract Brewer” to be not only one of the best of the Black IPA style, but also one of the best beers in the He’Brew portfolio.

This was definitely a risky choice since average people tend to be turned off by both dark beer and hoppy beer. However, most found it to be a pleasant surprise. The citrusy aroma was an interesting contrast to the spicy gumbo. I noticed – as did several other patrons – that the hops took a backseat when taking a sip after a spoonful of the soup. The roasted malt was prominent and followed the savory character perfectly with some light citrusy bitterness on the finish. Café NOLA actually has this beer on tap and Robin told me it has been selling surprisingly well despite the fact it’s not the kind of beer they would normally serve.


Beer-braised pork belly (with roasted potatoes, carrots, and demi-glace); paired with Ommegang’s “Abbey Ale” Belgian Dubbel Ale

I’ve noticed that a lot of beer dinners tend to opt for pork or some kind of gamey meat for the entrée course. There’s just something about the combination of seared meat and fat that works so well in these situations. The pork was braised in Abita’s Turbodog brown ale; it was tender and moist with a sight smokey quality. The vegetables were classic, and served in a large plate of greens.

As for the beer, I wanted to do something a little daring while also offering a contrast to the previous three beers. I’ll admit using two Ommegang brews on the same menu was redundant. However, their Abbey Ale is a classic, to-spec, award-winning Belgian-style dubbel that always holds up. I don’t recall ever having a beer like this accompany an entrée, so it was a first-time experience even for me. The rich, fruity flavors of the beer, especially cherry, fig and currant, really contrasted the pork belly.

Many of the diners said the beer was quite wine-like and because of that, they really enjoyed it and said they would consider picking up a bottle for consumption at home.

NOTE: a small serving of lemon sorbet was offered prior to this course as a palate cleanser and it definitely did its job.


Bananas Foster (bananas and vanilla ice cream with whipped cream and sauce made from various confectioneries); paired with Southern Tier’s “Crème Brûlée” imperial stout

I’d never had Bananas Foster prior to this meal, though, from what I understand, it’s a popular dessert in Cajun country. I love desserts and sweets of all kind, so this absolutely fit my wheelhouse. It’s was a delicious combination of cold ice cream, sweet confectionery glaze, and warm bananas (they’re actually flambéed in liqueur).

Southern Tier’s “Crème Brûlée” is exactly what its name suggests. It’s an extremely rich brew – almost ridiculously so. The vanilla flavor from the beer served to amplify the vanilla flavors already in the dessert. I was worried this might have come across as redundant, but everyone said the pairing was fantastic.


By the time the evening ended I was, as usual, completely stuffed. In fact, my only complaint about the entire beer dinner would be that there may have been just a little too much food (the entrée and dessert courses, especially) and the beer pours may have been a bit too tall. I’m writing this blog over 12 hours later and I’m still completely satiated. I’d imagine the other diners are as well. That being said, it was still a great way to spend an otherwise run-of-the-mill Tuesday night and definitely justified the $50 price tag.

Kevin, Robin and I are already planning on having another beer dinner in the coming months. If you missed this one, you should definitely catch the next one.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dogfish Head American Beauty

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1269) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 25, 2015
Dogfish Head has been brewing limited-release brews in collaboration with famous musicians in the last few years. “American Beauty” is a Grateful Dead-sanctioned brew which is made, appropriately enough, with almond honey granola. It claims to be an imperial pale ale, but is probably better viewed as an American Strong Ale since it doesn’t follow style convention (then again, what DFH beers do?). It’s definitely a unique beer, and overall a good one – just not a great, memorable one.

I poured a 750ml bottle into the official Dogfish Head goblet. It was bottled on 11/14/14 and cost $13.99 ($0.55 per ounce).

Appearance: Beautiful shade of deep copper/orange color. Clear complexion with consistent carbonation visible. Pours to a large, off-white, foamy head which laces and retains pretty well.

Smell: Strong honey presence, as well as strong alcohol presence. Slightly medicinal.

Taste: An eccentric brew like this is difficult to describe since there’s so little frame of reference. Comparable to a pale or amber ale in both appearance and base malt character, though it’s presence of almond honey granola that really drives this palette. Initially, there’s a strong taste of raw honey with some minor grassy and zesty flavors lingering. Through the middle I detect some light nutty character (almonds especially), and minor spicy hop bitterness as well. On the finish there’s a strong boozy character, akin to honey-flavored whiskey or bourbon. There’s a lingering aftertaste of alcohol, slightly dry, but easily tolerable. This recipe probably would’ve worked better on a smaller scale, as it seems to be lacking subtlety. What’s here is good, but not of the high quality I normally associate with Dogfish Head.

Drinkability: I’ve reach a point where 9% ABV on a beer label doesn’t intimidate me, though once in a while I’ll encounter a brew that weighs me down like American Beauty. The alcohol is present in all facets – aroma, taste, and weight. There’s significant warmth on each swig and the taste is closer to whiskey or vodka than any kind of sweet vanilla usually found in high gravity craft brews like this. The mouthfeel is a bit tepid, noticeably thick, and low in carbonation. There’s a residual, slightly sticky aftertaste. I can overlook it, but I’d rather not have to. 
Grade: 7/10

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Elysian Space Dust IPA

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1268) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 24, 2015
Another subgenre of IPA that seems to have emerged in recent years is the spicy/herbal IPA. Not unlike a “New England IPA,” beers of this style – like Elysian Space Dust IPA – are like drinking juice with spice rack seasonings thrown in. It’s an odd combination in theory, but in practice it works quite well. This beer is proof of that.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 12/23/14 and cost $3.74 ($0.31 per ounce).

