Friday, September 4, 2015

Hermit Thrush Brattlebeer

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1445) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 4, 2015
I’m not a huge fan of sour beers because the sourness tends to taste identical in different beers from different breweries. It’d be nice to see some variety. Well, my wish was granted in the form of Hermit Thrush Brattlebeer – which is spontaneously fermented with wild yeast and also blended with cider. Those two flavor components match up nicely and make for one of the most interesting beers I’ve had in a while. 

I poured a 16oz can into a flared snifter. There was no freshness date. Thanks to Jon H. for this can!

Appearance: Hazy golden/maize color. No visible carbonation. Pours to a small, white, sudsy head which evaporates quickly and completely.

Smell: Both sour and cider aromas are present immediately. Some citrusy scents, too.

Taste: When I read the description for this beer on the can I figured it was going to be more of a beer cocktail than a traditional beer since it’s blended with cider. However, just one sip in and I knew that it is indeed a beer that just happens to have some cider in it. There’s pretty much only two flavors here: wild yeast and the cider. They match up so perfectly it’s actually quite amazing. A light tartness up front with a taste of fresh apple juice. I get some white grape flavor through the middle, followed by dry, lightly sour finish. I don’t get much in the way of malt or hop characteristics (none that are strong enough to pick out individually, that is). Still, this is pretty tasty, albeit repetitive.

Drinkability: Apparently this beer used to be only 4.2% ABV, but is now 5.2% ABV. I’d be curious to know why it was increased, since a lighter body would be ideal for this brew. It’s pretty refreshing while in the mouth and it finishes clean and dry. The mouthfeel is pretty thin, though. Hermit Thrush Brattlebeer would be perfect as a session brew in the summer… if it were just a little bit lighter.

RATING: 8/10

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Paulaner Oktoberfest Wiesn

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1444) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 3, 2015
I get confused by European beer sometimes. Some breweries makes different brews of the same style but don’t differentiate them in the marketing so I sometimes never know which beers I’ve had and which I haven’t. Case in point: Paulaner Oktoberfest Wiesn – which, despite the name is not a wheat beer (“wiesn” apparently means fair – the event, not the sense of justice). This has been around for years and apparently I’ve never had it before. Not that I was missing much as this is a pretty standard pale lager with no frills. I’m wondering if this is truly considered an Oktoberfest/Marzen brew.

I poured an 11.2oz bottle into a mug. It had a best before date of 6/16.

Appearance: Dark golden color with crystal clarity. Some carbonation bubbles can be seen trickling up. Pours to a two-finger, off-white, soapy head which mostly evaporates and leaves little lacing.

Smell: Not much of anything other than the generic pale lager scent. I do detect a faint green apple character.

Taste: People tend to like Oktoberfestbiers better than regular pale lagers since they tend to have a little bit of actual flavor to them, but not so much that it’s overwhelming. In the case of this one I’m surprised it bears the Oktoberfest name because it seems like any other pale lager. I don’t detect any adjunct presence, but I don’t get any discernible malt or hop character, either. This seems like a rather boring lager to me. I will say it’s sweeter than the average lager, though; I notice a mild caramel sweetness, but that’s about it. Just a faint dry bitterness on the backend. It finishes clean, which is nice. That’s about it.

Drinkability: I’m surprised to see the label on the bottle mentions a potency of 6% ABV. I thought Oktoberfest biers were supposed to be fairly nominal in weight since they’re intended for sessioning? This beer does not seem to be nearly that strong as the palette is mild and direct. The actual deliver of Paulaner Oktoberfest Wiesn is a little boring, too. The mouthfeel is not as crisp and bubbly as most pale lagers. I would not consider it refreshing, either. At least it goes down smooth and leaves almost no aftertaste.

RATING: 5/10

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Stone 19th Anniversary Thunderstruck IPA

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1443) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 2, 2015
I’m running out of things to say about Stone’s various IPAs. I don’t want to sound like a mean-spirited cynic, but I am starting to find a lot of these big double and imperial IPAs are starting to taste and drink alike. In the case of their 19th Anniversary “Thunderstruck IPA,” which was made with all Australian hops and an Australian base malt, it’s eerily similar to the average West Coast-style IPA. Citrusy, flowery, very bitter, and hefty – not that there’s anything wrong with that when done correctly, of course.

I poured a 22oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 8/5/15 and cost $8.99 ($0.41 per ounce).

Appearance: A pale shade of orange similar to peach or apricot skin. Quite hazy, though some carbonation is visible. Pours to a large, white, frothy head which retains and laces very well.

Smell: Citrus and flowers are prominent, though I detect a slight herbal scent as well. Alcohol seems to be apparent.

