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Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Holland Brewing Co. - Dragon's Milk (2010)

Bio 
Part of New Holland's High Gravity Series, Dragon's Milk is an oak barrel-aged stout. I'm drinking the 2010 vintage, and enjoying this brew brings me back to my first taste of it at the World Beer Festival in Raleigh earlier this year. They only poured it at specific times, so we (me & The Awesome One) had to battle a crowd for a spot at the front of the line for the 3:00 pour. Well worth it.

10.0% ABV

Appearance 
Dragon's Milk has a deep, black color, and is nearly opaque with a subtle warm, brown highlights when held up to a strong light. It has a velvety, but shortly retained, tan head that leaves a bit of sticky lacing.

Aroma 
Dragon's Milk has a strong, caramel aroma, complemented by the distinct smooth, woody, vanilla scent left by oak barrel aging. As it warms, the aroma gets a bit dusty and sour, but not nearly enough to spoil the experience.

Taste & Feel 
This full-bodied ale has a soft, creamy mouthfeel. The flavor is robust and sweet and while caramel and vanilla are most prominent, there's also a touch of chocolate milkshake. Roasted malts and woody oak flavors balance against the sweetness. A nice, boozy bourbon taste appears toward the finish, which leaves a slight alcohol tingle and a sweet, cigar-like aftertaste.

Verdict
Exceptional. This is a complex, well-crafted beer that tastes great on its own.  The high alcohol content puts severe limits on its sessionability, but the big flavors will stand up to pairing with the most hearty and robust meals. A must-try and a solid "A"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Flying Bison Brewing Co. - Buffalo Lager

Bio 
The name doesn't get much more straightforward. Buffalo Lager is a light, golden lager from my hometown's Flying Bison Brewing Company. They've been around for a decade

4.8% ABV

Appearance 
It has a hazy  appearance and bright golden color. Appears to be fairly well carbonated and is capped with a fluffy, white head. 

Aroma 
Surprisingly aromatic. It has a sweet, floral purfumy scent with a hint of yeast.


Taste & Feel
The flavor is an amplification of the aroma. It hits your tastebuds with a floral, hoppy burst that remains rather consistent right up to the finish. There's also a light, fruity pear taste that emerges as it warms.The body is light and clean, with a bubbly finish, which is more intense, and leaves a perfumy aftertaste.

Verdict
Rather flavorful for such a light-bodied beer. It's a decent, sessionable lager. A bit perfumy on its own, but pairing it with fruit or light fare would be a great mix.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Southern Tier Brewing Co. - Creme Brulee Stout

Bio
Essentially a milk stout brewed with vanilla bean, Creme Brulee Stout is part of Southern Tier's Blackwater Series. This is actually a summer seasonal that I picked up late in the season while traveling home to Buffalo. Still, I'm not worried about how a 10% imperial stout will have held up over a few months.

10.0% ABV

Appearance 
Everything you'd expect , it's completely opaque and black  in color. The only surprise is the head, which is rather thin.

Aroma 
Not just a catchy name... it smells exactly like creme brulee, most notably the vanilla and burnt sugar, with some additional hints of coffee. It's a very strong, sticky scent. No hops in the nose whatsoever.

Taste & Feel 
Desserty. It has a smooth, creamy mouthfeel and a dark, sweet flavor. Starts out with a robust, coffee malt that soon gives way to vanilla sweetness.  It has a bit of warm, boozy bite toward the finish and leaves a sweet, sticky aftertaste.

Verdict
Tasty and sweet. This is a good pair for a rich dessert, or as a standalone. A great beer, but between the sweetness and high alcohol content, it's nowhere near sessionable.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Southern Tier Brewing Co. - Jah*va Imperial Coffee Stout

Bio 
This potent eleven-percenter is a seasonal release and part of Southern Tier's Blackwater Series of Imperial stouts.  It is brewed with Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee and a variety of dark malts. The 650ml bottle has been sitting in my 'private reserve' for a couple months.  I purchased it in Buffalo as part of my effort to bring home several New York beers that I can't find in North Carolina, but just now got around to opening it. Not sure why I can't find Southern Tier beers in NC, since they're available in 25 states, including Virginia and South Carolina.

