Sunday, October 4, 2015

Bahamian High Rock Lager

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 12/20
Chad9976 (1468) - Albany, New York, USA - OCT 4, 2015
No matter where you go in the world, it seems like there’s a brewery churning out some golden suds in the vicinity. If you ever travel to the Bahamas, you’ll likely see beers from the Bahamian Brewery; High Rock Lager is their “premium” golden lager. It’s supposedly all-malt and it has a fairly sweet, clean taste and finish. It’s honestly not bad, but it’s not really good either.

I poured an 11.2oz bottle into a shaker glass. It was bottled on 8/19/15 and was given to me by my parents when they went there on a cruise (thanks, mom & dad!).

Appearance: Pure golden hue (not yellow); crystal clear with little carbonation visible. Pours to a small, white, foamy head which actually manages to leave a bit of lacing.

Smell: Strong skunky scent likely due to the green bottle; though use of Noble hops may account for that as well. A touch of green apple, but that’s acceptable. No malt distinctiveness, though.

Taste: I’ve drank enough so-called “premium” green bottle lagers to discern between good and bad examples of the style. I’d probably consider this beer as being on the “good” team (albeit just barely). This is because there’s a noticeable sweet honey-like flavor to the palette. It’s a bit like cereal, though it’s definitely not corn flakes (this beer contains no adjuncts, if the branding is to be believed). I detect faint notes of green apple tartness, which is fairly normal for these types of brews. It’s not nearly as bad as certain American versions of the style. A bit of a spicy hop sensation at the apex with a clean sensation on the finish. I think this beer could be made to be genuinely flavorful with a few tweaks, but as it stands it’s unremarkable.

Drinkability: Considering the location of the brewery and their target demographic, it comes as no surprise that Bahamian High Rock Lager is probably intended for easy drinking and in that aspect it succeeds. The mouthfeel is light, but not paper thin. In fact, it actually seems to have a creaminess to the texture. It is refreshing while in the mouth and a virtually clean aftertaste is nice. At 5.6% ABV it’s rather big for a beach beer and much too heavy to session. Put this in cans and give it some real flavor and it’d be a winner.

RATING: 5/10

Friday, October 2, 2015

Otter Creek Backseat Berner

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1467) - Albany, New York, USA - OCT 2, 2015
I can’t believe Otter Creek has never had a year-round IPA in its portfolio until now. This is a brewery that has been putting out some great specialty IPAs in recent years, but now that I think about it, I haven’t had a standard single IPA from them until “Backseat Berner.” This beer was included in a New England-style IPA showdown my friends and I held this summer and it came in last, unfortunately. I thought it was pretty good drinking it blind at the time and drinking it straight up now I have the exact same opinion.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a flared snifter. It was bottled on 9/8/15 and cost $2.60 ($0.22 per ounce).

Appearance: Hazy shade of flame orange. Particulates can be seen floating in suspension as can some carbonation bubbles. Pours to a fairly large, white, frothy head which laces and retains beautifully.

Smell: A bit of an earthy nose with notes of pine and a bit of spice rack dust. Just a faint hint of citrus.

Taste: I’m not sure if this beer truly qualifies as a New England-style IPA despite the brewery and its Vermont location. Most beers of the style tend to have huge tropical fruit aroma and an herbal/spicy/grassy flavor and bitterness. This is a bit more in the traditional East Coast style with pine as the main driving note. Immediate resiny flavor as soon as it hits the tongue, quickly followed by a fairly sharp, bone dry bitterness. It does have the grassy hop flavor and spicy sensation of other brews of the general sub-style (no, that’s not an oxymoron), plus an underlying juicy flavor, but it is more of a background note. Not much in the way of malt distinctiveness; though there is enough to provide the palette with a semblance of balance.

Drinkability: At 7% ABV and 68 IBUs, Otter Creek Backseat Berner IPA is arguably a Double IPA, but they’re marketing it as a single (only beer nerds like us will care about that anyway). It certainly drinks like a single as it’s well-carbonated with consistent crispness rather than anything sticky or syrupy. No alcohol presence whatsoever, though the hops definitely linger and are quite drying. Definitely a good beer to stand up to food with a lot of flavor, especially hot wings.

RATING: 8/10

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Ballast Point Dead Ringer

   AROMA 4/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 5/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 11/20
Chad9976 (1466) - Albany, New York, USA - OCT 1, 2015
Ballast Point is quickly becoming one of my favorite breweries. Up until recently, they’ve seemed incapable of error. But with “Dead Ringer,” their entry into the Oktoberfest/Marzen style, they finally dropped the ball. When my friends and I reviewed this in a blind taste test last month it was awful. This particular bottle is much better than that one, though it’s still not that good. It’s possible something may have happened to this beer in transit to my area, but whatever the case may be, it’s just a disappointing experience.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a shaker glass. It was bottled on 8/4/15 and cost $3.05 ($0.25 per ounce).

Appearance: Pretty copper/mahogany hue; fairly clear with some carbonation visible. Pours to a small, off-white, soapy head which nearly completely dissipates and leaves no lacing.

Smell: Fairly typical dark lager aroma, but a strong presence of something off. A bit of a cranberry scented candle (and I don’t mean that as a compliment). More mild than bad, but far from good.

Taste: Going into this beer, I prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. It’s strange when you review a beer you had a bad experience with. I was hoping it was just the bottle last time, but it doesn’t appear to have been an isolated incident. There’s definitely a familiar Marzen character here with the presence of slightly sweet darker malt and just a hint of fruity flavor (maybe some toffee, too). Unfortunately, it’s completely obscured by a sour tanginess to the palette. Much like the nose, there’s a presence akin to cranberry in here: tart and a little astringent. No hop character that I can detect. The flavor seems to worsen as it warms. I don’t know what the deal is with this beer, but I do not like it.

Drinkability: It always surprises me when a bad beer is nominally high in alcohol. Ballast Point Dead Ringer is 6% ABV, which isn’t unusual for the style. That being said, it does not deliver what I expect in a beer with that potency. The mouthfeel is tepid, a bit oily, and a little warming. It finishes clean, but it is not refreshing at all. There’s no challenge to drink this, but there’s no enjoyment, either.

