Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wittekerke Rosé

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 5/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 12/20
Chad9976 (1139) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 30, 2014
I poured a 25cl can into a flute glass. It had a best before date of 8/28/15 and cost $3.49 ($0.41 per ounce).

Appearance: Pale pinkish hue with some large sediment chunks floating around. Initially pours to a large, white, foamy head, though it mostly evaporates but does leave some lacing on the glass.

Smell: Any kind of raspberry flavoring scent. Does not smell authentic. However, it does not smell bad.

Taste: I didn’t think it was possible for a Belgian brewery to actually make lousy editions of their own beers, but apparently Bavik Brewery has managed to do so. I wasn’t a fan of their Wittekerke witbier, though I had high hopes the Wittekerke Rosé would be an improvement. Fruit beers are difficult to screw up, but somehow it happened with this beer. Basically, it just tastes very fake. It’s overly sweet and cloying with no authenticity to it at all. That’s odd, considering raspberry puree tends to taste great in wheat-based beers. It doesn’t taste like jam, it’s closer to Starburst candy. In fact, the ingredients listed on the can indicates the beer several artificial sweeteners in it. I usually dig sweet beers, but this is extremely cloying – so much so it’s off-putting.

Drinkability: Drinking a 4.3% ABV fruit beer on a hot summer’s evening is usually a winning combination. But in the case of Wittekerke Rosé, it really isn’t benefited by the situation. Because it’s so sweet and faux-tasting it’s difficult to drink in more than small sips. The mouthfeel is thin with a watery texture and calm body, but there’s a raspberry sweetener aftertaste that’s a little annoying. I’m glad this only came in a 25cl can, as any more would be a challenge to finish. 
Grade: 4/10

New England "beercation" (part 1)

I’ve gone on beer-centric road trips many times, but they’re usually just for a day or maybe a weekend at most. I’ve never taken a true “beercation” until recently when I went on a 600-mile journey around New England with my girlfriend Renée. I’ve always wanted to check out the New England beer scene, but instead of going to one city or even one state and visiting every brewery, bottle shop, and gastropub, we thought it would be fun to peruse a few beer towns and see what we’d find.
Burlington, Vermont
I’ve been hearing great things about Burlington for years, but this was actually my first time visiting. It’s one of those beautiful tourist towns with a lot of local dining and drinking establishments. We decided to try the Vermont Pub & Brewery for dinner, and it was definitely a good choice. Though it looks like an office building from the outside, it has an authentic “old school” pub look on the inside. They had a dozen beers on tap, so we ordered a sampler flight of them all. One that stood out in particular was “Sunset Vibration,” a Scotch Ale that was brewed in collaboration with Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel out of Montreal (note: I sampled a ton of beer over the course of this beercation, so please don’t expect detailed tasting notes and reviews).Vermontpubandbrewery
After dinner, we walked around town trying to find Heady Topper. I’ve had it many times, but never on tap and Renée had never tried it. Ironically enough, we found it in cans at an empty dive bar with the world’s saddest-looking pool table in the back. It was just delivered the day before and I could tell it was fresh by the intense bitterness and resin flavor. I think I actually prefer it with a little age so the citrus comes out; otherwise it’s very piney and herbal-tasting. Renée liked it, and that made me happy.
We continued our pub crawl at “Das Bierhaus” – a German-themed pub that seems very… corporate. It’s like something you’d see at Disney World or other such venue, where everything is based on clichés and stereotypes. Ah well, at least the beer menu was impressive and the service was good. I was able to try an actual German gose for the first time and really enjoyed it.
We finished the night at The Farmhouse Tap & Grill, which had a fantastic draught selection, including two Hill Farmstead beers which I of course ordered. Unfortunately, by this point my palate was severely fatigued, so I doubt these beers tasted the way they’re meant to. If you’re going to Burlington for a pub crawl, I’d recommend starting out fresh at this restaurant (or one like it).
Hooksett, New Hampshire
After spending Friday in Burlington we headed southeast to Portsmouth with a quick stop in Hooksett to visit White Birch Brewing Company. This is a fairly new brewery whose beers I first tried last year at the Beer Bloggers Conference in Boston. The brewery is located in a former car dealership, which is one of the more unique places I’ve seen for a brewery.
Renée and I tried seven of their beers, most of which were pretty good. I was especially enamored with the barrel-aged sour brown ale. When small breweries attempt sours, the result is usually average at best, but this beer was quite excellent. Just the right balance of sourness, tartness, and the brown ale base brew. There were only two bottles left that cost $5 each, so I grabbed both of them as well as another sour (they weren’t pouring samples of it, though).
White Birch also had a few Belgian-style beers that we really enjoyed, but ironically enough, their hoppy beers were only okay. I definitely recommend stopping by the tasting room if you’re in the area since samples are free and their beers are unique.whitebirch
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
There are a lot of breweries and brewpubs in and around the Portsmouth area; Smuttynose being the biggest craft brewery in the area (Redhook’s east coast facility is also located here, but that’s a macro brewery now). We weren’t interested in brewery tours, we just wanted to check out the local food and beer scene. We checked out an interesting restaurant called The Blue Mermaid, which looks like someone’s house that was turned into a gastropub. The lobster quesadilla and roasted chicken pizza were both great.bluemermaid
Afterwards, we walked around the block to the famous Portsmouth Brewery. Renée and I split a flight of 12 beers that was only $12 (by far the best value of any flight at any brewpub I’ve ever seen). There wasn’t one boring beer in the flight, and most were very good to excellent. The best of the dozen was a delicious coffee IPA. It’s a strong, East Coast-style IPA at the core with a lot of piney notes, but finishes with a strong taste of coffee that complements the hops perfectly. I would love to homebrew something like this!portsmouthbrewery
Ironically, it wasn’t until we returned to our hotel that I realized there were two more brewpubs only a few blocks away in either direction that had closed earlier that evening.