11.0% ABV

Appearance 
Jah*va is nearly opaque. It's black-brown in color and when I held it up to a glaringly bright light, it had a soft mahogany glow. Tough to see any sort of carbonation, but it is capped with a relatively thin creamy, tan head.

Aroma 
Plenty going on here. It is defined by sweet, roasted malts filled with coffee and brown sugar aromas. Woody hops give it an oaky character. 
 
Taste & Feel 
A complex brew with several distinct layers of flavor. It's dark and malty up front, with strong coffee notes, along with hints of caramel, vanilla and oak. After a smooth start, a woody hops flavor emerges  mid-sip and packs a bit of a bite.

Even the mouthfeel changes gears on you. It starts off smooth and creamy but has a dry finish. It also leaves a sweet, sticky taste on the lips with an underlying hops bitterness.

Verdict
Very good... complex, flavorful and well-crafted. The only downside is, that at 11%, you definitely feel a 650ml bottle. Drink it slowly, because you can't hope to survive a second bottle.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Uinta Brewing Co, - Solstice Kölsch

Bio 
Solstice is Utah-based Uinta's Kölsch style ale. It is part of their year-round selection and is available throughout the Rockies, the northwest and along the east coast.

4.0% ABV

Appearance 
Solstice has a bright, golden color and a fairly clear appearance.  A significant amount of carbonation is visible and feeds a thin, white head.

Aroma 
The aroma is a light, sweet bready malt. Subtle honey notes and a grassy hops scent also peek through.

Taste & Feel 
Refreshing and slightly hoppy up front. Bread and honey flavors become prevalent before a more tart apple flavor takes over. It has a light body and a decent carbonated feel. The finish is sweet and dry.

Verdict
This one is decent. True to style, it's light and refreshing with just enough sweet flavor to keep you interested. It's not my favorite Kölsch, but I'd certainly drink it again. On a side note, I'm finding Uinta's low-alcohol beers to be highly sessionable.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Uinta Brewing Co. - King's Peak Porter

Bio
This porter from Utah's Uinta Brewing Co. is named after that state's highest mountain. It's a traditional, robust porter that took bronze at this year's Great American Beer Festival.

Uinta's beers are available throughout the Rocky Mountain states, the Pacific Northwest and along the East Coast.

4% ABV

Appearance

Dark brown in color and  nearly opaque with a warm copper-brown glow. Modest cream head that leaves sticky lacing. Holding it up to light reveals a steady upward flow of very small bubbles.

Aroma
King's Peak has a rich, sweet malty aroma. There's also an underlying sticky, fruity scent of caramelized fruit. Whiffs of a light, smoky wood... bourbon barrel.


Taste & Feel

Leads off with a dry bite that mellows into a silky blend of flavors. Robust, lightly smoky malt with hints of espresso up front, changing to a dark fruitiness. Subtle earthy hops present throughout.

It has a medium body that provides a rich, creamy mouthfeel with a clean, dry finish.


Verdict
Pretty good.  I'm looking forward to enjoying another with tonight's beef stew.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

St. John Brewers - Island Summer Ale

Bio 
This half-wheat, half-pale ale is a product of St. John Brewers, a small brewery located in the Virgin Islands that was started by a pair of ex-New Englanders in 2004.

Although their beers are available year-round in the islands, they have a very limited mainland distribution.

Appearance 
Island Summer Ale has a clear appearance and a bright, golden color. Large-bubbles of carbonation float up to form a thin, frothy, white head. 

Aroma 
It has a fresh, spiced aroma. The malt is light, and doughy with a banana sweetness and a bit of zesty citrus hops. 

Taste & Feel 
The taste is sweet and malty up front, with some light caramel and yeasty bread flavors.The hops are light and citrusy, with hints of spice. The body is surprising more substantial than what I'd expect from something called "Island Summer Ale." It feels silky and buttery and finishes smooth, with a lasting sweetness.

Verdict
Not bad. It has a light, summery character without coming off thin or watery. Plenty of flavor for what I expected to be another crisp, easy-drinker. I'd give it a "B."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Coney Island Craft Lagers - Albino Python

Bio
Coney Island Lagers are brand of Shmaltz Brewing Company, and are widely available across the country. One has to appreciate the labels of all of their beers, which are styled after carnival sideshow posters.