Taste: Reading the description of this beer, it says it’s brewed with a bunch of Australian hop varietals that I’m not familiar with (the only one I’ve heard of is Galaxy). Not surprisingly, when I taste the beer these hops create for the same flavors the usual American varietals offer: citrus, stone fruit, some candy flavors and a touch of herbal taste on the finish. The base malt seems identical to traditional two-row to me; I’m sure there’s plenty of specialty malt here as well but it doesn’t have much distinctiveness. The bitterness is pretty intense, which isn’t surprising considering the fact the beer is measured at 95 IBUs. It’s a strong, assertive, dry bitterness from beginning to end with just a touch of zesty spice rack seasoning on the finish. The alcohol is a part of the palette as well; it’s strong enough to affect it, but mild enough so as not to be completely distracting.

Drinkability: Any Stone beer that comes in a 22oz bottle I assume is not going to be extremely quaffable. At 8.7% ABV, Stone 19th Anniversary Thunderstruck IPA is pretty darn hefty. It’s not quite a sipper, as the mouthfeel is rather intense. A big body to be sure, though not sticky and chewy. There’s noticeable warmth from the booze, but just like the taste – it’s easy to ignore. I could drink the bomber solo, but I would’ve been content with a smaller serving.

RATING: 8/10

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Lost Nation Gose

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1442) - Albany, New York, USA - SEP 1, 2015
There are those who say “If you’ve had one gose, you’re had them all.” I understand that line of thinking, but I do not completely agree with it. While most of the gose beers I’ve tried have been quite similar, I can differentiate between them. Lost Nation Gose is neither the worst nor the best brew of the style I’ve had – it’s right there in the middle, for that’s worth.

I poured a 16oz can into a tulip glass. It was canned on 8/17/15 and cost $2.65 ($0.17 per ounce). Thanks to Jon H. for the can!

Appearance: Pale whitish yellow. Extremely hazy with no visible carbonation. Initially pours to a large, brilliant white foamy head, though it eventually dissipates completely and leaves no lacing.

Smell: A mild lemonade-like scent of citrus and tartness. Wheat is noticeable, too.

Taste: When drinking a gose, I notice that the beer tastes different at the end than it does from the beginning. At first, this beer it quite tart and salty, but after a few swigs, both of those qualities seem to diminish. Lightly salty up front with some lemon peel flavor underneath. There’s a general wheaty flavor to the body, which is nice as it’s not distracting. As it crests there’s a mild lacto tartness which lingers momentarily as it goes down. The coriander and salt are noticeable in the aftertaste, but fade quickly.

Drinkability: A beer like this should be refreshing on a hot summer’s day and that’s exactly how I drank it. The mouthfeel is noticeably thin and crisp, but does not feel paper thin. It becomes a little flat after about halfway through. At 4.5% ABV, Lost Nation Gose is arguably sessionable, though I think one pint can would satisfy me. It’s definitely refreshing.

RATING: 7/10

Monday, August 31, 2015

Sixpoint 4 Beans

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1441) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 31, 2015
There are a few beer recipes that, on the face of it, would seem to guarantee an awesome beer. Sixpoint 4 Beans is an imperial porter brewed with chocolate, coffee and vanilla – doesn’t that just sound awesome? And while I think this beer is indeed quite good, it’s not quite the masterpiece I was expecting. Sweet and tasty to be sure, but also obese and rather simple. 

I poured a 12oz can into a flared snifter. It had a best before date of 7/15/16 (one year from canning I assume) and cost $5.30 ($0.44 per ounce).

Appearance: Inky black, opaque hue. Initially pours to a large, brown, foamy head but it retreats quickly and leaves decent lacing.

Smell: Prototypical porter aroma of a general sweetness along with distinct vanilla bean. No coffee presence, though.

Taste: I don’t have a “bang for the buck” metric for my rating, but it’s definitely something I take into account. Since this beer is advertised as being brewed with four beans (Romano, cocoa, coffee and vanilla) I expect a complex and robust palette. What I get it mostly a very strong vanilla porter. Having brewed with vanilla I’m familiar with all its traits and it’s quite evident here right away. There’s a cookie-like taste to this brew as the vanilla flavor is genuine and not artificial in the least. I detect a mild dark chocolate taste up front and a bit of a general fruit flavor on the finish. Nothing in the way of roasted malt, though. Nor coffee, which is quite disappointing since its one of the selling points of the beer. The alcohol emerges as it warms and it’s not distracting, though I could do without it. Overall, an enjoyable palette but it’s been done.

Drinkability: Weighing in at a whopping 10% ABV, Sixpoint 4 Beans is not a brew to take lightly. The alcohol imparts mild warmth, and the body is pretty heavy. It’s not quite carbonated motor oil, in fact, it’s thinner than I was expecting. Still, it’s not easy to drink in gulps – this is a sipper to be sure. Not sure why this was released in the summer since this is what I would associate with a winter brew, but it works as a liquid dessert.

RATING: 8/10

Sunday, August 30, 2015

14th Star Tribute Double IPA

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1440) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 30, 2015
Everyone’s making West Coast and New England-style IPAs these days, so it’s surprisingly (and pleasantly so) to see a Vermont-based brewing making not only a fairly traditional East Coast-style IPA, but an excellent one at that. 14th Star Tribute is the Double IPA for old school IPA enthusiasts, as well as acolytes who should appreciate the style since they’ve done it so well.