To be continued…

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Two Roads No Limits Hefeweizen

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 13/20
Chad9976 (1138) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 29, 2014
I poured a 16oz can into a weizen glass. There was a freshness date, but it was smeared and unreadable. The can cost $3.60 ($0.23 per ounce).

Appearance: Yellow hue with slightly hazy body. Effervescence visible. Pours to a three-finger, white, foamy head which never completely dissipates but doesn’t leave much lacing.

Smell: The usual banana-like esters, though not as pungent as better examples of the style. Some lemon notes as well.

Taste: I think you can judge a brewery on how well they’re able to brew “standard” beer styles like a hefeweizen, pale ale, brown ale, porter, etc. These are styles that are hard to screw up, so I was a little surprised drinking Two Roads No Limits Hefeweizen since it was just decidedly average. It has the classic hefeweizen flavors, but they are much milder than they should be. You get the classic banana taste, though this brew has a surprising amount of lemon character to it. Not much in the way of clove spice, applesauce, or bubblegum sweetness. I suppose they’re there, but you really have to look for them. Upon my first few sips I tasted a slight vegetal off-flavor. It might be DMS, but a brewery of this caliber shouldn’t be making rookie mistakes like that. Otherwise it’s a fine beer, but it could be so much better.

Drinkability: While the palette may be a little boring, at least the delivery is nice. The mouthfeel is calm and soft, though there’s noticeable carbonation vibration as it rolls across the tongue. It goes down easily and finishes clean. At 5% ABV it’s a little too big to be true session beer, but also doesn’t seem to take full advantage of its weight. I appreciate that it comes in 16oz cans as I could see this being refreshing straight from the container on hot summer days. 
Grade: 6/10

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sixpoint Rad

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1137) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 24, 2014
I poured a 16oz can into a mason jar. It had a best before date of 11/24/14 and came as part of a 4-pack for $9.49 ($2.37 per can or $0.15 per ounce).

Appearance: Pumpkin-skin orange hue. Murky and opaque with some sediment visible. Initially pours to a large, light orange, soapy head, though it completely dissipates and leave no lacing on the glass.

Smell: Pink grapefruit and children’s cereal. A hint of authentic wheat beer esters.

Taste: So few breweries make an authentic radler anymore. Seems like everyone just takes a bunch of flavorings and mixes them with a generic lager or wheat brew and calls it a shandy. In the case of Sixpoint Rad, the goal was to create an authentic pre-packaged radler by mixing a wheat beer base with real grapefruit juice. The result is an authentic-tasting… alcopop. While the flavor here is sweet, tart and enjoyable, it really doesn’t seem like a beer to me since the grapefruit completely dominates the palette.

The taste is certainly unique. An odd combination of fruit-flavored cereal or candy, freshly-squeezed unsweetened grapefruit juice and just a hint of wheat beer somewhere underneath it all. It’s not a hefeweizen or pale wheat ale that happens to be fermented or flavored with fruit – the juice is a major component of the palette. How “good” this is depends on how much you like the grapefruit character. Personally, I find it to be tasty right off the bat, but about halfway through the serving I become a little bored of it. The sweetness is a little cloying, and the lack of genuine “beer” character leads me to see this as a flavored malt beverage. I appreciate the uniqueness of the product since there isn’t anything like it the market, but I prefer my beer to taste like beer.