Albino Python is a spiced white lager brewed with ginger, fennel and sweet orange peel.

6.0% ABV

Appearance
There's really nothing I can do to describe this beyond telling you... it looks exactly like carbonated orange juice.

It offers up a very effervescent pour that produces a fleeting head. Mine also had quite a bit of yeast sediment.


Aroma
A fairly well-balanced aroma that incorporates a sweet, light malt and a citrusy hops. A sharp wheat scent cuts through both, while orange peel dominates the spices.

Taste & Feel
This one is all over the place. It has a light, but heavily carbonated body and plenty of flavors that each stands out on its own. It leads off with a sweet caramel malt and light spciiness that turns to a wheaty flavor halfway through. Citrus hops are present throughout and compliment the orange peel and spices. Toward the finish, it gets sweet again, with more caramel flavors. The finish is citrusy and sour, with a lasting tingle.


Verdict
Certainly one of the more interesting beers I've had in awhile. At times it was more like a mimosa than a beer. I'm not sure I'd buy this on my own. Cold, it's a B, but the enjoyability dwindles quickly as it warms. Try one, but drink it fast.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cottrell Brewing Co. - Old Yankee Ale

Bio
Old Yankee is Cottrell's flagship beer. I got it in a beer of the month shipment, but their regular distribution area is rather limited, covering southern New England.

Appearance
Translucent copper color. The thin, white head is light and lacy, like egg whites. Tough to see through the clouded appearance, but upon close inspection, quite a bit of carbonation is visible.

Aroma
A light, malty aroma led by a sweet apple scent.

Taste & Feel
Leads off with a bit of a bubbly burst before mellowing out to a smoother feel. The flavor is similar to the aroma... a light malt filled with an apple fruitiness. It drys out toward the finish, where earthy hops make an appearance.

Verdict
Pretty good. I typically let my ales warm up a bit before drinking them, but I had a second bottle straight from the fridge and actually found it this beer to be extremely enjoyable at a colder temperature. A solid B+.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Red Brick Brewing Co. - Laughing Skull Amber Ale

Bio
Another one of Red Brick's brews, one with an interesting story. This is actually the second incarnation of Laughing Skull, resurrected in 2009 after a four year hiatus. The previous version of the brand was a pilsner, brewed by Red Brick for Atlanta's The Vortex restaurant. 

5.7% ABV

Appearance 
It offers a honey gold color and a dense, stiff, cream-colored head that leaves heavy lacing. Good clarity reveals a storm of small-bubbled carbonation. 

Aroma 
Rich caramel malt. Sweet, dried fruits. Slight herbal hops.

Taste & Feel
Laughing Skull has a crisp, clean feel. It's sweet up front, led by a light raisin fruitiness. Tart autumn fruits soon become more detectable before a resiny hops bitterness takes over. The carbonation that was so visible begins to build in the mouthfeel mid-sip and lingers through the finish. The body is a bit light for an amber. 

Verdict
Decent. I certainly enjoyed it better than the Blonde Ale.

Red Brick Brewing Co. - Blonde Ale

Bio
The name says it all... Red Brick Blonde is an American-style blonde ale from Atlanta's Red Brick Brewing Co. (which changed its name from Atlanta Brewing Co. earlier this year). Red Brick's distribution covers the Southeast.

5.2% ABV

Appearance
Pretty much a typical blonde, it pours a pale straw color, capped with a thin, bright white head. The high level of clarity reveals an ample amount of carbonation.

Aroma
Not too much happening on the aroma front. It's mostly a light, yeasty bread with hints of pears and floral hops.

Taste & Feel
This clean-drinking ale has a thin body and very light flavor. The malt is light and bready with a touch of honey. Just as you begin to think it runs the risk of tasting like a corporate macrobrew, the hops kick in somewhat sharply right at the finish, leaving a perfumy aftertaste.