Appearance: Orange in color with a haziness to the body. There are miniscule particles in suspension (unfiltered, I assume). Pours to a two-finger, ivory, frothy head which retains and laces extremely well.

Smell: Pungent spicy/herbal aroma, most notable garlic and oregano. Some orange citrus as well.

Taste: The last time I had this beer it was all hop aroma, but not in the taste. This time, for whatever reason, the hops are in the palette, too. I noticed it immediately – an intense surge of spiciness with flavors of garlic, onion, oregano and basil (all probably due to the Chinook hops). Initially, it’s a slightly dry sensation and moderately bitter. The base malt is subtle, creating for no distinct flavors per se other than a general sweet sensation. On the back end the Chinook hop’s intense dry bitterness really shows, but so do that of the late addition Citra and Amarillo hops. A citrusy taste of orange fruit, peel and pith. I even detect minor “cat pee” dankness right before it finishes, which is nice and interesting. All in all, it’s an interesting, tasty brew.

Drinkability: Though not too high on the bitterness scale, Elysian Space Dust IPA is still plenty lively in the mouth. The spicy sensation dances across the tongue, dries it out, and lingers well after each swig. The body isn’t too heavy or thick, it’s remarkably crisp for a 7.2% ABV brew. Works well as a standalone serving, though it’s be perfect with any kind of spicy meal. 
Grade: 8/10

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1267) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 23, 2015
I always wondered what a warm weather state like Florida would consider to be a “winter warmer” since it’s always warm there all the time. Cigar City’s “Warmer Winter” is apparently how they interpret the style down there. This is a classic American-style barleywine, and not an actual winter warmer despite the name. It definitely hits on all notes as a barleywine, which is probably why I enjoyed it.

I poured a 22oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 11/5/14 and was sent to me from a friend in Florida (thanks, Matt!).

Appearance: Attractive shade of burgundy/mahogany color. Fairly clear with some haziness, slight carbonation is visible. Pours to a two-finger, eggshell, foamy head which retains and laces pretty well.

Smell: Classic barleywine aroma of dark malt, though plenty of American hop character is present, too (mostly citrus and flowers).

Taste: It’s not surprising that a big beer would start out with a big taste. Tons of malty sweetness is present right away, creating for a fruit basket of flavors: cherry, plum, and even some strawberry or blackberry notes (oddly enough). At the same time, there’s a noticeable bitterness. At first it’s dry, then it becomes dank and citrusy – akin to orange juice concentrate rather than orange or grapefruit juice straight up. Subtle confectionery notes can be found, as well. There’s definitely a vanilla character due to the alcohol presence. There’s absolutely no spice in the brew, though the hops offer some balance to the malt. It’s not especially bitter and hoppy for the style (if anything, it’s less bitter than most), but there is some citrus and floral character on the second half that complements the brew quite nicely. Overall, it’s tasty and satisfying, but not quite as amazing as I was expecting. I was hoping for intensity and complexity and what’s here is less than that, but much more than just “solid.”

Drinkability: This is one of those beers where the high gravity works for and against it simultaneously. On the one hand, this is a 12.65% ABV brew (according to Head Brewer Wayne Wambles who told me this) and it doesn’t have the dense weight or high heat you would associate with a borderline “extreme” brew. On the other hand, the mouthfeel does feel a tad thin and the fairly clean aftertaste actually seems to be a demerit. A beer of Cigar City Warmer Winter Winter Warmer’s caliber ought to be thick, sticky and cloying. That being said, I doubt anyone other than a complete and total lightweight is going to have any difficulty with this beer. 
Grade: 8/10

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA (2015 re-review)

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1266) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 22, 2015
Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA was one of the first truly “big” IPA brews of the style and has earned its place in the proverbial “Craft Beer Hall of Fame.” It’s radically different when compared to brews of the style today because it’s so well-balanced. In fact, it might even been too malty for its own good, as it seems to drink like an imperial amber ale. Regardless, it’s still quite delectable and easy to drink – no wonder it’s endured all these years.

I poured a 12oz bottle into the official Dogfish Head goblet. It was bottled on 10/2/14 and cost $3.99 ($0.33 per ounce).

Appearance: Beautiful copper hue; mostly clear with a slight haze; plenty of visible carbonation. Pours to a two-finger, white frothy head which laces and retains very well.

Smell: For a supposedly hoppy beer there’s a strong malt presence in the nose. Sweet notes of caramel and brown sugar, plus flowers and pine needles.

Taste: This is an overtly malty IPA. There’s a lot of sweetness and it’s immediately recognizable. Toffee, caramel and other candy flavors lay the foundation for a hefty malt base. Though a highly-hopped beer at 90 IBUs, it’s actually not all that bitter (well, not aggressively so). Like a good East Coast-style hoppy brew, the bitterness is slightly dank with a taste of piney and floral hops. The alcohol appears on the back end, accentuating the malt character and imparting mild warmth. There’s a distinct taste akin to coffee right as it finishes; probably due to some specialty malt. This is a well-rounded beer to say the least and an enjoyable one due to its uniqueness. An oldie but a goodie.