Drinkability: The best reason to drink Sixpoint Rad is for its performance value. At only 3.2% ABV, it’s remarkably light and intended to be drank as a refresher and a session brew. Of course, the fact it has a decent taste doesn’t hurt, either. The mouthfeel is a little thin and flat as the carbonation dies down much too quickly. It finishes mostly clean, though there is a lingering tartness that’s washed away with another swig. The kind of alcoholic beverage beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers can both enjoy. 
Grade: 6/10

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Samuel Adams Rebel IPA

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1136) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 24, 2014
I poured a 16oz can into the official Samuel Adams glass. It was canned on 3/12/14 and cost $2.49 ($0.16 per ounce).

Appearance: Clear golden, lager-like appearance with plenty of visible carbonation. Pours to a large, white, foamy head which retains and laces quite well.

Smell: Light hop notes of flowers and citrus-flavored candy.

Taste: It’s amazing that America’s biggest craft brewery took this long to introduce an IPA into its perennial offerings. True, Samuel Adams has released one-off IPAs over the years, but never have they gone this far with their marketing. Calling the beer “Rebel IPA” and packaging it in a can using a design that looks an awful lot like a BrewDog label is quite bold for them. And while the beer itself is perfectly fine, it is in no way rebellious or game-changing. Quite the opposite, actually – it’s right there in the middle of the bell curve.

Since “West Coast Style” is clearly marked on the can, this beer must then be compared to those of that region. It bears some resemblance to them, but only slightly. Instead of being citrusy and juicy, it’s more flower-like with a surprisingly sweet taste to its hoppiness. There’s definite candy taste to it, as well, especially of the sucker variety. There’s no dank character and certainly no pine or resin. In fact, it’s got only average bitterness – which is fine, though I’d prefer more. It claims to be a balanced brew, but the hops are clearly the star here. There’s a strong malt base to it than you’d get from a Stone brew, but I would not describe it as a malty IPA per se. Overall, it’s a decent IPA and it would be a good “starter IPA” considering the brewery’s audience, but it cannot really compare to a true West Coast IPA.

Drinkability: I was surprised with the ease I was able to throw back Samuel Adams Rebel IPA. The mouthfeel is rather calm, slightly thick, and has a smooth texture. It should be crisper and should crackle across the tongue. It doesn’t take full advantage of its 6.5% ABV weight, and drinks and feels more like a standard pale ale. 
Grade: 7/10

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Shmaltz/Terrapin Reunion Ale ‘13

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 17/20
Chad9976 (1135) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 23, 2014
I poured a 22oz bottle into a tulip glass. There was no freshness date (my friend at the brewery tells me it was released in August of 2013). I bought it at the brewery for $7 ($0.32 per ounce).

Appearance: Seemingly opaque black but actually a deep blood/ruby red hue. Pours to a large, tan, soapy head which mostly dissipates and leaves some lacing on the glass.

Smell: Definitely the brown malts plus sweet flavors of coconut, chocolate and coffee.

Taste: Everyone’s making imperial stouts these days, but why not imperial brown ales? It’s a style that’s under-utilized and overlooked, so it’s nice to see it given some proper respect in the form of “Reunion Ale ‘13” – a collaboration brew between Shmaltz and Terrapin. Though the bottle I’m reviewing is nearly a year old, it’s held up extremely well. Big bold flavors of toasted malts, milk chocolate and coffee. It’s definitely not a hop-forward beer so it hasn’t lost much by aging. If anything, it’s become more sweet, and that’s something I’m okay with.

Right away there’s a strong sweetness of dark toasted malt. It doesn’t have the intense bitterness or burnt-like flavor of deeply roasted malt, so the variation is quite interesting. There’s a taste akin to toasted coconut or baker’s chocolate, though that could be the cocoa nibs and cinnamon (there’s no coconut in this beer). Mild bitterness at the apex and on the back end, though not so much from hops (which don’t really stand out) but from coffee. A medium roast blend that’s lasted surprisingly well after a year in the bottle (coffee tends to fade quickly). Some bitter dark chocolate on the finish with just a minor alcohol warmth that ties up everything nicely. A great dessert beer, and a beer that’s commendable for its originality.

Drinkability: Judging by the label, Shmaltz/Terrapin Reunion Ale ’13 would seem to be the type of beer you have to prep for. However, after just a sip or two it’s clear that this is not intimidating at all. The mouthfeel is well carbonated and more of a medium body with no cloying characteristics at all. It’s calm and comfortable in the mouth with just the slightest warming sensation. Even at 8% ABV, I had no trouble drinking the entire bottle myself (and rather quickly, too). 
Grade: 9/10

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Westbrook Gose

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1135) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 22, 2014
I poured a 12oz can into a goblet. It was canned on 6/16/14 and cost $3.20 ($0.27 per ounce).

Appearance: Gold hue over a hazy body. Plenty of initial carbonation, but settles down quickly. Pours to a small, white, soapy head which completely dissipates and leaves no lacing.

