Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fort Collins Brewery - Z Lager

Been kinda quiet around here lately. Between Christmas and a bit of travel, I've been too busy to do any new reviews. Now, I'm fighting a cold and can't taste anything. Boo.

Fortunately, I took notes on a beer I had last week, so I have a new review to add today.

Z is a a smoked amber lager from Fort Collins Brewery. It is a German-style rauchbier, which uses barley that has been dried over an open beechwood flame, giving it its smoky flavor.

5.5% ABV

Z has a clear appearance, bright copper color and a foamy, cream head.

Yeasty, with prominent smoke and caramel aromas.

Taste & Feel
Very complex flavors at work here... it starts with a subtle caramel sweetness punctuated with smoked wood. Quite a bit of carbonation, too. A hops bitterness emerges in the medium body before fading into a dry, smoky finish. It leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste.

This is a good beer. The smoke flavor has a tendency to dominate the others, but that's OK because it will stand up nicely to a flavorful meal , especially a heap of good barbecue.

As a side note, my cat loves it. I found her ears-deep in my glass, happily licking away at the sweet, smoky treat inside.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Atwater Block Brewery - Vanilla Java Porter

I had been hunting this beer for two months since first tasting it at the World Beer Festival in Durham. You could only get a small two-ounce sample at the event, but the Vanilla Java Porter was one that I made a point to return to sample a second time. Since then, it's been at the top of my must-revisit list.

While shopping for singles at Total Wine & More last night, I decided to check out the six packs. Surprise... they had it. Early Christmas for me!  

I was extra pleased, because I hadn't been able to find it at my usual Total Wine location.

Vanilla Java Porter is one of nine year-round offerings from Detroit's Atwater Block Brewery. They describe it as:
"a robust porter made with chocolate malt.  We blend it with Vanilla and Java beans, and balance it with U.S. Golding Hops."
6.0% ABV

Looks like a typical porter. It has a very dark brown color and nearly opaque appearance with just a bit of light shining through around the very edges of my glass. There seems to be a decent amount of carbonation, which forms a frothy tan head that leaves a nice amount of lacing.

This beer has a sweet and syrupy aroma that strengthens with warmth. Vanilla is most prominent. It also has a slightly metallic quality which, combined with the vanilla, reminds me of pipe tobacco.

Taste & Feel
Medium-full body, significant carbonation. It starts off with a brief, but lively, bubbly burst. The robust maltiness is highlighted by very smooth vanilla, caramel and roasted coffee flavors. It has a sweet, rich vanilla bean finish with a bit of a coffee aftertaste. Very desserty.

I found this to be a good, flavorful beer. Drink it at a higher temperature, since it gets sweeter and more aromatic as it warms. I'm eagerly awaiting my wife's coffee cake to finish baking... this should go great with it.

Lion Stout

This is the third beer recommended to me last week by Ken over at East Wake. He's been quite reliable when suggesting porters and stouts, so I'm expecting good things.

This one is an import, produced by The Lion Breweries (Ceylon) in Sri Lanka. That's right....Sri Lanka.

8.0% ABV

Dark, black, opaque. Dense, thick mocha head. Ample lacing.
Pours with a muffled sound... now, that's thick. 

Interesting. Lion has a rich, sweet and syrupy aroma full of vanilla, cocoa and caramel scents, with a hint of black cherry.

Taste & Feel
Sweet, malty flavor. Strong toffee tones. Some roasted coffee. A bit of a lightly tart, fruity bite. Dark chocolate finish.

Thick, full body. Almost chewy texture.

Ken was 3 for 3 on last week's picks. Lion is an extraordinary stout.

I'm certain it's the best beer brewed in Sri Lanka, but I have to say, it holds its own against anything the U.S. and Europe have to offer.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. - Old Leghumper Robust Porter

This is the second of three beers purchased last weekend during my stout and porter shopping spree.

Until finding Old Leghumper, I had never heard of Akron,Ohio-based Thirsty Dog. Not surprising, considering their limited distribution area covers just 11 states in the Great Lakes, mid-Atlantic and parts of New England. Still, it's available if you look for it.

This porter was a 2002 World Beer Cup Gold Medal winner.

6.7% ABV

Old Leghumper is dark, but not completely opaque. Enough light passes through to give it a cola-brown coloring. It has a dense, creamy head that leaves heavy lacing.

Sweet, bready malt; dark, bittersweet chocolate and smooth cappuccino are all very prominent. In fact, it smells exactly like a Caribou Coffee Chocolate Mocha granola bar (which are delicious!). Absolutely decadent... I'm getting full just off the aroma.