I poured a 16oz can into a tulip glass. It was canned on 8/4/15 and cost $3.25 ($0.20 per ounce). Thanks to Jon H. for this can!

Appearance: Typical IPA orange color; slightly cloudy but with still plenty of transparency. Pours to a three-finger, white, foamy head which retains and laces fairly well.

Smell: Citrusy juice concentrate along with notes of dill or cilantro and a general herbal scent. Some pine too, though it is not strongly aromatic.

Taste: I went into this beer expecting another Heady Topper wannabe (which would’ve been fine by me since those kind of beers tend to taste great), but when I got was a callback to the overlooked East Coast style IPA, and a double version at that. Instead of being a spice and herb bomb, this is actually quite well balanced with hop flavor that’s mostly pine and resin up front and sweet citrus in the back. There’s an earthy character throughout the palette – pine needles and straight up sap are detectable. Lurking in the background I notice faint spice rack flavors (dill, garlic, parsley, etc.). Most NEIPAs feature these front-and-center with pine and citrus in the background, but here it’s the opposite. I really enjoy the orange juice concentrate on the finish along with a dry, mildly herbal zestiness. The malt is strong enough to provide balance, though the beer is not particularly sweet. At only 65 IBUs, there’s plenty of bite to this brew, but it’s not overwhelming.

Drinkability: The very thing I noticed upon my first swig was how soft and comfortable the mouthfeel was. Up front, it’s smooth with a full body; yet it finishes with a light carbonation crisp bite. Most NEIPAs tend to drink like milkshakes, but 14th Star Tribute Double IPA drinks like an actual double IPA. The 8.4% ABV is well masked as there’s no alcohol presence in the aroma, taste or mouthfeel. There’s a lingering bitterness from the hops, but it’s easily overlooked. I could see this beer pairing perfectly with a lot of savory foods, but enjoying it on its own is a pleasure too.

RATING: 9/10

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Shmaltz King Kirby Lager

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1440) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 29, 2015
NOTE: Since this is merely a re-packaging of Slingshot Lager, I’m going to use my review of that beer for this.

I poured a 22oz bottle into the official King Kirby shaker glass. There was no freshness date. It cost $4 at the taproom ($0.18 per ounce).

Appearance: Pure golden color, slightly pale. Near crystal clarity with visible carbonation. Pours to a small, white, soapy head which laces and retains fairly well.

Smell: Clean, light citrusy aroma (especially lemon); slightly spicy or herbal. No lager scent; all hops.

Taste: If you were drinking this blind it’d be easy to mistake it for a session IPA or a pale ale. Hops are at the center of attention here: citrusy and fruity at first (lemon, grapefruit, and tangerine) but quickly take on a spicy/herbal sensation. It’s reminiscent of an Old World-style pilsner. There’s mild malty sweetness but it’s not a malty lager by any means. I do enjoy the spicy flavor imparted by the rye and Noble hops with the wheat giving it a slightly starchy, cracker-like character. A faint bitter bite as it goes down, but it’s also accompanied by even more genuine hop flavor. A well-balanced brew to be sure and impressive palette for a lager. Probably an ideal transition beer for craft beer newbies, too.

Drinkability: The thing about lagers is that they should be crisp and quaffable and that’s what King Kirby Lager is. The body is light-to-medium with a refreshing quality while in the mouth. It finishes quite clean with just a slightly dry aftertaste. At 5.3% ABV it’s certainly tempting to session this brew (especially in the summer). Now if only this beer were available in cans! 
RATING: 8/10

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ballast Point Calm Before The Storm

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1439) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 27, 2015
Coffee and vanilla are flavor additives you usually associated with a stout or porter. But with “Calm Before the Storm,” Ballast Point shows these ingredients can work just as well in a lighter brew. It’s interesting that they went with a cream ale to try this with, though it’s rather moot since the base brew really is overshadowed by the coffee and vanilla. You might consider this a novelty beer, but I consider it a good beer.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 7/13/15 and cost $3.85 ($0.32 per ounce).

Appearance: Surprisingly dark copper/amber hue (it’s golden on the brewery’s website); pours to a small, ivory, foamy head which doesn’t retain or lace all that well.

Smell: A sweet iced coffee scent; I can actually detect a bit of corn, too. They don’t clash, though.

Taste: This beer is intended to be a warmer weather alternative to an imperial stout brewed with the same flavors. It’s certainly an interesting choice and it does work pretty well. The coffee is evident immediately, but it’s not deeply roasted and extremely bitter; more of an iced coffee with sugar and cream. The vanilla gives it a bit of a chocolate candy flavor. I don’t detect the base brew until the finish when a bit of corn emerges. At first it’s an odd, slightly distracting flavor, but I get used to it quickly. Only a mild bitterness on the backend with a slight drying sensation. It doesn’t get any more complex than this, but these flavors are enjoyable enough to make for a good beer.