Smell: Slightly mild nose with distinct sour candy scent and a hint of lemon.

Taste: Everyone loves sours, but up until recently it was only the really expensive, rare, high alcohol sour beers that were en vogue. Now sessionable sours like Berlinner Weise and Gose are all the rage. That’s okay, because they’re easier to come by and actually quite affordable; Westbrook Gose being a good example of what I mean. This might be best described as alcoholic lemonade (authentic, homemade, hand-squeezed lemonade – not that mass-produced stuff that’s just a chemical cocktail). The palette is simplistic and repetitive in that there’s pretty much only two flavor characters here: a tartness with a slight lemony taste and a sourness like candy. Nothing in the way of genuine malt or hop character, though those traits aren’t meant to stand out anyway. The salt presence accentuates the tartness – there’s no astringency like that of sea water.

Drinkability: It’s nice to see low ABV beers that are truly refreshing like Westbrook Gose come in cans, as this is the kind of beer you can enjoy straight from the container without missing out on much of the experience. This is a very easy beer to drink as the mouthfeel is thin and crisp, but never becomes flat. The tartness and sourness are not challenging to get past (especially when enjoyed cold). At only 4% ABV this is an ideal session beer for summer. 
Grade: 8/10

Monday, July 21, 2014

Stillwater Classique

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1134) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 21, 2014

I poured a 12oz can into a mug. It was canned on 6/16/14 and cost $3.20 ($0.27 per ounce).

Appearance: Bright lemon skin yellow hue over a hazy body. Plenty of spastic carbonation can be seen. Pours to a large, bright white, soapy head which mostly dissipates and leaves little lacing.

Smell: Lemon fruit/peel/grass/pith, etc. A hint of hay or grass.

Taste: Stillwater Classique is one of the most unique beers I’ve ever drank. A lot of breweries are doing ale styles as lagers, but this is just the opposite. According to my sources it was modeled after the old “National Bohemian” adjunct lager recipe, but fermented with saison yeast. That makes it difficult to classify, style-wise. Saison? Cream Ale? Specialty Grain? Premium Lager? Beers like this prove that styles really don’t matter anymore.

As for the taste, it definitely has a lot of saison-like qualities. There’s a strong lemony presence from beginning to end, though some of that has to do with the hops I’m sure. Citrusy sweetness and tartness are present right away, immediately followed by a classic saison-like flavor of crushed black pepper seasoning. Mild bitterness towards the end, though it’s more of an herb-like seasoning taste. No corn presence in the taste, which is fine by me (a lot of craft breweries use corn in their saisons, actually). Overall, a really interesting palette that could probably be enjoyed by anyone.

Drinkability: Beers of this style (macro lager or traditional farmhouse ale) were always meant for their performance value, and this one continues that trend in two great ways. Firstly, it’s ridiculously easy to drink as the mouthfeel is thin and crisp, but never watery. It’s genuinely refreshing while in the mouth and leaves just a slightly dry aftertaste. Secondly, this beer is only 4.5% ABV, but has the flavor of a much stronger beer. It’s difficult for me to find a beer this light in weight that doesn’t grow old quickly, but in the case of Stillwater Classique I would want to bring a lot of it on an outing. 
Grade: 9/10

Do you support Stone’s expansion?

Over the weekend, Stone Brewing Company out of Escondido, California, announced they’re finally making their vision of a European brewery a reality via this fancy YouTube video:

Stone is crowd-sourcing a portion of the funding with an IndieGoGo campaign. That doesn’t really surprise me as Stone has always been the kind of brewery the craft beer community supports, because this brewery has been ardent supporters of the community and industry since Day 1. So, it came as quite a shock to me that when this expansion was announced, a very vocal minority have responded with rather hostile backlash. Their beef is essentially this:
Yes, there are people who are seriously making the argument that they do not support Stone “sending jobs overseas.” This was my reaction when I read those comments: PicardFacepalm
The “sending jobs overseas” argument would really only make sense if Stone were closing their brewery in the United States and moving to a new one in Europe. However, that’s obviously not the case. It’s just a matter of a company who’s doing really well wanting to expand their reach even further. But a swarm of both Occupier-types and Good ‘Ol Boys are objecting to this for essentially the same reason. If that’s not irony I don’t know what is.