Verdict
Harmless. Light on flavor, but high on drinkabilty, making it a sessionable summer brew and a decent transitional beer for craft beer newbies. It's a bit light for my tastes, buy the hoppy finish salvages a B- rating.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Brewery Ommegang - Three Philosophers Belgian Quad

Bio
Three Philosophers is one of five award-winning ales offered by Brewery Ommegang, a Belgian-style brewer located in Cooperstown, NY.  Three Philosophers is a 98/2 blend of a Belgian strong ale and a kriek.

9.8% ABV

Appearance 
The translucent body creates a warm glow that emanates throughout the chestnut color. Holding it up to a light reveals ultra-fine pillars of carbonation floating up to a dense, cream head.

Aroma 
The aroma is characterized by a deep, rich maltiness loaded with a dark, sweet fruity essence and a warm booziness. It smells like Mom's homemade black cherry brandy.

Taste & Feel 
This medium-bodied brew is complex and very well blended. It's rich, sweet and malty. Plenty of caramel and roasted malt flavor, with tart cherry notes. Very smooth, with a bit of a  carbonated tingle toward the warm, peaty finish.

Verdict
This is a superb brew, easily an A+. Don't just drink it. Admire the look, smell it, sip it, hold it in your mouth and savor it.  This is a triple-play... beautiful look, great aroma, incredible taste. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cottrell Brewing Co. - Mystic Bridge IPA

Bio 
Cottrell Brewing is a small, family-run brewery in Pawcatuck, Connecticut. In operation since 1996, the brewery's current output is roughly 2,000 barrels, according to their website. Not much is mentioned about Mystic Bridge on their site, but it appears to be one of only two varieties they offer.  Distribution is limited to southern New England.

6.0% ABV

Appearance 
Pours with a slightly clouded appearance and bright copper color. It has a significant amount of visible carbonation. The thin, but creamy, white head is short-lived and leaves a thin lacy cap that lasts quite a while.

Aroma
The aroma is fairly simple, but balanced. It's led by a rich, caramel apple malt with an underlying spicy hops. Honey notes begin to appear as it warms.

Taste & Feel
This light-bodied ale is spicy and aggressively carbonated up front. It settles into to a bit of sweet apple maltiness and mellows to a smoother feel before rebounding with a hoppy, citrus finish and pine aftertaste.

Verdict
A well-balanced and uncomplicated brew that offers a fairly intense flavor. A solid "B" beer that you should try, if you have access to it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Blue Point Brewing Co. - Toasted Lager

Bio 
This amber lager from Long Island's Blue Point Brewing Co. won gold at the 2006 World Beer Cup.

5.3% ABV

Appearance 
Jewel clarity, brassy amber color. Significant carbonation. Bubbles are sporadic, but large. Pillowy white head. Light lacing.

Aroma 
Rich caramel malt. A sweet, dried fruit essence balanced with a light, but crisp toasted character.

Taste & Feel 
Medium body. Smooth, clean feel. Light toasted malts, Apples, white raisins and caramel. Slightly dry finish.

Verdict
A very drinkable and versatile beer. Light, yet flavorful. I'd give it a "B+."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dogfish Head - 90 Minute Imperial IPA

Bio 
When I'm not shamelessly cheerleading for North Carolina beers, I make it no secret that Dogfish Head is my favorite brewer. I don't think there's anything they produce that I haven't loved. Hard to beleive, then, that I still hadn't already done a review of their 90 Minute IPA.

This is an IPA that is continually-hopped during the boil, then dry-hopped during conditioning.   It is part of their year-round offering.

 9% ABV

Appearance 
90 Minute pours a deep golden color with a very clear appearance. It appears to be lightly carbonated, with microbubbles rising so slowly it creates a rather viscous look. The pillowy cream head leaves a bit of sticky lacing.

Aroma 
Surprisingly malty. It has a sweet, toffee malt scent with light, boozy hints of dried fruit, balanced nicely against piney and earthy hops.

Taste & Feel 
Hoooo boy, that's tasty. For a beer so thoroughly hopped, one might expect a big, hoppy punch in the mouth, but that isn't the case at all. 90 Minute is well-blended, exceptionally smooth and perfectly balanced. This medium-bodied beauty is earthy and sweet with a white raisin fruitiness and just the right amount of resiny hops bite. It eases into a warm, peaty finish.