Drinkability: I was a bit surprised to see Ballast Point Calm Before The Storm was only 5.5% ABV. I was expecting this to be a stronger brew. The mouthfeel is a bit calm and a little thinner than I’d prefer. It’s crisp as it goes down and there’s only a mild iced coffee aftertaste which eventually fades completely. I would not consider it refreshing, nor would I consider it so richly sweet that it works as a dessert beer (at least not on its own).

RATING: 8/10

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lawson's Finest Super Session #2

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1438) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 26, 2015
Lawson’s Finest Liquids help pioneer the “New England-style” IPA and they’ve been doing variations on it ever since including Session IPAs. I didn’t have the original incarnation, but Super Session #2 seems to follow the form with huge grassy hop aroma and flavor. This is exactly what you expect in a Vermont SIPA. 

I poured a 12oz can into a mason jar. It was canned on 8/5/15 and cost $2.10 ($0.18 per ounce). Thanks to Jon H. for this can!

Appearance: Slightly hazy shade of dark gold. Pours to a fairly large, white head of soapy suds – most of which dissipates and leaves a little lacing.

Smell: Huge hop aroma, especially of grass, garlic and onion. Pleasant, but maybe even a bit too potent.

Taste: The New England IPAs are known for being very grassy and herbally, though I say this one is a little stronger than most in that facet. Though it mentions the use of Amarillo hops on the can (which usually create for orange aromas and flavors), I get a hop character of garlic and onion and dried grass. It’s lightly fruity for a moment; akin to maybe citrus pith, but then changes quickly to a spice rack taste. A very tingly sensation on the tongue with a firm drying sensation right as it goes down. There’s enough malt to give it both body and balance, but not so much as to give it much distinctiveness (which is fine by me). These flavor components tend to work better in bigger brews (e.g. Heady Topper), but are a bit odd in a SIPA.

Drinkability: The can clearly indicates a 4.8% ABV, which is certainly sessionable, but on the higher end of the “Session IPA” spectrum. It has the mouthfeel of something lighter, though; it’s noticeably thin but it is quite crisp and stays well carbonated til the last drop. It’s not refreshing, in my opinion, but I could see it accompanying a summertime lunch quite well.

RATING: 8/10

Growler + Kegerator = Synek?

iphone 135

Have you heard about this new in-home draught beer dispenser called Synek? It started out as a Kickstarter project last year (in fact, 2,191 backers pledged $648,535 to help bring this project to life). It’s a way of having fresh draught beer in your home without having to buy kegs or a kegerator. The guys behind this invention are currently doing a nationwide tour showing it off at select bars, restaurants and breweries, and they stopped at Madison Pour House last night. I decided to check it out.

I really had no idea what this Synek thing was until I heard about the local demonstration. So I Googled it and checked out their website and this flashy, professionally-produced video certainly was interesting to watch (though it’s pretty corny):

All I could tell is that it is a small micro fridge with a faucet and tap handle that dispenses beer, but it doesn’t say how it works. At first I thought it was some kind of beer concentrate that you add water to (which is a thing, by the way). It wasn’t until I saw it in person that I learned it dispenses beer from a 1-gallon plastic bag. The bag is filled like a Camelbak bladder: you simply hold it up to a faucet; pour beer into it until it’s full; hook it up to the Synek’s own CO2 canister and tap line; then you pour it from the tap just like any other draught beer.

That certainly sounds pretty cool. After all, that means any beer that’s available on tap anywhere you could theoretically have on tap in your home. In fact, that’s the entire selling point of Synek (which, oddly enough, is pronounced “cynic”). It’s meant to be the next evolution in growlers. You might even call it the growler enthusiast’s fantasy come true. And considering how much money they raised crowd sourcing the prototype, there’s definitely an audience for Synek. When I was at MPH I saw several people carrying their brand new Syneks out the door with a smile.
But I’m not sold on this Synek thing just yet. Call me a Synek cynic, and here’s why:
  • The price starts at $299 (there’s also a bronze version for $399) and that does not include shipping (though you can come pick it up for free at events like this). For those prices you could buy a traditional kegerator (maybe not a great one).
  • You’re limited to only a single 1-gallon bag at a time with a Synek, but you could have a sixtel or a half barrel keg with a kegerator. Each Synek does come with five 1-gallon bags, so you could have five gallons of the same beer I suppose, but wouldn’t it be easier to just have a sixtel and a kegerator? Or, if you filled all five bags with five different beers, the four waiting on standby could go flat. Obviously you could re-carbonate them with the Synek’s CO2, but how long does it take to carbonate a flat bag? That doesn’t make it party-friendly whereas a keg is already carbonated and ready to go
    • Synek is marketed as being portable. In the above video they say wherever there’s an electrical outlet you can have draught beer. Sure, but couldn’t the same be said about a mini fridge? They’re about the same size and weight, but a mini fridge is not something generally considered to be portable. Are people really going to bring their Syneks with them tailgating and camping? Why lug this thing around when you could fill a cooler with a variety of cans instead? There’s also the issue of drinking vessels – if you’re going to drink portable draught beer from a plastic cup, then the novelty would seem to be rendered moot. Personally, I’d rather suck a beer straight from the can than drink a draught beer out of a plastic cup, but that’s just me.
    • Beer for growler fills is usually more expense per ounce than beer sold in a keg (not including the deposit). And draught beer at a bar or brewery is usually double that of comparable beer sold pre-packaged in bottles and cans. The average bottle or can (in my experience) is priced between 20 and 30 cents per ounce, whereas the average pint or growler fill at a bar tends to be priced around 40 to 50 cents per ounce. You really must have disposable income to make a Synek worthwhile.
    • See my blog from last month scoffing at growlers. Much of what I said about growlers is applicable to a Synek.
    iphone 122
    Sweet ride!