This is a great teaching moment, from both an philosophical and economics viewpoint. The craft beer community has been told over and over again to support small breweries and shun big breweries. But we’ve finally reached a point where one of those small breweries is now a pretty darn big brewery. Though Stone’s marketshare is miniscule compared to AB-InBev or Diageo or SAB MillerCoors, it’s pretty huge compared to, say, Brown’s Brewing Company.
  1. Is Stone’s expansion into Europe a good sign that craft beer is growing, or have they become another greedy corporation just trying to make more money?
  2. Do you support Stone’s use of crowd-sourcing? If so, will you contribute to the campaign? If not, why do you disagree with it?
  3. How do you think American craft beer, especially of the Stone variety, will be received in Germany and Europe as a whole?
  4. If a European “craft” (non-macro) brewery wanted to open a satellite brewery in America, what would be your reaction?
  5. Is “craft beer” strictly an American term and concept?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Nebraska EOS Hefeweizen

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1133) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 20, 2014
I poured a 12oz can into a weizen glass. There was no freshness date. It cost $3.25 ($0.27 per ounce).

Appearance: Straw yellow/white gold hue over a mostly clear body with plenty of energetic carbonation visible. Pours to a disappointingly small, white, soapy head which mostly dissipates and leaves no lacing.

Smell: Classic Bavarian yeast esters. Strong banana smell, some clove as well, though a bit milder than most.

Taste: There really isn’t much to say about Nebraska EOS Hefeweizen that I haven’t already said about a bunch of other beers of the style. This is definitely a to-spec brew, though that’s how I prefer my hefeweizens – leave experimentation to another style. You get all the classic flavor notes: banana, clove, bubblegum and maybe a hint of vanilla. I also detect a slight tanginess – I’ve noticed this in many wheat beers that aren’t too strong in body. It could be due to the can being old (but with no freshness date I can only speculate). I really do enjoy the palette here, I just wish it were a more robust.

Drinkability: Quite simply, Nebraska EOS Hefeweizen is highly quaffable. The mouthfeel is thin, with a smooth texture and the carbonation crackles from beginning to end. It’s extremely refreshing while in the mouth and finishes almost completely clean with just a slightly fruity aftertaste. It seems much lighter in body than its 5.2% ABV weight would otherwise indicate. Outdoors on a hot summer’s day I could see this being easily sessionable. 
Grade: 7/10

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Evil Twin Bikini Beer

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1132) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 19, 2014
I poured a 12oz can into a tulip glass. I was canned on 4/29/14 and cost $3.20 ($0.27 per ounce).

Appearance: Glowing shade of white gold. Slightly hazy, but some carbonation is visible. Pours to a two-finger, white, soapy head which retains and laces well.

Smell: Light herbal aroma, with hints of seasonings and citrus. Interesting combination.

Taste: Session IPAs are all the rage these days, though I think Evil Twin Bikini Beer was one of the pioneers of the style. What sets it apart is the fact it truly is sessionable at only 2.7% ABV, yet it has the flavor and body of something almost twice its size. Hops play a major role here, from beginning to end in terms of both flavor and bitterness. Up front there’s a light citrusy component of lemon or orange peels, with an underlying dry bitterness. I get notes of green tea through the middle, but a strong herbal sensation on the finish. A mixture of basil or pesto or oregano – yet it’s still quite mild overall. The only bummer is there’s not much in the way of true malt distinctiveness, though given the lightweight of the brew that’s not surprising. This walks a fine line between what is and is not a novelty beer, as it could go either way for me.

Drinkability: Simply having a light body does not a session beer make. Evil Twin Bikini Beer is one of the few rare hop-centric session beers that’s not ridiculously one dimensional. While the mouthfeel is thin, it’s consistently carbonated and has absolutely no watery texture or consistency whatsoever. It’s refreshing while in the mouth, and would be ideal for warm weather situations. 
Grade: 7/10

Friday, July 18, 2014

Brown's Imperial Stout (2012 vintage)

It's time to clear out my "beer cellar". I actually reviewed this beer when it was fresh back in 2012 (link below). I'm not sure why I decided to sit on my extra bottle for 2 1/2 years! Would it improve with age? Watch and find out.

Click here to watch my 2012 original video review:

Below is my 2012 original text review:
   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1131) - Albany, New York, USA - FEB 21, 2012

I poured a 22oz bottle into an official Brown’s tumbler.

Appearance: By far THE darkest beer I’ve ever seen! Liquid is as black as a black hole and it forms a huge, extremely dark brown, almost black foamy head. The lacing and retention on this beer is fantastic.

Smell: The usual imperial stout aroma of black licorice, black cherry, plum, and a touch of grain alcohol.

Taste: Because Brown’s Imperial Stout pours such a thick, foamy head, that initial taste of that initial swig is quite bitter. It’s a dry bitterness of roasted coffee and dark chocolate. Once the liquid passes the tongue it’s a whole new ballgame. Strong sweet notes of black cherry and plum with slight black licorice as it transitions to the finish. The final third of the palette is similar to the opening with the bittersweet flavors of dark chocolate, French roast coffee and just a touch of alcohol. It’s like a rum without the spice or a clear liquor with a touch of cinnamon.