Verdict
Exceptional.

Brew Dog - 5a.m. Saint

Bio 
You've heard of Brew Dog. Even if you aren't immediately familiar with the brewery, I'm sure you've heard of their beers. These are the same guys that gave the world such high-octane treats as Sink the Bismark, Tactical Nuclear Penguin and the now-infamous The End of History, a budget-busting beer so rare and high in alcohol content that packing it in a dead squirrel almost seems reasonable. No, seriously.... they really wrapped that shit in roadkill.


Fortunately, the Scottish brewery also produces a number of wallet-friendly and readily accessible beers. Among them is 5a.m. Saint, an amber ale.

5.0% ABV

Appearance 
5a.m. Saint pours a chestnut brown color with a warm, ruddy glow and slightly hazy clarity. Small amount of very tiny bubbles slowly rise up into a stiff, almost meringue-like cream head.


Aroma
Not exceptionally aromatic, but there's enough there to make out pine and citrus hops, tempered with a light, fruity malt. I'm picking out a delicate balance of pineapple and grapefruit.


Taste & Feel
This one is very resiny and hoppy throughout, with an underlying caramel maltiness. It's considerably more hoppy that most ambers, but despite that, it's not overly bitter.  In fact, the middle is smooth and somewhat sweet. It has a medium body, slightly aggressive carbonated feel and a dry, grapefruit finish.


What's odd, is that well after the swallow, there seems to be a lingering raspberry aftertaste.

Verdict
Pretty good. Definitely a well-crafted brew. It was surprisingly hoppy, but had a decent balance. The low ABV makes it incredibly drinkable. A solid A.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Unibroue - Ephemere Apple

Bio 
Ephemere Apple (there's also a black currant variation) is a white ale brewed with granny smith apples. It is a product of Quebec's Unibroue, a subsidiary of Japan's Sapporo. I picked this up at East Wake Wines and although I hadn't seen it elsewhere, the brewery's website suggests that their beers are widely available in the Raleigh area.

5.5% ABV

Appearance 
Ephemere has a hazy appearance. It pours a pale, golden color that looks much like apple juice. The effervescent head is short-lived (appropriate, given the name) and cream-colored. It appears to be heavily carbonated, with a steady upward flow of small bubbles.
 
Aroma 
I usually take time to admire the look of a beer before delving into the aroma. This one has such a punch that as soon as I popped the cap, the smell of crisp apples filled the room. So quickly, in fact, that my wife asked, "is that your beer that smells so fruity?" before I had even finished pouring it.

Beyond apple, lots and lots of apple, the distinct scent of coriander fills out the crisp, yeasty aroma. 

Taste & Feel 
A light, sparkling body and crisp feel. Sweet on the lips. Bubbles dance across the tongue as tart, sweet apple flavors mix with a light, wheaty malt. Coriander and spice peek through before the tart, fruity finish.
  
Verdict
A decent "B" beer. I can see it pairing well with fruit or a creamy cheeses. Otherwise, it's a bit too light & fruity to be a part of my regular rotation.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sherwood Forest Brewers - Friar's Belgain Style White Ale

Bio 
I'll admit, I know very little about this brewery other than it's based out of Marlborough, Massachusetts.

Appearance 
This one pours a pale straw color. The appearance is a swirl of crystal clear and cloudy, which I've found isn't at all unusual for the style. Almost no carbonation is visible, but the head was fluffy and white.

Aroma 
The aroma is light and yeasty, like fresh, buttery bread. Coriander is prominent, followed by a mild spiciness. The second bottle was a bit more floral than buttery, giving it a somewhat soapy scent.

Taste & Feel 
Much like the aroma, the flavor is light and bready up front. All of the tastes are mild, with citrus and coriander being the key players. It has a lightly citrusy hops finish, with a lingering herb essence.

This beer has a very light body, and slippery smoothness. Only a whisper of carbonation is evident in the mouthfeel.