    iphone 123But I digress. I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy a Synek; I’m just saying it’s not for me, at least not right now. It’s a toy that I can’t really financially justify splurging on and one that I don’t think I’d use that much anyway.

    As an AnCap, I wholeheartedly support entrepreneurs and my hat is off to Steve Young and company for taking a pretty big risk in both this economy and in this highly regulated industry. This cannot be an easy product to sell, and I’m sure some idiot politician will try to stymie or flat-out ban Syneks in some capacity eventually. I appreciate that there does seem to be a viable market for this product and I’m impressed by all the support it’s apparently received by brewers and other industry professionals. Synek could be a game changer. I guess we’ll find out.

    What’s your thoughts on Synek?
    1. Is this a product you would consider buying? If so, how would you use it?
    2. How does this compare to a traditional kegerator?
    3. How does this compare to growlers?
    4. Could this/will this have a huge impact on the beer industry in the long run?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Southern Tier 2XIBA

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1437) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 25, 2015
Southern Tier’s “Iniquity” was a fantastic imperial Black IPA that I first reviewed back in 2012. I haven’t had it much since then, which is weird considering how much I enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it was retired; but now it seems to be resurrected in the form of 2XIBA, which is a slightly smaller brew of the same niche style (how the recipes compare - only a brewer could say I’m sure). This may not be world class, but it is very good for the style.

I poured a 12oz bottle into my Southern Tier Choklat snifter. It was bottled on 7/14/15 and cost $3.15 ($0.26 per ounce).

Appearance: Dark blackish/brown hue; not completely opaque but still pretty dark. Pours to a one figer, white, foamy head which laces and retains fairly well.

Smell: Strong hop presence of citrus, pine, and flowers. A very clean, bright aroma.

Taste: I’ve always thought of the Black IPA as one of the best styles since it’s the best of both worlds: the hops of an IPA and the maltiness of a stout. The thing is, both of these flavor components should be prominent and yet balanced off each other. In the case of this brew the hops definitely overwhelm the malts. That’s okay because I really enjoy the taste: sticky resin and pine sensation up front with a lovely orange juice flavor on the finish. A bit of a coffee flavor on the aftertaste, though not much in the way of roasted malt or other traditional stout flavors. The beer is pretty bitter; probably 60-80 IBUs; with a bit a sharp edge to it as it goes down. I’d be interested to try this in a few months after the hops have mellowed to see if it actually becomes more balanced.

Drinkability: The original Iniquity was a beast at 9% ABV, but 2XIBA is “only” 8% ABV. You’d never know it, though, as there is zero alcohol presence in the taste or delivery. No warming sensation, either. The mouthfeel is not quite as intense as brews of the weight tend to be; more of a medium body with a noticeable thin, calmness to the mouthfeel. Hops linger momentarily, but are quite tolerable. I wish the malts lingered as well.

RATING: 8/10

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hill Farmstead Everett

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 17/20
Chad9976 (1436) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 24, 2015
When you think of Hill Farmstead, you probably think of IPAs and saisons, but they do make a wide variety of styles including porter. This is my first dark beer from this highly sought-after brewery and it’s definitely an excellent example of the style. Robust palette with a body that’s as nice on the eyes as it is on the tongue.

I poured a 500ml bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 8/14/15 and cost $8.50 ($0.50 per ounce). Thanks to Jon H. for the bottle!

Appearance: One of the darkest porters I’ve seen with a jet black, opaque hue with just a hint of brown highlights. Pours to a large, dark tan frothy head which retains and laces extremely well.

Smell: Plenty of dark malt, though not roasty or chocolaty per se. Fairly sweet scent all around with a trace of pine.

Taste: There’s a fine line between a strong robust porter and a stout and Everett seems to straddle that line pretty firmly. I don’t get the lighter fruity sweetness here that’s typical of a porter, but more of a deeply bitter roasty sensation usually associated with stouts. Not that I’m complaining, but the flavors that are present are plenty delectable. Sweet dark malty flavor is the first component, followed by a resiny/piney sensation from the hops. Not especially bitter, though there is a dry, coffee and burnt toast-like taste on the finish. A residual earthy aftertaste completes and complements the palette perfectly.