Drinkability: This is the kind of beer that was probably a behemoth when it debuted (or to craft beer drinking newbies); yet it seems so pedestrian in its delivery. Definitely full-bodied, but the mouthfeel is not as intense or cloying or sticky as you might expect. There’s even slight crispness from the carbonation. At 9% ABV it’s not surprising to find the alcohol plays a role in providing some warmth, but it’s far from a fire-breather. Additionally, at 90 IBUs it’s not an enamel-scraper, either. There is some lingering bitterness, but it’s easily tolerable. This is the kind of beer that will pair perfectly with a meal that can match its robustness and balance. 
Grade: 9/10

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Jack's Abby Lashes Lager

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1266) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 21, 2015
Most of what Jack’s Abby Brewing tends to make are ales but fermented with lager yeast. In the case of Lashes Lager, it is supposedly a bock style (or “Hopbock” according to the label), though it is closer to what I would associate with an amber ale. And as an amber ale it works quite well, but as a bock it does not. Not that I grade to style, anyway, just that I really appreciate the flavor profile here.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a lager glass. It was bottled on 10/29/14 and cost $2.69 ($0.22 per ounce).

Appearance: Hazy shade of copper/amber/orange with plenty of visible carbonation. Pours to a large, white, soapy head which retains and laces quite well.

Smell: Sweet floral scent, like a bouquet of flowers. Hint of citrus.

Taste: Munich Malt is the only malt mentioned in the description and it definitely comes through right away. A slightly bready, perhaps toasty, malt character. Lightly sweet with an authentic grain taste to it. There’s a subtle floral and citrus hop character lurking in the background throughout the first half of the swig. On the backend the bitterness becomes quite prominent, though it’s still pretty tame compared to an IPA (but would be normal in an amber ale). There’s some spiciness right on the finish with a taste comparable to rye. Light orange citrus is noticeable, too. I do notice a slight astringency on the finish, which is a bit bracing at first, but easy to ignore. Overall, it’s a tasty, interesting and satisfying palette, though I’m not sure why it’s marketed the way it is. I enjoyed it.

Drinkability: Lagers are supposed to be lighter, crisper, and more easy-drinking than ales and that’s true of Lashes Lager. However, considering it’s a rather potent brew at 6.8% ABV, I’m a little surprised there isn’t more complexity and body. This is the kind of beer where having a sticky, chewy mouthfeel would actually be beneficial. 
Grade: 7/10

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Founders Black Rye

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1265) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 20, 2015
Founders Black Rye is apparently an older recipe in the days before “Black IPAs” were en vogue. Drinking it today it seems exactly like a beer of that style rather than the supposedly unclassifiable brew it purports to be. The rye is subtle here; subtle to the point that it’s an afterthought rather than one of the central flavor characteristics. Though, it’s a beer like this that goes to show that styles really don’t mean jack, and an excellent beer should be appreciated for its excellence.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a goblet. It was bottled on 12/12/14 and cost $4.95 ($0.41 per ounce).

Appearance: Ink black color with blood red highlights. Pours to a small, tan, foamy head which retains and laces fairly well.

Smell: Strong dank/piney hops plus dark malt character.

Taste: There’s a certain flavor combination of hops and dark malt that works so well. That synergy of dank, resiny, piney hop bitterness and bitter, roasted malt just work wonders together. Both are present immediately on the palette here. Up front there’s dank bitterness followed by bittersweet dark chocolate flavor with a hint of espresso through the middle. As good as the first half is, the second half is even better with strong bitterness and an almost luscious piney/sappy taste. The label indicates the beer is 78 IBUs and it’s quite clear that’s no exaggeration. The hops certainly are the focal point, though the malt base is strong enough to keep the palette balanced. Oddly enough, there isn’t much distinct rye character except for some spiciness on the finish. It’s a good way to end this delectable palette, though I’d like to see it used more prominently (especially considering the name of the beer).

Drinkability: This is probably the kind of beer most people would consider to be on the bigger side. At 7.5% ABV, Founders Black Rye isn’t exactly a session brew. That being said, it’s not gentle sipper, either. It’s full-bodied for sure, but the mouthfeel is a bit crisper and cleaner than you’d expect. No sticky, syrupy texture to speak of, and a good amount of carbonation to scrub itself clean. Works great as a nightcap, though I could see it pairing well with a savory dinner. 
Grade: 9/10

Monday, January 19, 2015

Top 10 Most Annoying Beer-related Terms

We all have our pet peeves and sometimes you’ve just gotta vent about them. Now, there are plenty of trends, behaviors, shady business practices, laws, and other items of action that have happened or continue to happen in the industry that annoy me to no end, but for now I’m just [literally] arguing semantics. Here’s a list of words, phrases, and idioms  specific to the beer community that annoy the hell out of me. It’d be nice if we could either eradicate these from the vernacular or at least use them properly.

DISCLAIMER: I will readily admit that I have said or written these things myself over the years, and chances are very good you’ll see me use them in the future as well. It should also be noted that they are just pet peeves, not things worth losing my temper over. I’m not trying to make any enemies or friends over this list. If they don’t bother you, that’s cool – but please don’t hurl profanities my way just because we disagree over rather trivial semantics (but that’s the subject for another sermon).

10. The improper use of palate, palette, and pallet
I discussed this about a year ago, but it bears a quick repeating:
  • Palate = your tongue/your personal sense of taste.
  • Palette = a comparable range, quality, or use of available elements (e.g. “a palette of flavors”).
  • Pallet = a portable platform for handling, storing, or moving materials and packages (as in warehouses, factories, or vehicles).