Verdict
I was a bit hesitant to give this one a try, because I had another beer by the same brewery awhile back, and found that one to be absolutely awful. Having only a casual appreciation for witbiers, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this one was much better. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Aviator Brewing Co. - King Rat Stout

Bio 
King Rat is an imperial oatmeal stout from Fuquay-Varina, NC's Aviator Brewing. The 750 ml  bottle comes corked and caged,  which presents a stark contrast from the cartoony rodent label. Cartoons aside, I suppose you have to appreciate, on some level, a beer that pops like champagne when you open it.  

8.0% ABV

Appearance 
Pours a completely opaque, black color. The head is frothy and tan, but short-lived. It also has a fine, oily look. 

Aroma 
Heavy malt aroma filled the room as soon as the bottle was uncorked . It's sticky and sweet, and filled with molasses and coffee scents.
Taste & Feel 
Sweet, but aggressively carbonated up front. Rather tingly across the tongue at first before settling into a much smoother middle. The flavor is predominantly dark chocolate malt, balanced with earthy hops. Finishes very dry, with a lingering flavor that's both nutty and heavily roasted.

The full, smooth body has a light, airy feel. It's also a bit warmer than I'd expect from an eight percenter. If I hadn't read the label, I'd guess it was over 10. 

Verdict
Oatmeal stouts are my favorite variety, so I'm probably being extra-critical by giving it a B+. It's a good beer. The aroma and flavor are both very strong, but stop short of crossing the line of being overpowering.



Monday, July 26, 2010

Fullsteam launches at Tyler's Taproom, this Thursday!

For those familiar with this blog, you know that I've been following the progress of Durham's Fullsteam as they've worked to become North Carolina's newest brewery. If you haven't yet, check out my review of pre-production samples of Hogwash! and Sweet Potato Ale.

Since I know you've been patiently wondering when you can enjoy Fullsteam beers for yourself, you'll be excited to hear that the wait is finally over! Tyler's Taproom in Durham will be serving five Fullsteam beers at the launch party on Thursday.

On tap that night:
  • El Toro cream ale
  • Rocket Science IPA
  • Carver sweet potato beer
  • Summer basil farmhouse ale
  • Hogwash hickory-smoked porter
Festivities kick off at 6:00. I plan to attend. You should, too.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Orange Blossom Pilsner - OBP Squared

Bio 
This is a homebrew, all grown up. Orange Blossom Pilsner started in Tom Moench's garage in Orlando.OBP Squared is essentially the concentrated version, made with half as much water in the recipe, for a bolder, richer flavor. 

Both OBP2 and OBP are brewed under contract by Greenville, SC's Thomas Creek Brewery. Available in the Southeast... Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

11% ABV

Appearance 
Certainly a nice-looking brew. Jewel clarity and a warm, deep honey-amber color give it an attractive appearance. The viscosity seems to be on the thick side. A steady stream of small bubbles slowly rises to meet a foamy cream head.

Aroma 
The aroma is fairly simple. Sweet and malty with honey and golden raisins most prominent. It's also slightly floral.

Taste & Feel
Rich, sweet malt leads off, followed by a slightly citrus that, paired with a burst of carbonation, gives it a fresh, fizzy mouthfeel. The medium body is a bit spicy, with a warm, somewhat boozy finish.

Verdict
A bit heavy-hitting to be part of my regular rotation, but it has a good, rich flavor that seems to work even at colder temperatures. I'd recommend having one or two.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lancaster Brewing Co. - Strawberry Wheat

Bio 

A strawberry flavored wheat lager, part of Lancaster's year-round selection.

4.7% ABV

Appearance 
It has a clear, brassy color. Well-carbonated, large bubbles feed a thin cream head.

Aroma 
Surprisingly, it has a very faint fruit aroma.
 
Taste & Feel
This beer has a crisp flavor. Most noticeable is the light, bready malt followed by a tart strawberry flavor. It has a thin body, heavily carbonated mouthfeel and a tart finish.

Verdict
Not exceptional, but still a decent brew for a hot summer night. I'd give it a B-.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lancaster Brewing Co. - Milk Stout

What better way to wind down a hot 4th of July weekend than with a thick, hearty stout? No, seriously. Typically, that might be a bit out of place, but tonight it's cooled off significantly from the 90-plus day we had and I'm sitting out on the deck with a fan going to keep the bugs down. That's cool enough for a stout in my book!