Drinkability: Hill Farmstead Everett is not only a great-tasting beer, it’s also a pleasure to drink. The mouthfeel is very silky and smooth, though it does feel just a tad thin. For a 7.2% ABV brew, there is no alcohol presence whatsoever; which makes it almost dangerously drinkable. Even the aftertaste is good, if a bit astringent but easily tolerable.

RATING: 9/10

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Caldera Lawnmower Lager

   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 6/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 13/20
Chad9976 (1435) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 23, 2015
For the most part, what separates “craft” beer from non-craft beer is the recipe. After all, the vast majority of the beer brewed and consumed in the world is of the adjunct lager style with only slight variations between recipes. So I’m not sure what the point of Caldera Lawnmower Lager is since it’s very similar to the Big Boys’ brews in every facet. Not that it’s bad, though; in fact, I’d definitely take this over a macro of the style, but there are better craft lagers out there. 

I poured a 12oz can into a shaker glass. It was canned on 6/17/15 and cost $2.30 ($0.19 per ounce).

Appearance: Golden in color with spastic carbonation easily seen through the clear body. Pours to a small, white, foamy head which mostly dissipates but does leave a bit of a lacing.

Smell: Similar to other fizzy yellow lagers. No distinct malt or hop presence. Clean and inoffensive, though.

Taste: I think the best way to describe this palette would be as macro adjunct lager done better. Though that’s not that great of a compliment. The taste here is quite familiar – pale grain with only a touch of hops (it’s only 16 IBUs, after all). I get a slight tangy presence on the finish, maybe even some acetaldehyde. I was hoping for some real hop flavor, but there’s just a light dry bitterness throughout. It’s made with flaked rice so there is a familiar Budweiser-like component here. Still, it doesn’t taste like canned corn or metallic like many macro brews.

Drinkability: I drank this specifically on a hot and sunny summer day because at only 3.9% ABV, it’s exactly the kind of beer you want for the situation. Unfortunately, Caldera Lawnmower Lager is not especially refreshing. In fact, there is a bit of a starchy taste that lingers. I will say it’s plenty crisp and easy to get down, though I would not consider it for sessioning because I’m not enamored with the taste.

RATING: 5/10

Friday, August 21, 2015

Samuel Adams Boston Lager (2015 re-review)

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1434) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 21, 2015
There are certain beers that are milestones in the history and development of the American craft beer movement and Samuel Adams Boston Lager might be one of the most significant of them. We literally have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the craft beer selection, so old standbys like this tend to be overlooked and underappreciated. But when given the same treatment as the must-have beer of the moment, this does hold under scrutiny and over time.

I poured a 12oz bottle into the official Samuel Adams Boston Lager glass. It came as part of a 12-pack for $15.99 ($1.33 a bottle or $0.11 per ounce). The freshness date was notched at 12/15.

Appearance: Beautiful dark amber/copper hue. Completely clear with consistent carbonation visible. Pours to a fairly large, white, frothy head which retains and laces extremely well.

Smell: Mostly a standard lager scent, though cleaner than most with a slight malt presence. Faintest floral aroma from the hops.

Taste: This beer tastes how a standard, traditional, no-frills, well-made lager should. I get distinct malt and hop notes at right times. First, a slightly toasty malt character with a touch of nuttiness. At the crest the hops appear and create for a light spicy sensation; akin to rye bread (which really complements the bready malt character well). There’s a dry bitterness on the finish with a mild floral sensation in the aftertaste. These flavors repeat and become a little stronger as the beer warms. This isn’t a massively complex brew by any means – but it’s not supposed to be. For a lager it’s plenty flavorful and enjoyable and that’s why it’s endured for literally decades now.

Drinkability: There was a time when this beer’s 4.9% ABV was considered rather heavy. Certainly, it’s got the body of a beefy brew when compared to other lagers of the potency. The mouthfeel is fairly soft in texture, but still light enough and carbonated enough to create for a crispness as it goes down. I would not consider Samuel Adams Boston Lager refreshing, though it’s arguably sessionable and yet strong enough to stand up to any American fare.

RATING: 8/10

Read and watch my 2009 original review here:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bell’s Midwestern Pale Ale

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1434) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 19, 2015
You don’t see too many beers with “Midwestern” in the name, since it’s the two coasts that are known for certain niche styles. Judging by the packaging, Bell’s Midwestern Pale Ale wants to be associated with the Midwestern grain belt and farms, which would explain why there’s a rather earthy/spicy character to this beer typically found in farmhouse ales (though it’s definitely a pale ale). Tasty and easy to drink; I like it.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 5/16/15 and cost $2.65 ($0.22 per ounce).

Appearance: A very hazy shade of brownish orange. No visible carbonation, but it does pour to a larger-than-average off-white foamy head which laces and retains quite well.

Smell: Quite malty, almost like that of raw grain. A slight citrusy component, but otherwise a mild nose.