RATING: 3/10

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Founders beer dinner at The Hollow Bar + Kitchen

iphone 281When Dora Philip took over ownership of the former Bayou Cafe and rebranded it as The Hollow Bar + Kitchen a few years ago, she began transitioning it into a destination for foodies and beer lovers. Last night, they hosted a beer dinner featuring Founders Brewing Company, which is one of my personal favorite breweries (not to mention one of the biggest and most respected American craft breweries). Though I think The Hollow Bar has been a legitimate craft beer venue for some time now, this beer dinner definitely erased all doubt.

The first thing that caught my attention was the fact tickets were only $40 per person. It’s rare I see beer dinners for less than $50 or even $60 these days. The menu included four courses as part of the dinner with an optional appetizer course with a full pint of Founders All Day IPA for only $5 (that’s a great deal, too).

I of course ordered the appetizer, which was three curry vegetable wontons and an apricot glaze made with the beer (in fact, every item on the menu was partially made with beer). The deep fried wontons really matched up with the All Day IPA quite well. Both are pretty light in flavor, and the grassy/piney notes of the beer complemented the slightly spicy and vegetable flavor of the wantons. Getting a full pint in a souvenir glass (along with a bumper sticker and a bottle opener) was really nice, too.

iphone 282The first official course of the night was an interesting take on the usual salad. A large head of romaine lettuce was bisected and topped with roasted butternut squash, candied walnuts and Grana Padano cheese with Vidalia onion vinaigrette made with Centennial IPA (which, not surprisingly, was the beer paired with that course).

Normally, you don’t associate hoppy beers as something you’d pair with salad, but in this case it was surprising just how well they matched up. Centennial hops tend to have a very flowery character to them in both taste and aroma, so they play off the salad course very well. Additionally, Founders Centennial IPA is not extremely bitter or resiny; so the hops do not overpower the food at all. I’ll have to try this pairing at home some time.
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Next up was the soup course, dubbed “Greens and Beans,” which featured leeks braised in Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale and a few pieces of sausage [NOTE: the soup and entrée courses each had a vegetarian option]. While the soup and accompanying garlic bread were both really good, there was a bit of a snafu with this course. It was initially served with Founders Breakfast Stout due to their keg being mislabeled. I had a feeling something was off when I saw the beer was dark black instead of mahogany. Upon tasting it I noticed it was quite roasty and sweet and I highly doubted its identity. Sure enough, the servers came around with another tray of the correct beer shortly after the error was discovered.

Not that it was a big deal since everyone essentially got a free beer out of this. Though I will say neither the stout nor the Scotch Ale really complemented the soup. However, that’s not to say it distracted from it, either. I find lighter beers like saisons actually go best with vegetable soup.
iphone 289Moving on to the main course, diners were offered the choice of sautéed chicken or veggie chicken; which came with raspberry balsamic vinaigrette, watermelon salsa, and dirty rice. I of course opted for the real chicken and it was quite delectable. Very moist with a bit of a spicy kick to it. The use of watermelon as a garnish was really interesting as it worked as an interesting contrast to the meat.

The beer for this course was Founders Blushing Monk, which I would describe as the equivalent of an imperial framboise lambic at 9.2% ABV. It’s extremely sweet and a bit cloying, though it tastes completely authentic. It complemented the watermelon pieces nicely, though it was a bit distracting going up against the spice from the chicken and rice. An interesting choice, and I appreciate the creativity of this pairing, but it’s not something I would try again.

iphone 292Finally, dessert came which was a small piece of brown sugar cake with a cream cheese frosting made with Founders Breakfast Stout. That was supposed to be the beer for the dessert course, but it was accidentally served with the soup course. Patrons had the choice of another complimentary glass of this beer or they could upgrade to Founders KBS for a small fee. If you know me, you know Founders KBS is my all-time favorite beer, so of course it was worth a few dollars for a few ounces.

The cake was nice and moist, and the cream cheese frosting was, again, interesting and unique since most cakes tend to have a thick, super sweet sugary icing. As for the beer, well, it was pretty great as it always is. I got a lot of grape flavor from all the dark roasted malt used in the brew. The coffee wasn’t nearly as prominent as it is when this beer is released every April, but I did get some nice chocolate flavors and a lovely vanilla essence from the alcohol.

iphone 294I would have to say the beer dinner went well and was very satisfying. It wasn’t arranged like most events I have been to, though. You were allowed to sit anywhere in the restaurant and the two Founders reps – John and Tina – would go around to each table and talk about the beer and food combinations. The Hollow Bar’s new head chef, Anna Weisheit, also went around to each table after the dessert course had been served. That gave the format a personal touch, whereas most beer dinners the rep and/or chef addresses the entire audience all at once.

Lastly, I should mention that I finally got Dora Philip to sign my bottle of She’Brew Triple IPA. She was one of the contributors to that brew back in the Spring, and she appears on the bottle label. I had gotten all the other participants to sign it at the Shmaltz launch party in April. And coincidentally enough, the woman who had taken the photograph for the label – Heidi Benjamin – was also in attendance, so I had her sign it too.

I hope this is the first of many beer dinners at The Hollow Bar + Kitchen. The affordable price, vegetarian options, and opening seating really make for an enjoyable experience.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Against The Grain Citra Ass Down

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1465) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 28, 2015
I’m quite convinced the only reason I am able to get Against The Grain Citra Ass Down in my beer store here in upstate New York is due to the name. It’s clever and funny (for a pun), though the label is bizarre and ugly (seriously, that’s what they went with?!). As for the beer itself, it’s a very good brew, but it’s been done. This has characteristics of both east and west coast IPA with a hefty body and good drinkability. It’s not amazing, but at least it’s not disappointing.

I poured a 16oz can into a tulip glass. There was no freshness date. Thanks to Jason T. for this can!

Appearance: Fairly hazy shade of bright copper/pale orange. Slowly carbonation can be seen trickling up from within. Pours to a 2-3 finger white foamy head which retains and laces well enough.

Smell: Strong tropical fruit juice concentrate. Quite sweet with a bit of a floral or honey character. Some alcohol presence, too.

Taste: Since this is a double IPA, it’s no surprise that the first thing I notice is a strong bitterness with the taste of tropical fruit. I also get a fairly strong sensation of sweet maltiness; a touch of honey, caramel and some rum. The hops become quite grassy and earthy on the backend and impart a slight drying bitterness; quite different from the initial dank, almost sticky/syrupy sensation at the beginning. There’s a little bit of alcohol at play here as well, but it’s easy to overlook. This is what I would consider a well-balanced double IPA. It may not be especially unique for the style, but it definitely is good.