Bio
This is another BOTM surprise. I searched their website, but wasn't able to find out much about where the Lancaster, PA-brewed beer is available, beyond "the Mid-Atlantic region". I did learn that they've been around since 2001, after taking over a 6-year-old operation that was struggling to survive.


5.3% ABV

Appearance 
This beer is a thick, black color. It appears to have a light viscosity. The dense mocha head left a heavy coat as it thinned.

Aroma 
The strong roasted malt has a somewhat charred, woody smokiness to it. Dark, coffee aroma is secondary, with black cherries hidden deep in the aroma.

Taste & Feel 
A bit of a bite up front, loaded with a robust, roasted malt flavor. Beyond the initial bite, the body is exceptionally light and smooth. The soft, creamy mouthfeel and smoky flavor remind me of the melted marshmallow in s'mores. Well into the sip, it's still rather toasty, with some caramel and fruit sweetness starting to appear. The finish is soft and creamy, and leaves a dry, nutty aftertaste.

Verdict
A solid "A" beer. The body was light enough to enjoy on a cool summer evening, with a hearty flavor that will be reliable well into the depths of winter. 

Natty Greene's Brewing Co. - Smoky Mountain Porter

I guess I've been kind of a beer slacker lately, considering that this is one that I enjoyed a few weeks ago. We visited Natty Greene's Brewing Co. (the Raleigh location) and I took notes in my phone, where they've sat until today.

Bio
Pretty simple, this is a beech smoked robust porter.
5.8% ABV

Appearance
The Smoky Mountain Porter was an opaque brown-black color. It had a thin tan head, which quickly dissipated but a modest swirl brought it right back.

Aroma
The aroma was both simple and enjoyable. The malt had a smoky, chocolate character. A light sourness was detectable.

Taste & Feel
Full body, thick creamy mouthfeel. Rich, roasty malt flavor underlined with smooth chocolate notes. Very tingly carbonation... perhaps too much. Dry smoky finish. Lingering bittersweet chocolate taste.

Verdict
Aggressive carbonation, but otherwise a very good beer. I had it with the El Toro burger, which it complemented nicely.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. - Indian Summer Spiced Ale

Bio 
This is my second experience with a beer from Mississippi-based Lazy Magnolia.  Their website describes Indian Summer as an American-style wheat ale spiced with orange peel and coriander.

 4.8% ABV

Appearance 
Indian Summer pours with a clear appearance and a bright, brassy color. It's very bubbly and is crowned with a fizzy, cream-colored head.

Aroma 
It has a nice, bready malt aroma. Unless I'm imagining things, it's also almost buttery. Smells like a fresh loaf of crusty, Italian bread and quickly conjures up childhood memories of Saturday meals at my grandmother's house. Definitely has hints of celery, too.


Taste & Feel 
It has a medium body and vibrant carbonation. The flavor is crisp and wheaty with bits of citrus. The finish is clean, with a nice coriander taste.
 Verdict
A good summer ale.  I not a huge fan of wheats, but this one was very well done. After having this and the Southern Pecan, I'm eager to try some of Lazy Magnolia's other brews... if I can just find a way to get my hands on some.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sweetwater Brewery - 420 Extra Pale Ale

Bio 
Another beer that I received in my monthly shipment, but also one that I know I can get locally. Sweetwater brews are readily available in many places throughout the Southeast. This West Coast-style pale ale is the Georgia-based brewery's most popular beer. 

5.4% ABV

Appearance 
420 has a clear appearance and a bright, golden color. Ample carbonation is visible, with steady streams of large bubbles rising up to meet a pillowy, bright white head.


Aroma 
It has a light aroma, mostly resin-floral hops with some bready malt notes. As it warmed, the aroma sweetened and filled with a strong honey scent.

Taste & Feel 
Light body. Very clean, smooth feel. The taste is quite mild, and mostly hops throughout. Some bready malts are evident. A slight carbonated tingle hits just before the crisp, hoppy finish.


Verdict
A decent beer that should be unoffensive to the casual drinker or craft beer novice. Quite enjoyable while cold, making it an easy summer brew. In fact, be sure drink it cold. While the aroma sweetened as it warmed, it also became bitter. Fortunately, the fairly low alcohol content means you can finish one while it's still chilled.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. - Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale.