Taste: The pale ale is an overlooked style these days, so I really appreciate the brews that can make it work. This palette is rather unique in that it’s not a citrus bomb, but actually well-balanced with light malts and some spicy hop character. Light bready notes at first with a tingling bitterness in the background. There’s a bit of a hop bite at the apex followed by a spicy sensation of rye, peppercorn and orangepeel (though none of those ingredients are in this brew). I detect a touch of orange marmalade in the aftertaste, reminds me of a British ESB or similar style. I hope Bell’s has pioneered a sub-genre with this as I’d like to see more beers that aren’t so conforming to East or West coast styles.

Drinkability: What’s impressive about Bell’s Midwestern Pale Ale is that it’s only 5.2% ABV. That’s fairly light for a craft beer these days; but it has the stronger body of a heavier brew. The mouthfeel is crisp from beginning to end with no spastic carbonation. A tad refreshing while crossing the tongue, it leaves a fairly clean finish (the hops do linger a bit). It’d be tempting to session this in the summer, though it’s also strong enough to stand up to a meal.

RATING: 8/10

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Samuel Adams Hoppy Red

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (1433) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 18, 2015
So-called “red ales” are something of an enigma in the beer world. They’re usually lumped in with amber ales even if they don’t follow that style. They could also be Irish Reds or a supposed “Red IPA,” but why not just a standard red ale. Samuel Adams Hoppy Red is probably an example of that style. Despite the name, it is not a Red IPA and it doesn’t have the malt character I normally associate with a traditional amber. This is just a red ale, and that’s good enough for me.

I poured a 12oz bottle into the official Samuel Adams Boston Lager glass. The freshness date was notched at 12/15 and came as part of a mix pack for $15.99 ($1.33 per bottle or $0.11 per ounce).

Appearance: A deep copper/amber hue with an overall red complexion. Actually quite clear in the light with visible carbonation. Pours to a two-finger, off-white, foamy head which laces and retains extremely well.

Smell: Pretty potent citrusy hops along with some pine notes. There’s a maltiness there too.

Taste: Trying to describe the palette of this brew may be a bit difficult. It’s similar to that of a standard American amber, but doesn’t have all the exact flavor notes. It’s also hoppier than the average amber or red, but not to the point of being an IPA (it’s only 44 IBUs). I will say there’s a fairly strong malt base here that creates for a mild, slightly confectionery sweetness. Maybe some caramel notes, along with toasted bread. There’s a light fruity flavor up front; probably citrusy notes imparted from the aroma; followed by a bit of earthy/piney flavor on the backend. There’s bitterness as it finishes – slightly dry and astringent – but nothing intense per se. Overall, it’s an interesting palette.

Drinkability: I was a little surprised to see the 5.7% ABV on the label of Samuel Adams Hoppy Red, since this brewery doesn’t tend to make beers stronger than 5.5% for mainstream release. It doesn’t have the complexity and robustness I’d expect from that weight level. The mouthfeel is a bit tepid; the body is on the light side of medium. Perhaps a light lingering aftertaste due to hops, but it’s tolerable.

RATING: 7/10

Monday, August 17, 2015

Green Flash Citra Session

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1432) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 17, 2015
When you think of the Citra hop you probably associate it with being a citrusy smelling and tasting hop (duh, right?). Though I find the hop is actually more herbal and earthy than it is citrusy, and if you need proof of that just refer to Green Flash Citra Session. Though there are some citrus components to it, I would not say they are the predominate flavors. It’s closer to a New England-style IPA, and that it’s done as a SIPA is pretty impressive, too.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a goblet. It had a best by date of 12/15/15 and cost $2.95 ($0.25 per ounce).

Appearance: Mostly clear shade of orange. Pours to an average-sized white, foamy head which laces and retains pretty well.

Smell: Huge grass and herbal notes; almost like an onion or garlic patch. There is an underlying sweet fruity scent as well.

Taste: If I were drinking this beer blind I would not likely think it’s a San Diego brew as it tastes like something from the opposite end of the country. Much like the nose there’s a strong herbal and grassy taste to these hops. Onion, garlic and grass are all quite prominent along with a light peppery sensation on the finish. There is some malty character which is quite interesting, though. Minor notes of toasted bread with marmalade and maybe even a hint of coffee. On paper these flavors might not sound like a good combination, but in the mouth they’re actually quite enjoyable. This is one of the most unique Session IPAs I can recall having.

Drinkability: Green Flash Citra Session delivers as its subgenre style promises. The mouthfeel is thin and crisp, though there’s a quite potent bitterness and a lingering hop sensation. I would not consider this beer refreshing – almost the opposite, actually. It does have quite a lot of flavor and complexity for 4.5% ABV, and the body is a bit heavier than I’d expect (or prefer). Based on delivery alone this could pass for a standard IPA.

RATING: 8/10

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1431) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 16, 2015
I don’t tend to use the word “malty” to describe an IPA, and if I do it’s usually not a compliment. In the case of Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA it’s definitely one of the more malty IPAs I’ve had, though it’s not a bad beer. I enjoyed the malt character – maybe not immensely – but I did enjoy it. That being said, it’s just a fine IPA; no more no less.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 5/28/15 and cost $2.95 ($0.25 per ounce).