Taste & Feel
Nice. A good amount of carbonation creates a velvety texture. It has a medium-full body, robust with sweet and roasted malt flavors and a semi-sweet chocolate finish.

Silly name , but great flavor and a fantastic aroma. If you can find this beer near you, I highly recommend trying it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bison Brewing Co. - Chocolate Stout

Temperatures dropped below freezing for the first time this weekend, which means it's officially dark beer season (as if I needed a reason). I stopped in to East Wake Wines & Craft Brew (which added to it's selection in the past week) on Saturday and picked up two varieties of stout and a porter. This is the first...

This is one of five beers produced by Bison Brewing of Berkeley, CA. It's brewed with organic malts and infused with cocoa, and won a Silver Medal at the 2005 Great American Beer Festival.  Ken at East Wake highly recommended it.

5.0% ABV

Like all good stouts, Bison is opaque and black. It appears to have quite a bit of carbonation and forms a dense, mocha head. Doesn't leave much lacing.

Two distinct aromas are very prominent. The first is a rich, roasted malt that has a subtle charcoal character. If the label hasn't already spoiled the surprise, the other standout scent is a heavy, sweet cocoa.

Taste & Feel
The flavors align nicely with the nose... a superb blend of roasted malts and cocoa. The carbonation makes its presence known as a lively burst of bubbles right at the tip of the tongue. That soon subsides, allowing you to enjoy the full, smooth, creamy body before it finishes with a dry, roasty, dark chocolate aftertaste.

This is an excellent, enjoyable stout. The smooth texture, low alcohol content and sweet cocoa flavor combine to make this a very easy-to-drink beer.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Going public

When I first launched this blog in August, I kept it pretty quiet while I slowly added content. Now that I've built up some mass and have been getting regular visits, I'm ready to start publicizing it.

Today, I added a Facebook fan page and began telling friends. For those of you who found this place on your own or through Twitter, I thank you and hope you'll keep visiting.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Knightdale Seafood & BBQ

Despite living in Knightdale, it's been quite awhile since I ventured over to Knightdale Seafood & BBQ. The owners must have been visionaries, because the restaurant first opened in 1988, quite a bit ahead of the growth spurt that Knightdale is now experiencing. The current building opened in 2001.

The outside is a somewhat sterile brick building, typical of many local shopping centers. Inside, however, the  place has a nice small town restaurant atmosphere with big, wooden booths. Old advertising signs dot the walls, and with fish netting and patio lights, the attached oyster bar feels like a beach hangout.

The staff was very friendly and attentive, adding to the feeling that this is a family run establishment. I got the feeling that if I showed up more frequently than once every two years, they'd probably greet me by name.

I ordered my standard rib and pulled pork combo with mashed potatoes and okra on the side.

When my food came out, it had a nice, smoky barbecue aroma. I tried the pork first. I was a bit disappointed that they serve chopped pork instead of pulled. I've found that that chopped is usually a bit too fine for my liking and has a tendency to dry out quickly. Not to mention to psychological hurdles posed by looking like tuna. After tasting it, though, my concerns were eased. The meat was nice and moist, and had a subtle smoky and peppery flavor.

The ribs were good, too... meaty with just enough fat to make them tasty. The meat was moist and pink and had a good amount of smoke flavor. For the most part, it pulled cleanly from the bone. The only downside was the sauce. It was sweet, but not spicy or smoky and appeared to be brushed on as an afterthought, where a bit of cooked-on charring would have added flavor and character. Much of the sauce flavor was tomato and brown sugar, which failed to enhance the flavor of the ribs. On the other hand, the sauce didn't overwhelm the ribs, either.

Overall, Knightdale Seafood & BBQ is a decent place to grab a meal. The food isn't my absolute favorite, but it's good and the reasonable prices and friendly, courteous staff make it a welcoming place to eat.

Stone Brewing Co. - Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale

Oaked Arrogant Bastard is a strong brown ale aged with oak chips. I've found it in six-packs and singles at Total Wine and have seen it on tap (although I think it was the regular AB, not the oaked) at Tyler's Tap Room in Durham.

As if the name of this beer wasn't cocky enough, the bottle it's packaged in steps up the arrogance. On the front, the image of a scowling, muscular gargoyle hoisting a mug full of what I assume is this ale, but could very well be devil piss.