9. The overuse of the word “Dog”

I searched breweries with the word “Dog” in their name on and it came back with 64 results! Some of the most notable examples include: Brew Dog, Dogfish Head, Thirsty Dog, Sea Dog, Hair of the Dog, Flying Dog, Laughing Dog. There were too many results of individual beers with the word “Dog” in their name for it to give me a complete list.

I don’t know why this bugs me so much. I don’t hate dogs, I just hate unoriginality.

8. Whale

The term beer nerds use to refer to ultra-rare/exclusive/limited release brews that are renowned for their scarcity. When this term was limited to beers that truly are whales – Westvletern 12 for example – it made sense. Now, beers like Troegs Nugget Nectar and Bell’s HopSlam are apparently whales too.

SkaCanFinal.ai7. Hop puns

All you have to do is walk into a bottle shop and you’ll no doubt be inundated with beers bearing names with hop puns, such as “Hopportunity Knocks,” “Hop Gun,” “Hoptimus Prime,” “Hoptical Illusion,” etc. etc. etc.
I guess it depends on whether you think puns are funny and cute or corny and stupid. I only appreciate a pun when it comes when I’m not expecting it and it’s actually clever and funny. Over saturation and unoriginality are an annoying combination.

6. “India” as a synonym for “hoppy”

Beer writers have been saying this for years, so this can’t be news to anyone: what we call an “India Pale Ale” today in America (or even in Europe, for that matter) bears very little resemblance to the original IPAs of the 18th and 19th centuries. I think what happened was, when highly-hopped pale ales became en vogue, brewers starting calling them IPAs as a way to capitalize on the “throwback” culture. And back in the 1980s and 90s, when IPAs were few and far between, it was cool and kitschy.

But the style exploded in popularity, especially in the U.S., so much so that the American-style IPA wasn’t enough to satisfy hopheads’ demands, so other hoppy styles were born, such as: Black IPA; Red IPA; Session IPA; India Pale Lager, etc. Even other styles upped their hop content dramatically and slapped “India-style” either in the name or the description of the beer (a great example of this is Upstate Brewing’s highly-hopped pale wheat ale “I.P.W.” which stands for “India Pale Wheat”).
That “India” became a synonym for “hoppy” really baffles me. It would seem that the more direct, honest adjective – hoppy – would be easier for the consumer to grasp. I’d imagine a lot of retailers, bartenders, and food servers have had to explain to countless non-beer enthusiasts that even though a certain beer has “India” in the name, it is not brewed with chutney or curry and was not shipped all the way from the country of India.

I suppose it’s rather futile complaining about this trend at this point since people who know beer know what “India” means. Most of us probably don’t even think about it anymore, since it’s an automatic response. Still, when we take the time to ponder the situation, we realize that it really is absurd using the name of a country as a way of saying a beer contains a lot of hops.

I can’t help but wonder if people in the actual country of India are aware of this apparent worldwide trend. Does it bother them, or are they indifferent?

5. Artisan/Artisanal

I can’t help but find this particular word to be rather pretentious in origin. The implication seems to be that the beer is not just a product; it’s art. And while I would agree that beer is art and brewing is an artform, the same can be said of pretty much any product that involves craftsmanship. Additionally, just because a beer or a brewery bears the word “Artisanal,” that doesn’t mean it’s higher in either objective quality or subjective taste. At the end of the day, it’s just another marketing term. To wit:

4. “Local” as a synonym for “quality”

Another topic I already discussed in depth a while back. You’ll notice some of the entries on this list are here because they’re one term purporting to be another. “Local” as a synonym for “quality” is probably one of the most widespread of these false equivalencies. Thankfully, other beer bloggers are waving a B.S. flag on this term.

3. Session Beer

The debate over where exactly to draw the line on what is and what is not a “session beer” is not one that looks to be resolved anytime soon. No one can agree on where to draw the line – 4% ABV? 4.5% ABV? 5% ABV? But at the end of the day, does it really matter? It would seem logical that “session beer” is a relative term, not a standardized one. It’s just basic physiology that a person heavier in weight can handle higher alcohol and in greater amounts than a lighter person. What’s sessionable to one person is a single serving to another. So I guess it’s not the term “session beer” that annoys me as much as it is people arguing over an arbitrarily-defined limit. It just seems so silly to say that Beer X at 4.5% ABV is a “true session beer,” but Beer Y at 4.6% ABV is not. Oiy.

And once again, this is another example of something that had originally been a term by, for, and among the people that has been co-opted for advertising and trendiness. We can disagree over what’s a “sessionable” amount of alcohol for us individually, but we can all agree that slapping the term on a beer label is becoming a little condescending. Drinkers seasoned enough to know what “Session Beer” means are also smart enough to recognize obvious marketing ploys when they see it.

2. Hipster

Probably the reason this word annoys me so much is due to the fact no one can seem to agree on what it actually means. As far as I can tell it’s a derogatory term and an insult, though not to the point of being politically incorrect or an all-out slur.

I think “hipster” is a cheap, lazy, and safe way to disparage a large group of people, but without getting too specific as to call out anyone in particular. The best example of this is the kerfuffle that ensued recently when an article about Jim Koch being left out in the cold by the craft beer industry went viral. You never saw the word “hipster” thrown around as a catch-all insult as you did in all the various blogs and comment sections chiming in on that story. It was also at that point that the term had officially lost whatever meaning it had left.