Drinkability: I don’t expect an 8.2% ABV beer to be refreshing, but Against The Grain Citra Ass Down is no challenge to drink at all. The mouthfeel is noticeably thick and not bubbly or crisp or at all. The texture is fairly smooth, though there is a bit of a warming sensation from the booze. Surprisingly enough, the hops do not linger on the palate; I actually get a slightly sweet aftertaste instead.

RATING: 8/10

A Trip to S&S Farm Brewery

iphone 260You’ve probably heard of New York’s “farm brewery law” by now: it’s a special license for breweries that use most (if not all) New York State-grown ingredients. In the case of S&S Farm Brewery, it’s completely apropos since it’s a brewery literally located on a farm and they grow most of their own malts and hops right there.

This tiny brewery is located in rural Rensselaer County in the town of Nassau. The taproom is only open to the public on Friday nights from 6 to 8pm. They also sell their beers at local farmer’s markets and a few are on tap at venues around the Capital District.

My friend Chris and I decided to head over there last Friday night. Of course, we foolishly waited until it was dark out and we didn’t arrive until shortly before 8pm. The drive there was quite the adventure. Since we came from Albany, we took Exit 11E off I-90 to Route 20. Not being familiar with the area, I just heeded my GPS’s commands and wound up taking a single-lane dirt road through the countryside. Not surprisingly, it was not ideal for my little 4-cylinder Toyota; and of course there were plenty of deer in the road along the way. If you make the trek to S&S, I highly recommend bypassing Mashodack Road in favor of Jefferson Hill Road, as it’s actually somewhat paved (see map).


When we pulled up to the farm we knew we were in the right place since there were about 20 cars parked in the area and as many people (including children) hanging out around the brewery. It’s a quaint scene; very Americana to be sure. I’m sure the patrons are all locals who meet up here on Friday evenings to wind down their week and chit-chat with friends. They say beer brings people together, and this is true even of the most rural areas.

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S&S Hayfield Blonde 005

Then we tried the Test Batch IPA, a 5.7% ABV American IPA made with hops grown right there on the farm. You won’t find this beer on their website since, as the name clearly states, it’s just an experimental brew for now. Chris and I both thoroughly enjoyed it, though.

S&S Test Batch IPA 001

I brought some 16oz growlers with me and got a fill of each of their own brews and did formal reviews of them the next day. You can click the links above to read my text review of each, or watch this video in which I review both:

I have to say I am quite impressed by the quality of S&S’s beers. Though I only tried two, they were good enough that I would consider making the trip back another time when they have more of their beers on tap. I’d recommend all craft beer lovers in the Capital District give them a try as well.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

White Birch Blueberry Berliner Weisse

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1464) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 27, 2015
I reviewed White Birch’s regular Berliner Weisse back in July and was not too keen on it. I decided to give the blueberry edition a try in hopes it would be an improvement. And indeed it is, but not by a whole lot. Much like the traditional version, this beer is pretty mild and unremarkable. The addition of blueberries does make the palette a little more interesting, though. 

I poured a 12oz can into a mug. There was no freshness date and it cost $2.60 ($0.22 per ounce).

Appearance: Hazy straw color; no visible carbonation. Pours to a small, white, soapy head which evaporates quickly and completely.

Smell: Fairly light nose overall with mild lacto and blueberry puree scents.

Taste: When you add fruit to a niche style brew it becomes a battle of the base brew versus the fruit addition. Is this beer a Berliner Weisse with blueberries or a fruit beer that’s a little tart and sour? Not being an expert on the style I’m not going to say how it compares to spec, though going by my experience it’s pretty familiar. A light palette with a bit of lemonade-like tartness right away. The blueberry flavor emerges on the second half and has a classic puree flavor; akin to that found in most blueberry-flavored foods and drinks. It’s neither authentic nor faux; but it is a nice addition. The sourness is pretty mild overall, though the blueberry does complement the beer’s natural tart and sour components quite nicely. If this were more strongly-flavored it would be pretty great, but it’s okay for what it is.

Drinkability: This is obviously the kind of beer that would work quite well in the summer. However, at 5.5% ABV it’s much too big to be considered a session beer. It’d be tempting to do so since the mouthfeel is very light, thin, and tepid. A brew like this should have champagne-like effervescence, but it’s a bit dull. Refreshing while in the mouth, which is nice, and a fairly clean aftertaste. Drinkable for sure, but one is all you need.

RATING: 6/10

Saturday, September 26, 2015

S&S Test Batch IPA

   AROMA 9/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1463) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 26, 2015
Test batch brews can be a gamble, since – as their name implies – they’re merely a test batch and may not be intended for permanent placement in a brewery’s portfolio. In the case of S&S Test Batch IPA, I hope that it does earn a spot on the regular lineup since it’s an impressive, unique and memorable IPA with both American and Southeast Pacific characteristics. It’s also remarkably drinkable and looks and smells great too. 

I poured a 16oz growler fill into a tulip glass. I had it filled at the brewery last night for $5 ($0.31 per ounce).

Appearance: Beautiful copper/orange hue with noticeable haze, though carbonation can still be see within. Pours to a 2-3 finger, bright white, frothy head which laces and retains extremely well.

Smell: A fruit basket aroma of stone and tropical fruits along with noticeable piney scents. A touch of pink bubblegum is present as well.

Taste: This beer is brewed with Cascade hops grown on-site at the farm brewery. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of piney hop character to be found in this brew. Right away, the pine jumps out and has just a touch of sticky/resiny character. There’s an accompanying bitterness that is firm, but restrained (I’d estimate it around 50-60 IBUs). The palette changes almost on a dime as it hits the apex and becomes sweeter and fruiter. Distinct flavors of kiwi, strawberry, mango, and bubblegum all emerge on the back end. A bit of a dry bitterness as well, though it’s perfectly in line with everything that proceeded it. The malt creates for standard amber/toffee character and supports the palette quite well without distracting from the hops (but does give it balance so as not to be a hop bomb). This is a textbook, to-spec American IPA and I really enjoy it.

Drinkability: I was worried that because this was a growler fill the body may have started to go flat by the time I drank it nearly 24 hours after the fill. Thankfully, S&S Test Batch IPA was as lively at home as it was at the tap room. This is at least a medium-bodied brew at 5.7% ABV; plenty of presence and weight in the mouth but with no alcohol distraction whatsoever. Smooth texture and soft body and still enough CO2 so as not to seem like sap. This is strong enough to stand up to a meal, though enjoying a pint on its own merit is quite enjoyable.