That’s not to say this beer is absolutely delicious. There seems to be a noticeable lack of roasted malt and the sweet elements seem a little cloying. That being said, the balance of the palette overall is impressive as the sweet side never becomes sickly sweet and the bitter side never becomes too dry.

Drinkability: The bottle indicates the beer is 10.4% ABV, but the brewer’s website says 10.2%. So either way, you can tell Brown’s Imperial Stout is a pretty hefty beer. But unlike most double-digit ABV stouts, there is little to no alcohol presence here. Only the faintest hint of alcohol warmth, which is fine because it blends well with the natural tastes of the beer. The mouthfeel is fairly thick, but extremely soft. One of the most comfortable beers I’ve ever had, actually. The aftertaste is a tad dry and somewhat sticky, but easily tolerable. This would be an ideal pairing with dark, gamey meats or drank alone as a dessert. 
Grade: 9/10

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Saranac Every Day IPA

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 13/20
Chad9976 (1131) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 17, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into my Saranac-issued shaker glass. It came as part of the summer mix pack for $14.47 ($1.21 per bottle or $0.10 per ounce).

Appearance: Hazy shade of gold with slight orange hue. Pours to a two-finger white, foamy head which laces and retains fine.

Smell: Strong aroma of black and green tea.

Taste: Yet again, I believe Saranac has re-branded one of their brews. This beer was probably known as Saranac Session IPA, though it seems to have gained .2% ABV under its new moniker of “Every Day IPA” (which has apparently caused a copyright infringement of some sort according to ratebeer). Regardless, it’s a pretty standard entry into the highly-hopped pale ale/light-bodied IPA category. The label indicates a “trio” of West Coast-style hops, but the website lists four hop varietals – so which is it? Frankly, it tastes like an all-Centennial hop brew to me as I really don’t get the usual signatures of Mosaic, Simcoe, Citra, or Galaxy hops.

What I do get is mild herbal character akin to black and green tea. The malt presence is, not surprisingly, downplayed. Nothing particularly specific about the two-row or “Red X Malt” here. A consistent bitterness throughout the first half of the palette, but genuine hop taste on the finish. A combination of tea and orange juice concentrate with a significant dry bitter bite right as it finishes. It’s reminiscent of many other brews of the style, so it’s not especially unique. Though it’s not in any way bad, either. I have no problem with this beer.

Drinkability: While the taste of Saranac Every Day IPA didn’t blow my mind, I have to say I was surprised by just how quickly I was able to gulp it down. The mouthfeel is not all that thin and the body is not super effervescent, either. It’s got the body and mouthfeel of something in a medium range, but with the actual weight of a lighter beer at 4.9% ABV. That might technically be a tad high to truly be a session beer, but considering you only get two bottles in a mix pack, no one’s going to have difficulty getting them both down consecutively if they so choose. 
Grade: 6/10

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Saranac GPA (Ginger Pale Ale)

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 13/20
Chad9976 (1130) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 16, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle in my Saranac-emblazoned shaker glass. It had a best before date of 10/31/14 and came as part of a summer mix pack for $14.47 ($1.21 per bottle or $0.10 per ounce).

Appearance: Pretty golden hue over a clear body with some bubbles present. Pours to a two-finger, off-white, foamy head which laces and retains fairly well.

Smell: Strong ginger presence, though sweet like a ginger ale soda. A touch of amber malt and a hint of mint.

Taste: Saranac GPA appears to be Saranac’s flagship pale ale with the addition of ginger. They both have the same malts and hops according to the brewery’s website, so it’s a safe bet that’s the case. Interestingly enough, they taste like completely different brews. This one is all about the ginger – the English-style pale ale base is just that. Those looking for the subtleties of a beer of that style won’t find it here. That’s not to say it’s a bad beer, though. There’s a definite candy-like sweetness here from the ginger.

Much like the nose, the taste is reminiscent of ginger ale soda pop. I don’t know of too many sodas that have this persistent hop presence, though. The beer is mildly bitter, but strong enough to notice. What’s odd is there’s a distinct mint flavor as it follows through. A tingly, warming sensation at first from the ginger, and a cold, herbal-like character on the backend. I doubt the beer is brewed with mint, it’s just a flavor I’m picking up. Otherwise, it’s a rather one-dimensional/straightforward palette. For someone like me who’s not a fan of ginger in their beer it’s okay, though I’d imagine true ginger fans enjoying this much more.

Drinkability: With a crisp mouthfeel, medium body and persistent tingling sensation from the ginger, Saranac GPA is actually quite drinkable. It’s only 5.5% ABV, but feels like something a tad lighter, though I wouldn’t consider it all that sessionable. The spice palette would pair well with any kind of ginger-flavored meal, though it’s alright as a standalone beverage if drank cold and quickly. Once it warms up and the carbonation slows, it becomes a bit of a challenge. 
Grade: 6/10

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Yuengling Summer Wheat

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1129) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 15, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into a weizen glass. It was difficult to decipher the freshness code. It cost $2.25 ($0.19 per ounce).