But, the absolute clincher is the message on the back. It includes, among other things, the following disclaimer:
"This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory – maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that the their tasteless fizzy yellow beer will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make a beer taste better. Perhaps you’re mouthing these words as you read this."
You can read the full diatribe at www.arrogantbastard.com/oaked/design.html. San Diego-area Stone Brewing Company is the outfit responsible for this bottled pomposity.

7.2% ABV

AB pours a deep, rich amber-brown color. It has a translucent appearnce,with significant carbonation and a thick, pilowy tan head that leaves ample lacing.

An aggressively hoppy aroma, rich with a hearty fruit and wood essence that give it an almost whiskey-like character.

Taste & Feel
Bam! The medium body is loooooaded with a strong hops flavor. It starts off with a caramel maltiness. Then, a sweet, fruity flavor briefly tries to sneak through before being completely overrun by the relentless hops. The fruit and hops flavors combine to give it a grapefruit taste. It finsihses with a dry, woody bite and leaves a lingering bitter aftertaste both in your moth and on your lips.

Arrogant is an understatement. This beer punches you in the mouth and then sits there laughing while trying to get you to cry about it. It thinks you're weak, and knows that there are only two types of people who will even step up to try it - beer snobs and arrogant bastards.

I love being both... and that's why I thoroughly enjoy this beer.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dogfish Head - Midas Touch

It's rare that I come across a beer with such an interesting story behind it. According to Dogfish's website, Midas Touch has ancient roots:
"This recipe is the actual oldest-known fermented beverage in the world! It is an ancient Turkish recipe using the original ingredients from the 2700 year old drinking vessels discovered in the tomb of King Midas. Somewhere between wine & mead; this smooth, sweet, yet dry ale will please the Chardonnay of beer drinker alike."
 2700 years old... that's a classic brew!

9.0 ABV

This is a great-looking beer...the golden honey color has an nice, warm glow.It has a nearly transparent appearance and a thin, white head. Doesn't bubble much, but a good swirl releases a good burst of carbonation.

Rich, warm and fruity. At first, I caught a strong whiff of banana. Drawing in a deeper sniff reveals honey and grape scents.

Taste & Feel
Liquid gold. It has a smooth body and warm honey flavor. Don't confuse that with being too sweet... it actually has a dry, malty finish heavy with barley flavor. The higher alcohol content gives it a slightly boozy feel and leaves a soft warmth at the back of the palate

This is a beautifully crafted  beer. Kinda makes you wonder what the hell we've been working toward for the past 2700 years... seems to me, the ancients pretty much nailed it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rogue - Dry Hopped St. Rogue Red Ale

I always like Rogue ales... they tend to be flavorful, hoppy and well crafted. The St. Rogue is exactly what the name indicates... a dry-hopped red ale.

5.2% ABV

This one has a dark copper-chestnut color and translucent appearance. The cream head is tall and foamy, and leaves some serious lacing.

There's a lot going on here... it has a strong, hoppy aroma complemented by a lighter roasted maltiness that puts out sweet whiffs of caramel with a bit of woodiness mixed in.

Taste & Feel
Good amount of hops flavor and bitterness, but not so strong that you'll be overwhelmed. It actually has a smooth, medium body. The hops are balanced with a sweet malt flavor that gives way to an evergreen and citrus finish. It leaves a bitter taste on the lips, but only a modest aftertaste.

A good beer. It's flavorful, but not overly aggressive. Rogue suggest pairing it with Kobe beef, but my frugal ass will settle for a good burger.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mendocino Brewing Co. - Black Hawk Stout

The second beer I picked up on my visit to East Wake Wines & Craft Brew was Black Hawk Stout, a traditional Irish stout put out by the Mendocino Brewing Company of Saratoga Springs, NY.

Looks good right from the pour... it has a dark black-brown color and is nearly opaque. From what little light is getting through, it appears that it is quite bubbly for a stout. Small bubbles rise to form a modest, frothy mocha head. Not much lacing.

At a distance, I first picked up a bready, yeasty aroma. Getting closer, it became easier to detect a complex blend of deeper roasted malts. It has a lot of brown smells...coffee and bitter chocolate, with an underlying essence of chicory and molasses.

Taste & Feel
This one has a quick, dry bite.  I'm pretty sure I felt the bite it before I tasted the flavor.

Still, the flavor is there. The full, creamy body is rich with coffee flavors. It has a hoppy finish with a strong and sustained espresso aftertaste.

After having a few lighter beers recently, it was nice to get back to my deep, dark comfort zone. This is a tasty, classic stout that I'd gladly buy again.