RATING: 9/10

S&S Hayfield Blonde

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1462) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 26, 2015
Farm breweries seem to be popping up everywhere these days. S&S Farm Brewery, located in Rensselaer County is literally a tiny nano brewery located on a farm in the middle of nowhere (my GPS took me down a dirt road to get there). But being small and obscure is no obstacle to brewing good beer if the brewers know what they’re doing. Hayfield Blonde is actually one of the most impressive brews of the style I can recall having – which is really saying something because this tends to be one of my least favorite styles because it tends to be bland and boring. Not that this sets the world ablaze, but I will say it has a plethora of taste, smells and looks good and is remarkably drinkable. 

I poured a 16oz growler into a tulip glass. I had it filled at the brewery for $5 last night ($0.31 per ounce).

Appearance: Definitely a blonde hue, though a bit dark and approaching gold/maize. Near crystal clarity with steady carbonation visible. Pours to a fairly large, white, foamy head that laces and retains quite well.

Smell: Has the overall scent of being on a farm with light grass and hay/straw notes. Clean floral scent as well. Raw pale grain aroma is strong – akin to smelling a handful of the barley itself.

Taste: Nobody really loves blonde ales because they tend to be bland and boring, so any brewery that can make a genuine blonde ale (not a pale ale or other style billed as a blonde ale) will impress me. Consider me impressed as the palette here meets all the criteria of a blonde: biscuity malt character, mild but noticeable floral/citrus hops; and a crisp, clean finish. There’s a lot of raw barley flavor here; almost cereal-like, but doesn’t have any residual sugary flavor or cloying sweetness. There may be some wheat in here which might account for the farmhouse hay/straw flavor. I notice a hint of honey flavor as well (not that it’s brewed with honey, just that some lighter grains can create for this taste). Once it warms I discover some caramel, too. Overall, a well-balanced, memorable brew.

Drinkability: When I think of a summer beer, S&S Hayfield Blonde is exactly what I have in mind. Though fairly light at only 4.3% ABV, it’s remarkable efficient in that it delivers a lot of taste without the intensity of a heavier brew. The mouthfeel is light to medium and consistently crisp; refreshing while on the tongue and leaves almost no aftertaste. Imagine how fun it would be to have this beer in a can.

RATING: 8/10

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Otter Creek/Jack's Abby Joint Custody

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1461) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 24, 2015
I love when breweries do collaboration beers – it’s like an inter-company comic book crossover. More often than not, collab brews tend to be unique, experimental and exciting and that’s definitely true of Joint Custody. They’re calling this a “Nouveau Pilsner”, which I suppose is code for “rauchbier meets IPL.” There’s a lot of hoppy goodness to be found here and it works fine as an IPL or hoppy pilsner, but the addition of smokey/peaty malt really surprised me. It’s a combination that works surprisingly well. 

I poured a 12oz can into a flared snifter. There was no freshness date and it cost $2.49 ($0.21 per ounce).

Appearance: Maize/pale orange hue over a very cloudy body. Pours to a small, white, foamy head which laces and retains well.

Smell: Light tropical fruit notes not unlike a West Coast IPA. A touch of honey, flowers and grass as well.

Taste: I went into this beer thinking it was going to be a traditional pilsner at the core (a style I really enjoy) with different hop character all around. I was right on the latter, but way off on the former. This beer is probably better viewed as an IPL since it doesn’t have much of a pilsner taste to it. Not that it’s bad – far from it. The base malt is of the amber/Vienna/Munich range with a bit of a sweet honey character. Where it really becomes interesting is on the finish when an intense smokiness appears out of nowhere. You’d think that’d clash with everything that came before it – especially the juicy tropical-tasting hops – but it actually complements it rather well. This beer makes full use of its 40 IBUs as there’s enough to give it some bite, but restrained enough that the smoke does a lot of the biting as well.

Drinkability: I was a bit surprised to find that this beer is 6.2% ABV in strength; that’s pretty hefty for a pilsner. It’s not nearly as light as is common for the style. There’s much more density to this body. The mouthfeel is fuller, and just a tad sticky; though it is quite crisp on the finish. I’ll bet the name Joint Custody is a play on the fact it’s smokey. That smokiness lingers momentarily, along with a light dry sensation.

RATING: 8/10

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Upstate Fire Pit Pale Ale

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1460) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 23, 2015
It’s September, so it’s harvest time and a lot of breweries tend to put out “Harvest IPAs” this time of year – beers brewed with “wet” hops. In the case of Upstate Fire Pit Pale Ale, it’s a wet-hopped pale ale rather than an IPA, which is definitely unique and interesting. This beer opts more for hop flavor than raw bitterness and the result is a flavorful and highly drinkable spin on the usual pale ale. 

I poured a 16oz can into a mug. Thanks to Mark at UBC for this can!

Appearance: Rusty copper/orange/brownish hue with an extremely hazy body. Translucent and carbonation is visible within. Pours to an average-sized, off-white, foamy head which retains and laces fairly well.

Smell: Light tropical and stone fruit aroma (kiwi and peach); also a bit rustic and piney (as is usually the case with wet hops).

Taste: As much as I love hops and IPAs, I’ve honestly never been a big fan of harvest ales because of the intense resiny character of the wet hops. But this beer is different because it’s done as a pale ale so that intensity is dialed down a bit. I do notice a dank, resiny, almost tree-sap like flavor right away. There’s a fair amount of dry bitterness as well, but it’s restrained. On the second half the malt begins to emerge and creates for mild confectionery notes with just a hint of toffee. Peach, kiwi, and melon flavors round out the palette and end it with a light juicy flavor. What’s really interesting about this brew is that the flavors are delivered in the opposite order I usually get them in similar beers. Those who appreciate a good pale ale will enjoy this.

Drinkability: This beer would seem to be much bigger than it actually is. At only 5.2% ABV, Upstate Fire Pit Pale Ale is remarkably big in body with a mouthfeel to match. Well-carbonated to be sure with a crisp, dry finish; yet thicker and fuller than most pale ales of its size. I wouldn’t consider it refreshing, but it is quaffable. This would stand up to an autumn dinner very well, though a standalone serving is enjoyable, too.

RATING: 8/10

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Foundation Wanderlust

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1459) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 22, 2015
You don’t tend to see too many low ABV canned saisons (one or the other maybe, but not both). Foundation Wanderlust fills a hole in the market by being both at the same time (at least in markets in which it’s available, that is). This might actually be better classified as a Session IPA because the hops are the star of the show rather than the saison base. Either way, it’s very tasty, highly drinkable and just plain fun.