Appearance: Hazy body over an orange/gold hue with spastic effervescence immediately visible. Pours to a two-finger, white foamy head which mostly dissipates and leaves little lacing.

Smell: Traditional Bavarian-style hefeweizen aroma of banana and clove, but not as pungent as most.

Taste: Now that Yuengling is a real “craft brewery” according to the Brewers Association, it’s time to hold them to the same standards as everyone else. You’d think the oldest brewery in American with German ancestry would make a lot more German-style beers than just adjunct lagers, so it’s nice to see them taking their hand at a hefeweizen. And while this is definitely a beer that conforms to the style, it’s not exactly the best example of the style as it seems deliberately mild. That’s okay, because the average Yuengling drinker probably expects and wants mild.

Yuengling Summer Wheat has all the makings of an Old World style wheat beer: banana, clove, and wheat all dominate the palette. It’s actually a little juicy-tasting on the first half, though there’s a slight tanginess or astringency on the second half. That’s common in many wheat beers, but usually when they’re old. Otherwise, this beer is rather unremarkable – for better or worse. I enjoyed the taste, but it didn’t amaze me. I think a few tweaks and it would be even better.

Drinkability: There’s one thing you want in a summer beer: easy drinkability, and you get that here. Yuengling Summer Wheat has a slightly thin mouthfeel with a slightly watery texture. It’s crisp at first, but calms down quickly to the point of being flat by the end. Still, it’s always smooth and refreshing while in the mouth. I’m not sure of the ABV because Yuengling, for some strange reason, never puts that information on the bottles nor on their website. I’d estimate it around 5% ABV, possibly even lower as it certainly seem sessionable. 
Grade: 7/10

Monday, July 14, 2014

Saranac Cloud Splitter

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 13/20
Chad9976 (1128) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 14, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into my official Saranac shaker glass. I had a best before date of 10/31/14 and came as part of a summer mix pack for $14.47 ($1.25 per bottle or $0.10 per ounce).

Appearance: Pale orange/lemony yellow hue. Unfiltered and opaque, though speckles of sediment are visible. Initially pours to a two-finger, white, soapy head which never completely dissipates and leaves only minor lacing on the glass.

Smell: Orange sherbet or Creamsicle, though mild. Some herbal hop character.

Taste: I’m quite sure “The Cloud Splitter” is simply Saranac White IPA re-packaged. Judging by the info on the brewery’s website, there really doesn’t seem to be any difference between the two. I seem to enjoy it a little less than I did when I originally had it two years ago. Though last time around it was more of a true white IPA whereas this time it seems a bit more of a generic American Pale Wheat Ale with more hops.

The use of Citra hops and orange peel create for a fairly strong orange flavor (not surprisingly). A little on the sweeter side at first with a bit of an orange popsicle taste. There’s bitterness there as well, though it’s contained and on the drier side. The second half of the palette is more rustic as it imparts a slightly spicy/herbal flavor from coriander and hops (not quite as intense as Mosaic hops, but of a similar flavor profile). There’s some astringency on the finish that probably doesn’t need to be there. Also, this brew doesn’t have the Belgian character of a true witbier. While not a bad beer, it just seems to have an identity crisis.

Drinkability: While the flavor here is a little odd, I do appreciate the fact Saranac Cloud Splitter is not a challenge to drink at all. The mouthfeel is on the lighter side with consistent crispness and smoothness going down. A slightly residual pasty sensation in the aftertaste, though it’s easily tolerable. It doesn’t seem to take full advantage of its 6% ABV weight, though. In fact, it’d be tempting to “session” both bottles on a hot summer’s day. 
Grade: 6/10

Where to take a beercation in New York?

ilovenewyorkbeerA friend of mine from Pennsylvania who takes beer-centric vacations (or “beercations” as I like to call them) throughout the northeastern states wrote me this morning asking where in New York he should go on his next excursion:

Do you know of any really nice two or three day trip places in New York that have good beer places like Hudson Valley, Lake George, Adirondack areas ? Thanks. Figured no better person to ask than somebody from there.

Most readers of this blog are from New York State, especially the Capital District area. So we probably have the most knowledge and strongest opinions about New York beer. So you’re probably the ideal audience to answer this question:

Where in New York would you advise an out-of-stater to visit for both good beer and good tourism?

