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

Monday, July 7, 2014

Interview with Deanna Fox (Times Union reporter, blogger, Silly Goose farmer)

Regular readers of the Times Union are probably familiar with Deanna Fox. She is a freelance reporter and photographer for the TU, and also writes the Eat Local food blog where she covers the local foodie scene and its many events. Additionally, Deanna teaches cooking classes at Different Drummer’s Kitchen at Stuyvesant Plaza and she owns her own “Silly Goose Farm.” And if that’s not enough, she’s also a major craft beer enthusiast.
I thought it would be fun to interview her so everyone could get to know a little more about the woman behind the images and words.

Here’s what I asked her:
  1. Are you a freelance reporter or a staff writer for the TU?
  2. Where are you from originally?
  3. Did you go to school for culinary arts and/or journalism?
  4. How did you get into food and cooking?
  5. When and how did you start blogging and reporting?
  6. You also teach cooking classes at Different Drummer’s Kitchen, how did that come about?
  7. Did you become a craft beer enthusiast because you were a foodie or vice versa?
  8. Have you ever done any classes about cooking with beer?
  9. Do you ever cook with beer at home?
  10. Did you ever have any epiphany moment with good beer?
  11. What are you some of your favorite styles?
  12. What types of beer don’t you like?
  13. Have you ever homebrewed?
  14. What are your favorite places for beer in the Capital District?
  15. Would you ever consider taking a fulltime job in the beer industry like being a PR rep or a sales rep?
  16. Do you think the country seems to be polarized where half of us just eat junk food all the time and the other half is blowing all their money on organic/gourmet/locally-sourced food?
  17. How closely do you follow the craft beer industry and what do you think the future holds?
Check out Deanna on the web here:
And while you’re here, check out this review of Southern Tier’s “Grand Arbor” saison we shot before the interview:

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Maine Beer Another One

   AROMA 9/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 17/20
Chad9976 (1124) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 6, 2014
I poured a 500ml bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 6/24/14 and cost $7.99 ($0.47 per ounce).

Appearance: Lemon-skin yellow hue over a very hazy body, though carbonation can be seen streaming up from the bottom of the glass. Pours to a large, gleaming white, fluffy head with leaves thick rings of lacing around the glass and maintains a consistent layer on top of the beer.

Smell: The epitome of the “New England IPA” style with a pungent nose of tropical fruit and herbal/earthy characteristics. Very enticing.

Taste: We here in the Northeast have been lucky to get so many great IPAs coming out of the New England states in the last few years. There’s a commonality to them as far as aroma and tastes goes, though the one thing they have in common is they’re delicious beers. Maine Beer Company’s “Another One” lives up to its name: another one in a long line of great IPAs. Nothing wrong with that.

This beer definitely follows the path blazed by Heady Topper and many brews of the style. There’s a light maltiness with notes of honey, but otherwise the hops dominate. A delectable delivery of tropical and stone fruit right off the rip: pineapple, mango, passion fruit, pomegranate, etc. Not citrusy per se, though. There’s an underlying spiciness which becomes very apparent on the second half. Notes of basil, pesto or oregano can be found here. It’s definitely bitter, but not aggressively so. Just the right amount of IBUs to wow the palate without ruining it. My only complaint would be the maltiness is just a tad underplayed, but it’s still strong enough to stand up to the hops.

Drinkability: What makes great beers great aside from their taste is when they’re actually highly drinkable. At 7% ABV, “Another One” isn’t quite a behemoth, though it’s far from a session beer. The mouthfeel is rather soft with an almost creamy-like texture, with consistent crispness throughout. Refreshing for a moment, though there’s a slightly starchy aftertaste, but the hops aren’t saturating or obnoxious in their stay. It’s very tempting to throw back several pints of these. 
Grade: 10/10

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Shock Top Belgian White (2014 re-review)

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 13/20
Chad9976 (1123) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 5, 2014
I poured a 16oz can into a weizen glass. It was canned on 5/1/14 and cost only $1 ($0.06 per ounce).

Appearance: Hazy, translucent shade of light orange/maize. Visible carbonation. Pours to a large, white, frothy head which mostly dissipates and leaves little lacing on the glass.

Smell: A generic macro beer aroma with hints of orange and spice. Not something I’d usually identify with a witbier smell.

Taste: Shock Top Belgian White is probably the best beer made by Anheuser-Busch, and that’s really say something. Though, as true to the style goes – it has quite a ways to go to be a good example. I can see what it’s meant to do – be light enough tasting so as not to scare away the macro lager drinker, but unique enough to find interesting. In that aspect it works. Of course, holding it to the same standards as craft beer it is only alright at best (but again, that’s impressive considering the brewer).

There’s a general wheat flavor up front coupled with a light orange sherbet taste. A touch of coriander gives it a little zing or zip or zestiness, though this is in no way a spicy palette per se. I notice a slight tang or astringency on the finish, and just like the nose, there’s a nondescript “macro” quality to the palette as a whole here. Personally, I find it tolerable and I can appreciate it for what it is. Though I can understand snobs who hate it as well as newbies who love it. To me it’s just okay.

Drinkability: If you’re going to drink Shock Top Belgian White, the best way to enjoy it is as a summer seasonal (even though it’s available year-round). It has a refreshing quality to be sure, and it leaves a clean aftertaste, which is more than can be said for most macro beers. The mouthfeel is light with consistent carbonation and a smooth finish. It doesn’t seem to take full advantage of its 5.2% ABV body, as it drinks like something even lighter. I’m sure the average macro drinker would have no problem sessioning it in the summer, though. 
Grade: 6/10
NOTE: Read my 2009 text review here:

Watch my 2009 video review here:

Watch Jay and I review Shock Top vs Blue Moon in a blind tasting:

Friday, July 4, 2014

Saranac Juggler-Naut

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 13/20
Chad9976 (1123) - Albany, New York, USA - JUL 4, 2014
I poured a 12oz bottle into my Saranac shaker glass. It had a best before date of 10/31/14 and came as part of the summer mix pack for $14.49 ($1.20 per bottle or $0.10 per ounce).

Appearance: Extremely cloudy orange/brownish hue. Pours to a small, white, soapy head which mostly dissipates and leaves no lacing.

Smell: Mild nose with hint of pomegranate or other fruit. Generic wheat scent.

Taste: I’m pretty sure Saranac Juggler-Naut is more or less the same recipe as Saranac’s Pomegranate Wheat they released in their summer mix packs the last few years. It didn’t do much for me back in 2009 and it doesn’t do much for me now in 2014. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect of a brewery of this caliber making a beer of this style. I’m sure it’s intended for the mainstream beer drinker, which explains why the palette is on the mild side. There’s nothing particularly niche about the taste here. A general wheaty flavor and a light taste of pomegranate on the finish. Some bitterness through the mild, but I wouldn’t interpret this as being an IPW in any way. It’s inoffensive, but far from being truly delectable or unique. It’s just meh.

Drinkability: While the taste leaves something to be desired, the delivery is right on point. The body is quite light with a thin, fairly tepid mouthfeel and a smooth, clean finish. As a summer refresher it does its job well and at only 4.8% ABV it’s pretty sessionable (though you only get two bottles in a mix pack anyway). 
Grade: 5/10