I poured a 16oz can into a tulip glass. It was canned on 8/4/15 and was given to me by a friend (thanks, Al!).

Appearance: Bright gold/pale orange hue but with a very hazy body. Pours to a large white foamy head which retains and laces pretty well.

Smell: Lots of American hops; both grassy and fruity. No traditional yeast esters, though.

Taste: The first thing that impressed me about this beer, before I even opened it, was the fact the hops and malts are listed right on the can. It’s a surprisingly complex recipe for a beer that’s rather light (in alcohol). Billed as a “hoppy farmhouse ale,” I agree with the first word but not so much the second. Big tropical fruit notes right away along with some sweet stone fruit. There’s an underlying sensation of earthy grassy notes which becomes quite prominent on the backend. The hops aren’t so much bitter here as they are spicy. What I don’t get is any typical saison character, which is a bit of a bummer. The malt is pretty direct for such a complex recipe; lightly sweet and pale and sturdy enough to hold up these hops. This could easily be mistaken for a session IPA or extra pale ale and I’d be okay with that.

Drinkability: I was pleasantly surprised to see the 4.5% ABV indication on the can. I’m still impressed after drinking it considering how much flavor and genuine body there was to the brew – this is not simply hoppy seltzer. Well-carbonated and crisp with a clean aftertaste; plus it’s refreshing while in the mouth. An ideal summer thirst quencher for sure.

RATING: 8/10

Monday, September 21, 2015

Brooklyn Oktoberfest

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1458) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 21, 2015
I’ve never been a big fan of the Oktoberfest/Marzen style, though I’m starting to come around on it… slowly. I find most brews of the style tend to be underwhelming, and few are more than satisfying. I’m not saying Brooklyn Oktoberfest is amazing, but it definitely is one of the better American examples I can recall having. What I can’t figure out is why is it 2015 and I’m just now reviewing this!?

I poured a 12oz bottle into a mug. It was bottled on 7/24/15 and cost $2.60 ($0.22 per ounce).

Appearance: Beautiful dark amber/copper color; near crystal clarity though not much visible carbonation. Pours to a two-finger, off-white, foamy head which retains and laces very well.

Smell: Fairly mild nose with light floral scent, some confectionery notes, and a hint of a vegetal character.

Taste: I drank this beer in a blind taste test recently and did not care much for it. However, drinking a full serving I can get a better grasp of the palette and appreciate the nuances that are lost on a small sample. There’s actually more going on here than I had previously noticed. Definitely sweet with amber maltiness that creates for mild caramel and toffee flavors and even a hint of chocolate right on the finish. I also notice a bit of floral/spicy hop sensation through the middle, though the beer is not particularly bitter in and of itself. I notice a bit of tang/vegetal flavor in here as well, which becomes easier to overlook the more I drink (it was quite prominent during the showdown). This beer doesn’t really do anything many other brews of the style don’t already do, but I will say it’s plenty tasty and that’s always nice.

Drinkability: A beer like this should be highly drinkable, and I’d say Brooklyn Oktoberfest succeeds in that aspect. The mouthfeel is a bit bigger in body than most lagers; much less fizzy and more rounded with a crisp finish. It does have a bit of a cloying and slightly metallic flavor in the aftertaste, but each swig washes that away. It seems a tad inefficient considering its 5.5% ABV potency, though I doubt most people would have trouble drinking this in succession.

RATING: 8/10

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Shmaltz/Terrapin Reunion Ale '15

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1457) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 20, 2015
Shmaltz and Terrapin have been brewing their “Beer for Hope” Reunion Ale for several years now. They change the recipe every year, though one thing that stays consistent is the use of an array of sweets and spices in the brew. For the first time ever, Shmaltz has made a beer with pumpkin (though this is most definitely not a pumpkin brew per se). I appreciate the originality and creativity that went into this beer; that it’s a beer for charity makes it even more impressive.

I poured a 22oz bottle into a Shmaltz snifter. It was bottled on 8/21/15 and cost $8 ($0.36 per ounce).

Appearance: Dark brown/mahogany hue (though seemingly black). Pours to a small, off-white, soapy head which fizzles away quickly and leaves no lacing.

Smell: Quite reminiscent of a pumpkin beer with cinnamon, ginger and vanilla being quite prominent. A subtle pumpkin pie sweetness is noticeable as well.

Taste: Looking at the label for this beer, it’s clear that there’s a lot to this recipe and, therefore, a lot to expect. Brewing with pumpkin, chocolate, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, Mexican chile peppers and fermented with Belgian yeast, it stands to reason that this is going to be a complex palette. Though I think it might be a bit of a victim of its own success. It starts out tasting a lot like a bold pumpkin brew with cinnamon and ginger being the most dominate flavors. A light spiciness up front with sweet chocolate and vanilla notes on the finish. Right as I swallow I get the sensation of capsaicin along with a mild alcohol warmth. It’s interesting to say the least, though also quite tasty. I don’t get much Belgian character, though, other than just a general floral character. Any spiciness from the yeast esters might be overshadowed by the actual spices. It’s a continuously entertaining one-two punch of both sweetness and spiciness; for what that’s worth.

Drinkability: Every Shmaltz/Terrapin Reunion Ale tends to be pretty hefty, and the 2015 edition weighs in at 8% ABV. However, the actually delivery process is a bit off. The mouthfeel is a bit thin and under-carbonated. I was hoping for a bigger, thicker, stickier mouthfeel. I will say that it’s smooth and easily drinkable, though not a refreshing brew per se. Versatile, too – this would pair with a steak or pumpkin pie.

RATING: 8/10

Friday, September 18, 2015

Bissell Brothers The Substance Ale

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1456) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 18, 2015
I’m still not sick of New England-style IPAs (NEIPAs) no matter how many of them I drink. Though not all brews are created equal, I’m found the ones that aren’t my favorite of the style are still pretty good beers in the own right. Bissell Brothers The Substance Ale is a good example of this. To-spec in pretty much every way, though it seems way more herbal than most – which takes some getting used to – but the palette is still plenty tasty in the end.

I poured a 16oz can into a tulip glass. There was no freshness date. Thanks to Al K. for this can!

Appearance: A maize/pale orange hue with an extremely murky body. No visible carbonation. Pours to a large, white, frothy head which laces and retains extremely well.

