Thursday, February 2, 2012

Coney Island Craft Lagers mix pack

I bought this mix pack on a whim. I was at Westmere Beverage looking for a new mix pack to try because it was football day and my family was coming over. I wanted something we could all enjoy, so I thought this was a safe bet. It was quite expensive at $24, though! (after tax and deposit). Was it worth it? Watch and find out.

Coney Island Lager

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (613) - Albany, New York, USA - FEB 4, 2012
I poured a 12oz bottle into a lager glass.

Appearance: Dark copper to brown proper. Mostly hazy but some transparency to it. Forms a small, off white soapy head which doesn’t last very long or lace much.

Smell: Plenty of malts for a lager. Very similar to a marzen with hints of confectionary sweetness, but a noticeable lager aroma overall.

Taste: It’s rare that you can smell malts in a lager (aside from a doppelbock), so you can imagine how much that will come through in the taste. And indeed Coney Island Lager is quite malty. The bottle indicates it uses 8 different malts and 6 types of hops. They certainly work well together, creating for a slightly toasty, biscuity malt taste with accompanying bitterness. A light caramel flavor is present as well, mostly on the finish, and provides a good balance to the standard "beer" taste found here.

Drinkability: You could mistake Coney Island Lager for an ale due to the taste, but the actual drinkability is classic lager style. The fizziness makes the mouthfeel quite lively all the way through with a slight carbonation burn if drank too fast. The mouthfeel is thick than your average lager in conjunction with a perfectly medium bodied palate, but mostly clean in the aftertaste (although I would not describe this beer as being refreshing). The 5.5% ABV weight seems to fit that frame perfectly: more "pep" than your average lager, but nothing even approaching the stronger or imperial territories.

Grade: 7/10
Coney Island Sword Swallower

   AROMA 8/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 8/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (613) - Albany, New York, USA - FEB 1, 2012
The Coney Island Sword Swallower claims to be an "IPA Style" lager but if I were drinking this blind I might confuse it for a rye IPA. Unlike other beers in this line, this brew doesn’t taste, feel or drink like the lager it actually is. It’s very hoppy and extremely bitter all around with a sweet caramel flavor and rye spice.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a lager glass.

Appearance: Dark gold color with plenty of carbonation visible, although the body is quite hazy. Forms a good size white, frothy head which laces and retains rather well.

Smell: Light rye spice with equally light floral notes. No generic lager smell detectable.

Taste: Immediate strong bitterness engulfs the mouth with a dry, almost "sandy" texture and prickly sensation. Through the middle comes a slightly earthy, rustic combination of rye spice and pine needles. It’s the ending that’s so impressive as the palate transitions to something much sweeter with prominent notes of caramel and yellow lollipop. The aftertaste comes full circle to the initial dry bitterness with a pronounced rye flavor and bite.

Coney Island Sword Swallower is made with eight different hops and four malts, yet it doesn’t seem to be that complex of a beer as it’s pretty much only two genuine flavors (rye and caramel) with strong bitterness throughout. And while it may be a repetitive palate, it’s consistently enjoyable, mostly due to the strong bitterness that wakes your mouth up.

Drinkability: While indeed bitter and full of energy from the first to last drop, Coney Island Sword Swallower is remarkably drinkable. Though technically an imperial pilsner, it drinks more like an average ale (an average IPA at least). Crisp in the mouth, but never fizzy and it goes down smooth. Definitely too dry and bitter to be refreshing, though, and the hops definitely linger on the tongue. One of the few beers that can be so overtly bitter without any cloying quality. At 7.2% ABV it’s hefty for a lager, but about average for an IPA wannabe. Drink one with a spicy meal and another afterwards as a palate cleanser.

Grade: 8/10
Coney Island Albino Python
   AROMA 6/10   APPEARANCE 3/5   TASTE 5/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (613) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 29, 2012
I’ve often said that just because something is novel doesn’t necessarily make it good. The entire Coney Island brand of unusual lager recipes is certainly novel, but not everything is a success. The Albino Python being a good example, as it’s intended to be the lager equivalent of a witbier. But the brewers went way overboard with ginger and the net result is a ginger-tasting lager with little else to show for it.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a lager glass.

Appearance: Dark gold/maize-colored body. Mostly clear with a slight cloudiness and plenty of visible carbonation. Forms a small, white, soapy head that does not retain or lace well at all.

Smell: Mostly ginger with a spicy, wildflower aroma. Also a noticeable chemical-like scent of cleaning products, plus a prominent lager smell, too.

Taste: Everyone has some flavors they cannot enjoy no matter how many times they’ve tried them. For me, ginger is that flavor and it’s pretty much the only thing I can taste in Coney Island Albino Python. It begins with a strong ginger spice - so strong it’s akin to a mouthfeel of cinnamon or even curry. There seems to be a mild sweetness of honey or maybe even chamomile to balance it out, but the ginger is just too strong and too distracting to ignore if you’re not a fan of this taste. There’s a light spicy hop bitterness through the middle, but the palate ends where it began with dry ginger spice. This isn’t refreshing and there’s no complexity to the palate at all. Plus you can still tell that it’s a lager at the core which makes it seem like a beer just trying to mask its true identity. While not a disgusting taste, this just isn’t what I want in a witbier.

Drinkability: Coney Island Albino Python is so spicy at first that it actually stings the tongue on the first swig or two. Once you get used to it the ginger flavor becomes more tolerable, but still makes you (well, me) wince on the finish. The mouthfeel is somewhat thin and surprisingly tepid and watery for a stronger lager. It doesn’t seem to match its 6% ABV weight - which also seems to do the beer a disservice

Grade: 4/10

Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 14/20
Chad9976 (613) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 31, 2012
Adding rye to a hoppy beer, like a pale ale or an IPA, is a good idea because it imparts a nice spicy bite. But in a lager? That’s the concept behind Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner. The rye doesn’t make it a wholly unique-tasting beer, but it’s enough to give it more flavor than your average lager.

I poured a 12oz bottle into a pilsner glass.

Appearance: Pure gold color; almost crystal clear but a slight haze to it; plenty of visible carbonation. Forms a large, bright white, foamy head which retains and laces about average.

Smell: Familiar lager aroma with a hint of rye and some lemon rind, otherwise not very aromatic.

Taste: Take a macro lager and subtract the adjuncts and replace them with some rye and that’s what you get with Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner. More clean-tasting than anything else, it’s mildly bitter but with noticeable dry malt presence. The rye appears in the middle of the palate creating for a hint of spice and again in the aftertaste, along with the six other malts to give a biscuity/bready-like taste to the palate.

The label brags that it uses four different hops and is dry hopped, but it’s still not what I would consider a hoppy or even bitter lager. There’s enough hops in the beer to notice, but anyone expecting strong citrusy or piney notes should opt for the Sword Swallower instead. There’s some lemonpeel and a hint of flowers to taste, but otherwise it’s mild.

Drinkability: At 5.5% ABV, Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner is actually pretty big for even a pale American pilsner. Though the carbonation is clear, it’s not overwhelming - making for a light, crisp mouthfeel. It’s not what I would consider a refreshing beer per se, especially considering the aftertaste is slightly dry with a bit of a chalky sensation. Still, it’s a nice to find a craft lager that drinks like a lager without any gimmicks.

Grade: 7/10

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