I’ll wait until enough people have chimed in before I give my own answer, but in the meantime I have some links that would be useful for inquires of this nature:

New York State Brewers Association
Bill Dowd’s list of New York beverage trails
Rate Beer’s list of New York beer locations

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Blue Point Mosaic Session IPA

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1127) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 12, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 2/27/14 and cost $2.99 ($0.25 per ounce).

Appearance: Dark yellow/white gold hue. Cloudy body with visible carbonation. Pours to a one-finger, bright white, foamy head which laces and retains fine.

Smell: Tropical fruit juice but with distinct herbal presence.

Taste: Mosaic seems to be the trendy hop of the moment, and for good reason – it’s versatile in that it smells and tastes both tropical and herbal. An odd combination but it always works well. It’s such a great hop it really doesn’t need help, though Blue Point Mosaic Session IPA also includes Simcoe and Centennial hops which definitely add to the flavor profile of the beer. So yes, it’s plenty juicy… at first, but contains a strong herbal component of basil, pesto and black tea, plus an astringency of cat pee on the finish from the Simcoe hops. You wouldn’t think that would work, but it does – surprisingly well, actually. In fact, this character is so strong I can feel it in my sinuses after each swig. The malt component is, not surprisingly, quite light. Notes of lemon cough drops and a hint of honey. Without the hops, this would probably be a pretty boring blonde ale.

Drinkability: There’s definitely a difference between a hoppy pale ale and a session IPA and this beer is a great example of that. The body is rather light with a thin, but very crisp mouthfeel. It’s refreshing while crossing the tongue, but bitter enough to scrub it clean each time. It finishes mostly clean with just a residual starchiness. Blue Point Mosaic Session IPA might technically be a little too big to live up to its name consider it’s 4.8% ABV in weight, though an experienced drinker should have no problem with it. 
Grade: 7/10

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cisco Summer of Lager

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1126) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 10, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into a pilsner glass. It was bottled on 4/2/14 and cost $2.99 ($0.25 per ounce).

Appearance: Perfectly golden hue over a crystal clear body with plenty of carbonation visible. Pours to a small, bright white, frothy head which retains and laces very well.

Smell: Grassy hops, hay, a hint of lemon peel or citrus character.

Taste: We can’t get fresh Czech and German pilsners over here, so having an American take on the style that’s fresh and available is a nice alternative, like Cisco Summer of Lager for example. This is a no frills/by-the-book pilsner and it works because it is exactly what it’s supposed to be. A tasty beer of authentic all-malt base, some mineral character, and the hops aren’t skimped on, either.

Up front there’s a light sweetness from the golden malts. Some notes of light bread, crackers, and honey. The Noble hops impart some earthy/herbal bitterness as well as a mild spicy flavor, especially through the middle. Additionally sweetness on the finish with a touch of caramel. I’m genuinely surprised and impressed by not only how good this beer is, but by how much I enjoyed it.

Drinkability: Pale lagers and pilsners have their place in the beer world, especially in the summer, and as a seasonal, Cisco Summer of Lager does exactly what it’s supposed to do. The mouthfeel is thin, crisp, wet and refreshing with a clean aftertaste. It’s almost too easy to drink as I really like to savor the nuances here. At 5.5% ABV it’s just a tad heavier than I’d prefer, though it does seem quite efficient for its weight as there’s plenty of taste here. Extremely tempting to session. 
Grade: 8/10

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jack's Abby Sunny Ridge

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1125) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 8, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into a pilsner glass. There was no freshness date and it cost $2.50 ($0.21 per ounce).

Appearance: Lemony yellow hue over a hazy body with visible carbonation. Pours to a large, white, foamy head which never completely dissipates, but doesn’t leave much lacing.

Smell: Herbal/earthy hop aroma with some pilsner malt presence.

Taste: Pilsner is a style I don’t usually enjoy, but rather tolerate. So when a beer comes along like Jack’s Abby Sunny Ridge that is more than just tolerable and is in fact very good, it’s all the more appreciable. I’m not sure if this is a niche Czech or German style pilsner, though it’s better than most I’ve had of those style (both foreign and domestic). They’ve clearly opted for a hoppier version than most and it works well since there’s genuine taste to the brew other than just wet pilsner malt. Some distinct peppery Noble hops are prominent from the beginning to end, imparting hints of oregano or peppercorn. Some notes of lemonpeel as well, though that’s probably just due to the malt. There’s a slight cracker-like character here as well, giving it a bit of starchy flavor and dry bitterness. Otherwise, it finishes clean.

Drinkability: This isn’t a summer seasonal brew, though it does the job of one and then some. The mouthfeel is light to medium with constant effervescence and a refreshing sensation every time it crosses the tongue. Almost no lingering aftertaste is much appreciated as well. Jack’s Abby Sunny Ridge is 5.1% ABV though it has a lot of flavor for a relatively light body and is sessionable for sure. 
Grade: 8/10