Smell: Tropical fruits at first, though spice rack seasonings are noticeable and grow stronger the more I drink. It’s a little weird, actually.

Taste: I’ve always said these NEIPAs have a grassy/herbal taste to them with notes of garlic and onion, though it’s much more noticeable in this brew than in others. That’s not to say it’s bad or that it’s the only thing it has going for it, though. In fact, there is a brief tropical fruit flavor right off the bat. Not citrusy and acidic, but more of a luscious juice sensation. However, that spicy herbal flavor can be found lurking in the background. It’s a taste created by the Summit hops and it lingers on the tongue after each swig. It’s akin to the aftertaste of garlic bread. The malt base is fairly typical; though there’s flaked wheat, oats and barley in here they don’t stand out that much. They do create for a solid malt foundation, though.

Drinkability: It’s nice to see a single IPA that has a lot of a flavor and drinks like a single should. At 6.6% ABV, Bissell Brothers The Substance Ale is definitely far from a light, sessionable brew, but also not an obese imperial concoction, either. The mouthfeel is full, thick, soft and has a smooth, almost creamy texture. The hops do linger on the palate, however; leaving a bit of a spicy/zesty aftertaste. I would not call this refreshing, but I would consider it easily drinkable.

RATING: 8/10

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Lord Hobo Boom Sauce

   AROMA 9/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 17/20
Chad9976 (1455) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 17, 2015
Every once in a while a certain beer will surge in popularity due to a clever name and/or packaging and/or marketing. “Boom Sauce” by Lord Hobo Brewing is a beer like that and I can see why. First of all, the name is pretty cool; secondly it comes in a full pint can; lastly it’s a very tasty and highly drinkable imperial IPA that’s actually a blend of some of their other beers (none of which are nearly as popular as this, apparently). If this brewery is destined to be a one-hit wonder I won’t mind.

I poured a 16oz can into a tulip glass. There was no freshness date. Thanks to Jason T. for this can!

Appearance: An extremely hazy shade of rusty/flame orange. Initially pours to a large, off-white, fluffy head; it eventually dials back and leaves on minor lacing on the glass.

Smell: Huge tropical fruit aroma along with some floral and herbal components. A bit of a candy scent, too. Very sweet-smelling.

Taste: If I were drinking this beer blind I’d think it’s an excellent Imperial IPA. That it’s actually a blend of three other beers is really impressive – especially for a fairly new brewery. I haven’t had the three beers that make up this one, but I’d love to try them. There’s a certain je na sais quois factor to blended brews, and that’s present here. There’s a lot of flavor and complexity happening here. Big tropical fruit flavor to open the palette, followed by an almost candy-like sensation of sweetness. I get a touch of vanilla and caramel through the middle followed by a fairly intense hop bite right as it finishes. The hops have only a faint herbal character – otherwise, they’re quite dank and juicy. This beer reminds me a lot of Southern Tier Unearthly – and that’s really saying something!

Drinkability: I approached this beer with some caution when I saw the 8% ABV on the can. I was pleasantly surprised to find there was no challenge to Lord Hobo Boom Sauce, though. The mouthfeel is quite full-bodied, but it has a soft weight and a smooth texture. It is not cloying or sticky in any way. Perhaps refreshing for a moment while in the mouth, though not a refreshing beer per se. The hops linger and leave a mild aftertaste, though it’s easily tolerated. The alcohol does create for a mild warmth, but it also seems to add to the sweetness. I’m impressed at how drinkable this beer is.

RATING: 9/10

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Leipziger Gose

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1454) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 16, 2015
Leipziger Gose is an original old school, traditional gose from the land it was created. It’s not quite the same as the versions we’re used to here in the USA, though it’s not like it’s completely unfamiliar, either. This beer is a less flash and more substance, and it’s just as tasty as the American craft brews.

I poured an 11.2oz bottle into a flared snifter. There was no freshness date and it cost $4.79 ($0.42 per ounce).

Appearance: Pale orange hue with an extremely cloudy body. Initially pours to a large, bright white layer of foam but it mostly dissipates and leaves little lacing. For what it’s worth, this is the foamiest gose I’ve ever seen.

Smell: A light citrusy scent of orange and coriander. The bacteria presence is noticeable and gives the nose a bit of a tangy quality – but in a good way, of course.

Taste: Most brews of the style I’ve had tend to come out swinging, but this one is cool, calm and collected. I get a lovely orange and coriander flavor right away, along with a bit of a wheaty sensation. There’s a mild salty sensation that lingers in the background. Once the swig hits the apex, it punches the tongue with a dry bitterness and a light sourness. On the aftertaste there is a lingering sensation of tartness and a bit of sour. I also notice a distinct lemon/lime flavor as well. The flavor fades rather quickly, but what’s there is quite enjoyable. I don’t think anyone would be put off by this palette.

Drinkability: The best way to drink Leipziger Gose is on a hot summer’s day (or night) so that it can deliver on its performance promise of being refreshing and quaffable. At only 4.6% ABV, this is definitely what I would consider a session beer for the warmer months…. That is, if it weren’t so expensive and rare. This brewery should sell this in 500ml cans – it would sell a lot of units very quickly.

RATING: 8/10

Monday, September 14, 2015

Bissell Brothers Lux

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 17/20
Chad9976 (1453) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 14, 2015
I don’t mind if a beer is derivative as long as it’s good, and this is most definitely good. Bissell Brothers Lux is not exactly a New England-style IPA, but it definitely has the major characteristics of one. Huge tropical aroma with a spicy/herbal/grassy flavor. Even though it bills itself as a rye ale, I’d consider this more of a standard pale ale because the rye is rather subtle and overshadowed by the hops (I don’t mind). I love that it comes in a full pint can and is ridiculously easy to drink.

I poured a 16oz can into a tulip glass. There was no freshness date. Thanks to Al K. for this can!

Appearance: Like any good New England beer these days, the body is pale orange and so extremely hazy that it’s practically opaque. Pours to a large, white, frothy head which laces and retains exteremly well.

Smell: As soon as I popped the top I could smell the strong tropical, dank hops. A lot of fruit and juice character, but some light spicy notes as well. Slightly bready.

Taste: If I say this palette tastes familiar, there’s a reason for that: every brewery in the New England state is making a variation on this base recipe – some do it better than others. Right away I get a strong tropical fruit taste: passion fruit, guava, papaya, mango, etc. It’s not citrusy or acidic, though. At the same time there’s a light spicy character of oregano and basil in the background, which becomes quite prominent on the finish and gives the beer some bite as well. The rye accentuates this and gives the malt foundation a bit of a bready character, though it’s not especially sweet. The bitterness is strong while in the mouth, but it fades quickly. Overall, it’s another excellent New England brew.