Much like IPA, “hipster” did have a specific meaning at one point, but was overused and abused so as to become meaningless. If I were to poll 100 people on the definition, no doubt I would receive 100 different responses.

If you want to insult someone, then use a word that truly is controversial or at least specific to them. Calling them a hipster is a form of self-censorship.

1. Craft Beer

Considering all the entries on this list, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that this would be the number one selection. It epitomizes the theme running throughout this blog: a term that had real meaning at one point, but was overused, misused, and exploited for financial gain. And with the advent of the Brewer’s Association (and individual state beer lobbies), “craft beer” has now become a political term as well. When a term that was originally used by and for hobbyists and small businesses becomes a source of political power you know it’s jumped the shark.

Today, the term “craft beer” only seems to indicate one thing: a beer that is not made by a few of the major conglomerate macro breweries. It doesn’t matter if the brewery makes lousy products that no one wants, as long as they’re small and independent, it’s “craft” beer.

That we feel the need to use that designation to refer to our usual beer of choice seems to indicate an inferiority complex of some sort. Why do smaller breweries making supposedly “better” beer need the “craft” moniker? Why can’t we compare apples to apples? The pesto oregano lemonpeel double dry hopped saison being made by the local nanobrewery is as much beer as Bud Light is beer. Sure, their ingredients and brewing methods are vastly different, but it doesn’t change the fact they are both beer.

And though the “craft beer” share of the entire beer market is still a small minority, it has proliferated throughout the culture at large so that even non-beer drinkers are aware of its existence. If you tell someone you’re a “beer enthusiast,” most likely they’re going to assume you’re a craft beer enthusiast and not an alcoholic. Do we really need that designation anymore?

There’s also a lot of false assumption about the craft beer section of the industry. People assume that all breweries are buddies and don’t think of each other as competition. And while it may be true that certain breweries are friendly with each other, at the end of the day they’re all still businesses competing for your dollar. As we learned from that Jim Koch article, at some point even craft breweries grow too big to maintain their cache. Additionally, craft breweries are even suing each other over petty issues. Lastly, the notion that “craft beer” equates to “good beer,” is just patently false. There are plenty of craft breweries churning out poor quality suds and few people call them out on it because they’re “craft.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sick of the word by now. And no, using an alternative like “artisanal,” or “gourmet,” or “top shelf” isn’t the answer because it will become just as played-out, misused, and over-marketed as any other term. Let’s just call it what it is: beer.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Funky Buddha Floridian Hefeweizen

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1264) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 18, 2015
Hefeweizen is one of my favorite styles of beer and I can appreciate a good one even in the dead of winter. And yes, Funky Buddha Floridian Hefeweizen is a good example of the style as it meets all the criteria expected. That being said, it doesn’t go above and beyond, meaning it’s just a good beer and not a great one.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a pilsner glass (per the recommendation on the label). There was no freshness date. It was sent to me from a friend in Florida (thanks, Matt!).

Appearance: Hazy pale orange/dirty gold hue; carbonation is visible. Pours to an average size, white, soapy head which mostly dissipates and leaves little lacing on the glass.

Smell: Orange citrus with light candy notes. Bavarian yeast esters are present, but muted.

Taste: There’s a lightly sweet, almost orange candy flavor present immediately. Reminiscent of an orange sucker candy or creamsicle. Nothing in the way of spice or zestiness, though not to the acidity of orange juice proper. The second half has the classic banana flavor followed by a mild clove note. There’s a tartness right on the finish, almost sharp, but it’s par for the course considering the rest of the palette. I’d prefer more bready and spicy flavors, but what’s here is quite enjoyable.

Drinkability: Downing a glass of Funky Buddha Floridian Hefeweizen in the winter reminds me of the summer because the beer is so damn refreshing. The mouthfeel is light, thin and crisp. As the beer crosses the tongue it completely moistens the palate. It finishes clean and sits light on the system, which isn’t surprisingly considering the brew is fairly light at 5.2% ABV. Definitely tempting to session in the summer; this would be a great beer to enjoy in a can. 
Grade: 7/10

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Schneider Weisen Edel-Weisse (TAP 4)

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1263) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 17, 2015
Schneider’s regular hefeweizen (TAP 7) is one of my all-time favorite examples of the style. From what I can tell, Weisen Edel-Weisse (TAP 4) appears to be more or less the same recipe, but brewed with all-organic ingredients. Maybe because it’s organic or maybe it’s because this bottle was about five months old at the time, but this beer isn’t as good as the regular edition. Not that it’s bad, in fact, it’s got all the things I prefer in the style, just not as strong as I’d prefer.

I poured a 500ml bottle into a weizen glass. It was bottled on 8/2/14 and cost $4.29 ($0.25 per ounce).

Appearance: Dark golden hue; only slightly hazy (due to the age of the bottle, a lot of the yeast was caked to the bottom of the bottle). Plenty of visible spastic carbonation. Pours to a large, white, foamy head which retains well but doesn’t leave much lacing.

Smell: Milder than most, with the standard banana bread aroma, though it seems to have more of a spice character than usually found in the style.