Appearance: Surprisingly dark orange to brown proper hue; extremely hazy body though no sediment is visible. Pours to a large, white, frothy head which laces and retains quite well.

Smell: Mostly piney notes with light floral aromatics. Considerable malt presences for the style.

Taste: Since this bottle is nearly three months old it might be understandable why it’s noticeably malty for the style. Dark amber malt flavors are quite prominent here; not unlike those found in a traditional amber ale (in fact, this beer could easily be classified as such). I notice some caramel and toffee notes as well as a touch of chocolate or perhaps coffee. It’s still plenty hoppy, though. Mostly pine and resin character with a touch of earthy spiciness. The bitterness is enough to notice but mild enough to overlook. An enjoyable palette for sure, just not an amazing one.

Drinkability: The delivery of Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA is pretty much what I expect in the style. Medium bodied with noticeable carbonation crispness. There is a bit of a sticky texture and a lingering sensation of hop oils after each swig. It doesn’t seem to be quite as big as the 6.5% ABV on the label would have me believe, but it’s sturdy enough to stand up to a meal or enjoy on its own.

RATING: 7/10

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Tröegs Dream Weaver Wheat

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 5/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1430) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 15, 2015
Hefeweizen is one of my all-time favorite styles of beer, though it seems to be something of a rarity among American brewers. I’m not sure why, especially considering “session beer” is all the rage these days. Not too many mainstream American production breweries can make a hefe on par with the Germans, though I’d say Tröegs Dream Weaver Wheat is one of the better examples I’ve had. It’s completely to-spec on all categories as well as being delectable, refreshing, priced right and fun to drink. 

I poured a 12oz bottle into a weizen glass. It was bottled on 5/15/15 and cost $2.60 ($0.22 per ounce).

Appearance: An aggressive pour fills up my tall wheat glass to the rim with foam. It settles quickly to leave a lovely four inches of froth. It leaves plenty of lacing on the glass after each swig and never completely dissipates.

Smell: Traditional yeast esters of banana and clove as well as some bubblegum. Quite sweet-smelling.

Taste: I’ve drank a lot of hefeweizen over the years and I think my palate is honed enough by now to discern between just plain okay brews and ones that are really great. This falls into the latter category by virtue of the fact that not only is not mild (as many American versions tend to be), it’s actually quite robust and complex. I really dig the light sweetness of bananas right off the rip. I get a bit of orange flavor as well, but it’s in no way acidic or tart like the juice. A bit of spicy bitterness through the middle which lingers throughout the back end. A bit clovey, a bit peppery so as to offer some balance to the basic sweetness of the palette but not so much as to overshadow it.

Drinkability: Another thing that separates a great hefe from a good hefe is its ability to be fully flavored without a heavy body. Tröegs Dream Weaver Wheat is only 4.8% ABV, which is a little light for the style, but has just as much body as heavier version. The mouthfeel is quite comfortable with a fullness that envelopes the tongue, but is still fluffy and soft. Every swig is equally refreshing. This beer absolutely should be available in cans because it lends itself to portability and sessioning perfectly.

RATING: 9/10

Friday, August 14, 2015

Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1429) - Albany, New York, USA - AUG 14, 2015
Stone Ruination pretty much invented the concept of the “Double IPA.” It’s what I would consider a Hall of Fame beer for many reasons. Not sure why Stone felt the need to re-invent the wheel with their Ruination Double IPA 2.0 since it’s not – in my opinion – an improvement over the original. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by years of drinking big hoppy brews, but this is actually pretty standard for the format. Not that it’s bad, it’s very good to be sure; it just doesn’t impress me the way the original did.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. It had an enjoy by date of 9/4/15 and cost $3.50 ($0.29 per ounce).

Appearance: The usual dark shade of orange with an extremely hazy body. Pours to a two-finger, off-white, foamy head which retains and laces fairly well.

Smell: Citrus juice concentrate. Fruity and sweet. A bit of an alcohol presence, too.

Taste: No doubt there are plenty of hops in this beer and no doubt it’s high on the IBU scale. Though the palette is not quite as complex as you might think it’d be. There’s a citrusy taste, yes (this is a San Diego beer, after all), but it’s thick and dank rather than crisp and dry. I get a strong malty presence throughout the entire first half; amber and honey flavors really stand out. It’s actually quite sweet. The hops create for orange juice at first and morph into sticky resiny pine on the back end and leave a drying sensation. The alcohol is also quite prominent and creates for a bit of a vanilla character. It actually doesn’t seem to be ridiculously bitter as marketed, probably because it’s so well-balanced. This is exactly the kind of palette I’ve come to expect in a DIPA.

Drinkability: I remember being anxious my first time trying Stone Ruination. But only one sip into the new edition and I was already accustomed to it. The mouthfeel is pretty full, with a noticeably viscosity and chewiness. The 8.5% ABV alcohol does impart a warming sensation, though it’s in no way a burden or distracting. This is not refreshing, though; nor is this the type of beer you drink on a whim – it really sticks to your ribs.

RATING: 8/10