Drinkability: One of the reasons I like beers of this general style is their smooth, comfortable mouthfeel. Bissell Brothers Lux is quite big in body despite the fact it’s only 5.1% ABV. It really fills the mouth with flavor, but has no harsh, spastic carbonation – more of a gentle, fine effervescence. It’s refreshing on the tongue, though the hops do linger and are a bit drying, but easily tolerated. Not quite what I consider a session beer, but impressive for a brew that’s not insanely potent.

RATING: 9/10

Showdown! Oktoberfest beers

Oktoberfest may not be my favorite beer style, but I have fond memories of certain brews. Plus, their release traditionally rings in my favorite time of year – late summer/early fall. I thought it would be fun to have some friends over to judge a showdown featuring nothing but Oktoberfestbiers: six German and six American.
caption this 003
There are six “official” breweries who each make a beer for the annual festival in Munich. Unfortunately, not all of them are exported to the United States. I was only able to include two of them in this showdown (denoted by the * in the list below). The other three were included because they market themselves as “fest biers.” All of the American entries were chosen for the same reason.

But here’s the thing about Oktoberfest beers: there are technically two different styles. The new 2015 BJCP Guidelines actually makes a clear distinction between the malty, amber “Marzen” style (6A) which is popular among American breweries and drinkers; and the lighter, golden, pilsner-like “Festbier” style (4B) of the Munich Six. As is the case with all my showdowns, I always tell the judges to grade to their personal preferences since none of us are BJCP certified judges (not yet, anyway). If a beer markets itself as an “Oktoberfest” – whether it’s German or American – you, as a consumer go into it with an expectation. Most of us were not aware of the difference between the Marzen and the Festbier styles, so there was some confusion when certain beers were lighter than the rest. Once we realized they were of the “Festbier,” genre, we adjusted our opinions accordingly.
This is this order in which the beers were drank:
  1. Weihenstephaner Festbier
  2. Brooklyn Octoberfest
  3. Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest*
  4. Jack’s Abby Copper Legend
  5. Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen
  6. Victory Festbier
  7. Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen
  8. Saranac Octoberfest
  9. Hofbrau Oktoberfest*
  10. Ballast Point Dead Ringer
  11. Dinkelacker Oktoberfestbier Marzen
  12. Samuel Adams Octoberfest
  • Though Paulaner is one of the six official Munich Oktoberfest breweries, this particular beer is not the one served there and is brewed for export only (their Oktoberfest Wiesn is the official beer, and it’s not that good IMHO).
  • The order rotated between German and American brews, but none of the judges seemed to pick up on this (if they did, they didn’t mention it).
  • Because these types of beers tend to be mild, each beer was taken out of the fridge about 30 minutes before it was to be tasted so the flavor wouldn’t be completely masked by the cold.
Here’s how they scored (from worst to first):

12: Ballast Point Dead Ringer
12 Ballast Point
This came as an absolute shock to me, since Ballast Point has been putting out some great beers lately. I dare say they’re one of my favorite breweries (both presently and all-time). I don’t know if I got a bad bottle or if this is how this beer is intended to taste, but there was no head, no carbonation, and it had an aroma and taste very close to cider (almost as if it was blended with cider). I thought perhaps the bottle was a 2014 edition, but the label clearly indicates it’s this year’s batch. I had never had this beer before, but I will buy another bottle and give it a formal review in a few weeks. Did anyone else feel this way when they drank this beer?

11: Hofbrau Oktoberfest
11 Hofbrau
While the previous entry was a surprise, this one was not at all. Hofbrau is one of the last of the major German breweries to still use green bottles in nearly every beer they package (at least the ones we get here in the USA). I reviewed this beer twice and I disliked it both times due mostly to the fact it’s skunky from the green bottle and that spoils the taste as well.

Nearly everyone mentioned on their scoresheet that it’s not the kind of taste they normally associate with an Oktoberfest, which is due to the fact it’s technically a “Festbier” rather than a true Marzen. Dustin and I both mentioned that it seems like a German-style pilsner with its spicy Noble hops and dominate pils malt flavor and high carbonation. Al called it an “Oktoberfest lite”. Though as not-good as Weihenstephaner was, it still scored over seven points higher than the Ballast Point (which really puts the mediocrity of the BP in perspective, eh?).

10: Dinkelacker Oktoberfestbier Marzen
10 DinkelAcker
Though this beer scored low, most of us said it tasted somewhere in the “okay” to “good” range. What held it back was the fact there was no foam, no carbonation, a mild aroma, and a dull mouthfeel. There were no off-flavors or other flaws like the previous two entries, but there was just nothing about this brew that really made it pop. Its distinguishing feature is the fact it has the longest, most ethnic name.

9: Saranac Octoberfest
8b Saranac
Good ol’ Saranac. I try to include them in nearly every “showdown,” but they tend to score below average in these blind taste tastes. I find that somewhat odd considering I usually like their offerings when I drink a full serving (I guess I attribute some cachet to this brand). Since the average score was 30.47 and this came in at 29.17, it was technically the last beer on the list to fall below the median grade. Interestingly enough, it tied with Paulaner for the best-looking beer at 2.5/3.

All six judges remarked on their scoresheets that the beer has a citrusy smell and/or taste. They’re probably using American hops because they’re presumably cheaper (in fact, I think nearly all the American versions are made with American hops). As an amber lager this isn’t bad at all, which seemed to be the consensus of the group, but it’s not what you really want in an Oktoberfest.

8: Jack’s Abby Copper Legend
8a Jack's Abby
Jack’s Abby is a fairly small brewery out of eastern Massachusetts that has been surging in popularity in recent years. They only brew lagers, so if any American brewery could do an Oktoberfest well you’d think it’d be them, right? Most judges remarked at how “Americanized” the beer seemed to be (keep in mind they did not know if the beer was American or German). At 30.67 this was just barely over the average score of 30.47. However, it also had the widest range of scores with 16 as the lowest and 40 as the highest! It’s a love it or hate it brew I guess.