Taste: The best way to describe the palette here would be to picture a typical authentic German hefeweizen and then weaken it a little. I’d probably chalk the mildness up to the fact the bottle was rather old at the time. I’d like to think a fresher serving would be much more robust. Also, instead of relying heavily on the banana character from the yeast esters, it ops for Noble hop spice. There’s notes of lemonpeel or saison-like black pepper, which is nice, but it’s still too mild. What’s interesting about this brew is that it’s actually made with Cascade hops – an American varietal. They seem to impart a subtle grassy character to the beer, but don’t do much in the way of bitterness or piney flavor (nor should they considering the style). Overall, this is a fine brew, but this brewery makes better examples of the style.

Drinkability: Schneider Weisen Edel-Weisse is refreshing while in the mouth, and finishes clean, which is nice. Though it should have much more body and robustness for a beer with a 6.2% ABV. This drinks and feels like something much more overtly sessionable. In fact, the thinness of the body and the mildness of the palette is a bit distracting, honestly. Still, it’s an easy beer to drink and a single serving is satisfying.
Grade: 6/10

Friday, January 16, 2015

Southern Tier 2XPresso

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1262) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 16, 2015
Coffee stout is a readily available beer style by now, so if a brewery is going to release one they need to do something to make it stand out from the crowd. Southern Tier 2XPresso has some cache to it in that it’s a strong milk stout base (at 7.5% ABV) and is also brewed with lemonpeel. That’s not a spice you tend to associate with this style of beer. Unfortunately, it’s a very subtle ingredient, but at the same time the final product is still a solid, if familiar, coffee stout.

I poured a 12oz bottle into my official Southern Tier goblet. It was bottled on 12/10/14 and cost $3.15 ($0.26 per ounce).

Appearance: Deep brown/black hue, nearly opaque with some translucent highlights. Pours to a small, tan, foamy head which retains and laces well.

Smell: Deeply roasted coffee and dark chocolate. Not sweet.

Taste: Some coffee stouts tend to taste like alcoholic iced coffee. Others, like Southern Tier 2XPresso, are more like gourmet cold press French roast espresso (or whatever the appropriate descriptor would be – I’m not a coffee connoisseur). It starts out with a strong note of dark chocolate; reminiscent of higher-end gourmet chocolate. Nearly as bitter as it is sweet. Through the middle, the hops kick in with a firm dry bitterness. On the finish the espresso character bursts through and creates for a tasty coffee flavor that’s quite bitter but really bold and refined. It’s only as the beer goes down that the lemonpeel emerges – mostly as a subtle sensation on the aftertaste. Also, the lactose sugar appears to be lacking as far as flavor goes; creating for a slight tang or dairy sensation (that’s an ingredient used more for mouthfeel, anyway, so it’s forgivable). Overall, this is the kind of palette that you want in a coffee stout and to that end, this beer does its job well.

Drinkability: Southern Tier 2XPresso is one of those brews that’s not quite intense, but more than just medium-bodied. At 7.5% ABV it has a sturdiness to the body, but the mouthfeel is a bit thinner, more highly carbonated, and less sticky or cloying than you’d assume. There’s no alcohol presence to distract from the palette. It’s quite smooth and is as satisfying as a Blackwater Series imperial stout, but without the density and raw weight. 
Grade: 8/10

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Horseheads Pumpkin Ale

   AROMA 9/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1261) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 14, 2015
When it comes to pumpkin beers, it seems like fewer breweries are opting for pumpkin pie-flavored brews and instead opting for squashy/earthy/spicy recipes instead. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a pumpkin pie beer that really amazed me and Horseheads Pumpkin Ale has thankfully ended that drought. It’s quite literally liquid pumpkin pie – there isn’t much more that needs to be said.

I poured a 22oz bomber into a tulip glass. There was no freshness date and it cost $5.75 at the brewery ($0.26 per ounce).

Appearance: Surprisingly clear shade of pumpkin skin orange with visible carbonation. Pours to a fairly large, eggshell, foamy head which retains and laces rather well.

Smell: Almost identical to pumpkin pie. Huge cinnamon notes. Sweet and inviting.

Taste: Right away there’s a strong note of cinnamon and graham cracker (but I repeat myself). Other pumpkin spices like nutmeg and ginger seem to be noticeable, though subtle. The cinnamon dominates, creating for an almost waffle or pancake flavor. It’s not a prickly or spicy sensation, but is rather sweet. Little in the way of bitterness and nothing in the way of hops. The back end is the best part as it tastes of pumpkin puree; in other words – pumpkin pie. All that’s missing is a dollop of whipped cream.

Drinkability: If I had to knock this beer for anything it would be on its body. The mouthfeel is rather thin and only lightly carbonated. Though it tastes great, it doesn’t seem to have the energy level of a 7% ABV brew (feels closer to 5 or 6%). But at least there’s no alcohol presence at all. There’s a slightly slick sensation to the texture, but otherwise Horseheads Pumpkin Ale finishes clean. It might seem redundant, but it pairs well with pumpkin pie (or substitute it for pumpkin pie). 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Twisted Pine Ghost Face Killah

   AROMA 4/10   APPEARANCE 2/5   TASTE 1/10   PALATE 1/5   OVERALL 5/20
Chad9976 (1260) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 13, 2015
Twisted Pine’s “Ghost Face Killah” is not a beer, it is an alcoholic gag gift. A beer would imply it’s drinkable and has elements of malts and hops. This is essentially just carbonated hot sauce. It really has no redeeming qualities since it’s extremely difficult to drink more than an ounce of it because it is so ridiculously hot.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a shaker glass. There was no freshness date and it cost $3.99 ($0.33 per ounce).