7: Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen
7 Ayinger
When I was asking friends which German beers I should include in this showdown, every one of them suggested this. This is made by the brewery known for their famous “Celebrator” doppelbock, so it stands to reason they could make a good Oktoberfest too, eh? Glancing over the scoresheets, I see the word “light” appears many times. Light aroma, light flavor, light body, light hops, etc. But seeing as how this beer ranked among the middle of the pack, it’s not surprising that there’s not a lot of excitement for it one way or the other. All the scores – both individual components and overall – were fairly close with everyone agreeing that it was pretty much average in all aspects.

6: Weihenstephaner Festbier
6 Weihenstephaner
Much like the Hofbrau, this beer seems a bit closer to a pilsner than a traditional Marzen because it’s technically a Festbier. It also had a bit of a skunky scent because the bottle is more of an olive green than a true brown. But unlike the Hofbrau, Weihenstephaner Festbier actually does have a bit of noticeable caramel and other confectionery flavors, which are nice. Since this was the first beer tasted by the panel I expected it to benefit from an opening round bias. I’m not sure if that was the case and the skunkiness offset that, or if everyone genuinely thought this beer was only average.

5: Brooklyn Octoberfest
5 Brooklyn
This was the first American beer of the lineup and I immediately noticed a slight vegetal character. It was something I would notice in nearly every other American entry in the showdown. I’m not sure what accounts for it, though. It might have something to do with going from German to American and the different yeast strains and ingredients used. Thankfully, it was something I only tended to notice on the first sip and it would give way to all the genuine flavors in the palette. Everyone described this as sweet, except for me as I found it be rather dry and bitter. Looking through my archives, it seems I’ve never actually given this beer a formal review – I don’t know how that’s possible!

4: Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest
4 Hacker Pschorr
Though this placed fourth, I’m actually more impressed with the scores for this beer than I am with the third place beer. Every judge scored this a 30 or higher (30 is generally considered the dividing line between good and not-so-good beers on the BJCP spectrum). This has all the characteristics you’re looking for in an Oktoberfest beer – color, aroma, taste, drinkability, etc. Probably the only reason this didn’t score higher was due to the fact that it was a just a bit too mild for everyone’s preferences. Judges all seemed to remark that they liked it, but weren’t in a rush to drink more of it.

3: Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen
3 Paulaner
It’s a little-known fact that Paulaner actually has two beers that are marketed as Oktoberfestbiers. There’s this one, which is the export-only, Marzen-style brew; and the Oktoberfest Wiesn, which is of the Festbier golden lager style. I’ve never been to Oktoberfest in Munich and I don’t know what German people think of this beer, but I’m surprised that this isn’t the real Festbier. It’s exactly what you expect and want in the style: beautiful amber color; a bready/malty aroma and taste with easy drinkability. I was a bit disappointed to see Chris and Dustin score it below a 30, but the rest of us thought it was pretty great. It was my favorite beer of the day.

2: Samuel Adams Octoberfest
02 Sam Adams
I had a feeling this beer was going to score high; in fact, I thought it would win Best in Show. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t like this beer: it’s got plenty of flavor for a lager, but not so much that it scares off the average Joe Six Pack type. I’m sure plenty of craft beer nerds are scoffing at its place on this list, but pretty much all the judges agreed it’s exactly what an Oktoberfest should be. Dustin said it best, “It has the elegant malt profile I expect in an Oktoberfest.”

Personally, I noticed a presence of American hops, though there was also a tasty coffee/chocolate character somewhere in there. It didn’t impress me as much as the Paulaner, but I’ll readily admit it’s good for the style. In fact, there’s a six-pack in my fridge right now.

1: Victory Festbier
1 Victory
Every other time I’ve hosted a showdown, I’ve usually liked the beer that scores the highest about as much as the rest of the panel. But for some reason I had quite a different reaction to this beer than everyone else. Much like the Brooklyn, I found the Victory had a bit of a vegetal character to it, though not nearly as bad. I noticed that faded after a sip or two and I began to get a lot of Brown Ale-like qualities of coffee and light roasted malt. I wondered if this was actually a brown ale fermented with lager yeast.
Clearly I was the odd man out, because as soon as the other five judges tasted their sample, their eyes lit up and everyone was smiling. It was the only beer of the flight that anyone asked if they could have more. Jason was able to correctly guess the identity of this right away; in fact, he was able to identify almost half the beers in the showdown despite the fact he didn’t know what any of them were going into it.
Judges’ Averages
Judges averages
The Leaderboard
Oktoberfest standings
How do you prefer your Oktoberfest bier: American or German? Marzen or Festbier?
What’s your favorite brand?
Have you ever been to Oktoberfest in Munich? What’s it really like?
Have you ever had an Oktoberfest/Marzen or Festbier that wasn’t made in either Germany or America?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Two Roads Roadsmary’s Baby

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1452) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 13, 2015
Two Roads Brewing has been one of my favorite new breweries to debut in the last few years. They make pretty much every style under the sun and all have been good at worst and excellent at best. With their pumpkin beer – Roadsmary’s Baby – they’ve made a pretty standard, no-frills pumpkin brew despite the fact it’s aged in rum barrels. 

I poured a 12oz bottle into a flared snifter. It was bottled on 7/22/15 and cost $3.20 ($0.27 per ounce).

Appearance: Dark mahogany/brown hue. Translucent, but not visible carbonation. Pours to a small, off-white, foamy head which mostly dissipates and leaves no lacing.

Smell: Plenty of cinnamon and nutmeg with a hint of mint. More of a potpourri scent than any kind of sweet, pie-like aroma. Not rum or barrel character.

Taste: I had high hopes for this beer when I saw on the label that it was aged in rum barrels with vanilla beans. That seems to be a winning combination. However, I was a tad disappointed that this drank like most other pumpkin beers. Just like the nose, cinnamon and nutmeg definitely dominate the palette. There’s a light, consistent spicy flavor in the first half and it becomes stronger, danker and more earthy on the finish. I also find there to be a slight minty character on the backend. I would not consider this an especially sweet brew, though. The only point I notice any rum barrel character is very briefly in the aftertaste as it’s accentuated by a slight alcohol presence. I think this would work wonders as an imperial brew at a 50-100% increase in strength; as it stands it’s a fine pumpkin beer though.

Drinkability: Two Roads Roadsmary’s Baby is relatively strong at 6.8% ABV. Though the mouthfeel is a little lighter and crisper than I’d prefer. I detect a bit of alcohol warmth as it goes down. However, there is absolutely not challenge in drinking this at all. It’s smooth and leaves a fairly clean aftertaste. This is strong enough to stand up to a meal, but too spicy to complement dessert.

RATING: 7/10