Appearance: Ugly carrot-orange color over a hazy/cloudy body (I can see some carbonation, though). Pours to a miniscule, orange, soapy head which fizzles away immediately.

Smell: Extremely pungent pepper aroma, not unlike hot sauce. Slightly smokey. No “beer” smell at all.

Taste: I’m no stranger to peppers. I’ve grown my own jalapenos, habaneros and Trinidad Scorpion peppers and eaten them raw. I’ve even brewed with these peppers and was able to use them to impart gentle warmth. Twisted Pine’s “Ghost Face Killah” is most definitely not gentle, nor is it warm. In fact, “hot” doesn’t really describe it. As soon as it touches the tongue and lips the body parts are on fire. It has the taste of raw peppers as it goes down – a nasty earthy/soil-like flavor. After a while, there’s a slight smokey aftertaste, not unlike that of a Chipotle pepper, but by that point it’s too late. I can’t imagine anyone other than a pepper enthusiast being able to get through more than 4oz of this. There’s nothing to taste, it’s just liquid fire.

Drinkability: Quite simply, this is undrinkable. It’s just too intense and the capsaicin lingers in the mouth for quite a while afterwards. It upset my stomach a bit, too. 
Grade: 0/10

Monday, January 12, 2015

Narragansett Autocrat Coffee Milk Stout

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1259) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 12, 2015
It’s pretty common knowledge by now that the Narragansett brand of beers are contract brewed by Genesee and most of them are deliberately mild and pedestrian. When I heard they had made a coffee stout I didn’t have high hopes. Thankfully, my fears were quickly dashed after the first sip as this beer tastes like something you’d encounter from a high end craft brewery (sorry, but Genny is not craft beer). This is definitely the best beer to bear the ‘Gansett logo.

I poured a 16oz can into a nonic pint glass. It was canned on 10/28/14 and cost $2.70 ($0.23 per ounce).

Appearance: Dark black color with a tall, dark tan, frothy head which laces and retains very well.

Smell: Strong iced coffee/roasted malt aroma as well as standard dairy scent found in a milk stout.

Taste: The palette is quite familiar for a coffee stout, though I mean that as a compliment. An immediate sensation of coffee right away, as well as dark roasted malt and dry bitterness. Through the middle I detect some milky sweetness, possibly chocolate-like as well. It’s not quite a mocha flavor, but it’s close. The coffee re-emerges on the finish, even roastier and bitterer than at the beginning. The flavor lingers just as it does when drinking hot coffee, only without the heat. I was quite surprised there’s no tang or off-flavor of any kind here. This is a fine coffee stout, and the addition of lactose sugar gives it an added sweetness to give it a coffee & cream taste.

Drinkability: It seems like most coffee stouts tend to be higher gravity brews, but Narragansett Autocrat Coffee Milk Stout is quite lithe at only 5.3% ABV. The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with consistent carbonation. It’s not quite velvety, but it’s far from the usual light, watery texture often found in beers of the ‘Gansett variety. It goes down smooth and the aftertaste, though bitter, is between tolerable and pleasant. This would pair well with any chocolate or vanilla dessert. 
Grade: 8/10

Review: Mad Jack Brewing at The Van Dyck Lounge

I wasn’t sure how to phrase the headline for this blog, since it’s not a review of a brewpub or a brewery per se, but of a line of beers brewed at a restaurant (as well as the restaurant itself). Does that make it a Restaurant-pub?A Brewstaurant? I don’t know what the appropriate moniker would be.

Mad Jack 011

Anyway, Mad Jack Brewing has been the Van Dyck’s in-house brewery since 2011. I’ve visited it many times, though I wasn’t especially impressed with the beers when they first launched. They seem to have upgraded their equipment and brought in more experienced brewers in the last couple years. In fact, you can find it on tap at several bars and restaurants throughout the Capital District, though I recommend going to the Van Dyck itself so you can try the entire lineup at once (which is constantly rotating).

Mad Jack 009

My girlfriend Renee and I decided to go there for dinner on Friday evening after work. It was quite
busy when we arrived and I was worried we might have to wait or be turned away for not having reservations. Thankfully, we were seated immediately and our waitress was quite prompt as well. The Van Dyck usually offers ten Mad Jack brews on draught at any given time; however, their sampler flight ($8) is limited to only six 4oz pours ($0.33 per ounce). In order to try them all, you’d have to order two flights and, obviously, have a few repeat brews (and no, they won’t let you order individual samples for whatever reason). Since we both had to drive afterwards, we decided to split just one flight.

mad jack 023Double White (6.2% ABV, 18 IBUs): Firstly, let me say that I appreciate the fact each beer’s description contains both its alcohol percentage and its bitterness rating. As for this beer, it was a great way to start out. I always think of witbiers as aperitifs, though this one was a bit bigger than most. Definitely to-spec, style-wise, though a bit juicier-tasting than most. Huge orange flavor on this with strong Belgian banana yeast esters. I could drink a beer like this year-round, especially a bolder incarnation like this.

mad jack 024Pinhead Pale Ale (4.9% ABV, 35 IBUs): Brewed exclusively with Cascade hops it has a strong piney/resin flavor with dank bitterness. It’s almost like a session IPA, but with real body and balance to it. I really appreciate well-balanced pale ales like these. I’d recommend ordering a pint of this to go with a meal.
mad jack 025Imperial IPA (8.5% ABV, 55 IBUs): By far the best beer of the flight; this beer is akin to the recent trend of combining sweet tropical fruit flavors with spicy/herbal/earthy bitterness. It has the big, full, almost sticky/chewy body you expect in an imperial IPA, though it was still surprisingly crisp with a clean aftertaste. And at only 55 IBUs it’s not insanely bitter, either. I highly recommend this for all the hopheads out there.

State Street Saison (7.4% ABV, 34 IBUs): As we were walking up the restaurant, one of the brewers recognized me and recommended I try this and let him know what I think. Usually, I’m a fan of saisons, though they are not my go-to style. This one is pretty much “to spec” with all the flavors and characters you expect in the style. The spice seemed a little milder than most and there was a surprising amount of boozy character. Overall, I’d consider it a good beer, but it didn’t especially impress me (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of this one).

mad jack 026District Brown Ale (5.2% ABV, 44 IBUs): More often than not, I tend to roll my eyes at a brown ale on the menu of a brewpub. This was not a ho-hum brown ale, though. A lot of maple flavor as well as some brown sugar sweetness. Plus, there was a strong hop presence here as well, so much so that this could maybe pass as a “Brown IPA.” Probably the best beer on the menu to pair with dessert.

Mad Jack 017Jackhammer Scotch (7.3% ABV, 40 IBUs): If the last beer was the most pleasantly surprising, this was the most disappointing. Not that it was a bad beer, though. This brew has the flavor of a Scottish Ale with the body of a Wee Heavy. Thick and tepid with a slight cinnamon flavor and only minor smokey/malt presence. Good, just not great.

mad jack 028Dutchmen Lager (4.7% ABV, 26 IBUs): Being a Union College Hockey fan, I just had to try this one. Another 4oz sample would’ve sufficed, but the Van Dyck will only sell short pours as part of a sampler six-pack (that’s annoying). So Renee and I split an 8oz half pint for $3.50 ($0.44 per ounce). Though it has a beautiful color and clarity, the taste is much too mild for my preference (though, to be fair, its mildness seems to be its selling point). It reminds me of an all-malt Yuengling, though I detected a bit of buttery diacetyl. Maybe it was because it was the last beer of the night, or maybe because it’s intended to be mild, but we both kind of shrugged at this.

Overall, I have to say I was pretty impressed with the beer menu. Sure, not all of them were homeruns, but most were way more than just satisfying. The pale ale, imperial IPA, and brown ale were all memorable. I may swing by again just for a pint of one of those.

Mad Jack 013

As for the food, it was excellent. Renee ordered bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin medallions ($17) and I got the Kobe beef burger ($13). The pork was very tender and juicy, almost succulent (but isn’t that a term reserved for seafood?). My burger was good, though it was a little overcooked (I asked for medium but it came out medium/well to well done). It left a beautiful pool of grease and blood on the plate. The bun and toppings were good, as were the steak fries that accompanied it.

Mad Jack 015

Between the beer and food I was most definitely satiated afterward, though we decided to order dessert because we were having such a good time (my mood will more often determine my decision to order dessert than any other factor). We split a piece of peanut butter pie. Let’s just say it tasted even better than the photograph below makes it look.

Mad Jack 020
Mad Jack 021
Between drinks, food and dessert the total came to a little over $50 and I left a $12 tip. I thought the service was good for the most part. Even though the dining room was quite busy, our waitress checked up on us pretty frequently (her visits to table became less frequent as the night went on, though). I also really enjoyed the atmosphere of the Van Dyck; it has a reputation as a fancy restaurant but it’s actually more casual than you might think.

Was it worth it? Yes. Will I be returning? Yes. I’d like to try one of the pizzas and/or other items on the dinner menu, as well as any beers in the Mad Jack lineup that change by season. If you’re in Schenectady, this is an ideal restaurant for a Friday or Saturday night (as long as there’s not a major event happening at Proctor’s, in which case it’ll be packed).

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Saranac Disruption

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1258) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 11, 2015
Disruption is not the kind of beer I usually associate with the Saranac brand. A standalone 16oz brown ale in a nitro can? Well, alright. The beer isn’t anything ground-breaking, though it’s at least a solid, to-spec brown ale. The nitrogen makes it a bit more interesting than most of the style, though it seems like more could have been done considering how big a brew it is.

I poured a 16oz can into my Saranac shaker glass. It was canned on 11/24/15 and cost $3.90 ($0.24 per ounce).

Appearance: Dark brown in color approaching black; slightly translucent. Pours to a two-finger, tan, creamy head which retains and laces fairly well due to the nitrogen widget.

Smell: Sweet notes of mixed nuts, toffee and roasted malt.

Taste: If you want a brown ale, you get a brown ale with Saranac Disruption. Fairly sweet with the usual flavors of toffee, caramel and lightly roasted malt. Quite porter-ish in the presentation, but a tad more rustic and nutty. Nitro beers all tend to have a similar taste and you can’t help but be reminded of Guinness. There’s nothing off about this beer, but there’s not a lot to cling to, either. It’s too mild for its own good.

Drinkability: It’s quite surprising that Saranac Disruption is 7% ABV since it has the mouthfeel of something much lighter. A tad watery in texture, though that seems to be normal with nitro brews. I like the smoothness and the fact it finishes clean. Still, for such a weighty brew it’s far too inefficient with its palette – I expect much more complexity and robustness. If this were 4% it’d be understandable. 
Grade: 6/10