Bio
Another surprise from the latest craft beer o' the month delivery. This one comes to us from Kiln, Mississippi's Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company. Lazy Magnolia beers are only available in the Gulf states, Florida and Tennessee.

Quite literally a nut brown ale, Southern Pecan is labeled as a smooth and sweet English style brown ale brewed with whole roasted pecans.

4.5% ABV

Appearance
Southern Pecan has a deep copper color with a warm, amber glow.
Very light carbonation is visible through the clear appearance. Small bubbles slowly rise to reach the foamy cream head.

Aroma
Sweet, caramel malt and pecan nuttiness conjure up thoughts of a sticky pecan pie.


Taste & Feel
Sweet and malty right from the start. Strong caramel character dominates. It has a medium body with smooth, well-blended flavor throughout. The finish is slightly dry and nutty.

Verdict
A very enjoyable and versatile beer. The low alcohol content and well-blended flavors makes it easily sessionable. At the same time, the sweet, rich flavor and smooth body makes me want to let it warm up and savor it slowly... which I am doing with the second bottle.

As an aside, I'd like to add that I absolutely love their branding. Simple and clean, with a look that's reminiscent of an old highway marker on a dusty, rural road. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

King's Restaurant - Kinston, NC

You're already familiar with last weekend's adventure that led me to the doorstep of Kinston's Mother Earth Brewery. Before leaving town, I felt obligated to make the most of the trip by visiting one of the local barbecue joints. After weighing a few options, we settled on King's, mostly because it was nearby and I had driven past it twice, so I knew where to find it.

Pulling up to the place, the first impression is that it's been around awhile. I got the feeling that this may have been the local Saturday night gathering spot for the past several decades

Upon exiting the car, the first thing I noticed was the aroma. It smelled fantastic... like smoke and fried chicken. I should have taken a photo, but the pylon sign from the neighboring Piggly Wiggly provides a subtle branding boost.

Inside, it was like taking a step back in time. The decor appears to be straight out of the 1960's South. I'm not sure how long that particular location has been around, but at the very least, it hasn't been remodeled in my lifetime.  The two large dining rooms were each a wealth of checkerboard tablecovers, and old wooden chairs, surrounded by a perimeter of wooden booths and worn tongue-and-groove paneling.

I ordered the BBQ plate. Alison had the rib & chicken combo, which gave me a chance to try the ribs.

The pork was finely chopped, lightly peppered and moist. On the other hand, it wasn't very smoky. The eastern NC sauce on the table offered up an additional pepper kick, but also added a lot more vinegar to the taste.

The ribs were disappointing. They were saucy and the meat was moist and tender, but lacked the spicy, smoky flavor I like. The portion we got was more fat than meat.

On the other hand, Alison's fried chicken was much better than the other entrees. Crispy skin, nice crunchy breading, moist meat.We both agreed, the hush puppies were good, and I liked the potato salad. It was a bit creamier than I prefer, but it had a great dill flavor that I really enjoyed.

Overall, I'd say, if you find yourself in Kinston, stop at King's, but order the chicken.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mother Earth Brewing - barrel aged Imperial Stout

Bio 
While I was visiting Mother Earth last weekend, I tried the barrel aged imperial stout that they had on tap. Travis indicated that it isn't a production beer and is only available in the tap room.

I later contacted head brewer Josh Brewer (yes, that's his name) for a description, and he said:
"It was two seperate batches of imperial stout brewed on the one barrel system. I roast my own coffee, so one was infused with coffee and the other batch was not. Also, molasses was added on both. The batches were blended together and then aged in whiskey barrels."
Appearance 
Pretty much a work of art. This stout is black... a completely opaque body with a thick and dense khaki head.

No, not just dense... DENSE! It's milkshake-thick and leaves a heavy coating around the inside of your glass that looks like might serve as pretty decent foam insulation if given a chance to dry out. 

If Josh would brew more than two barrels of it, we could test my theory that I'd float on it. 

Aroma 
The aroma is very woody, with hints of bourbon as it warms. I also picked up whiffs of Kalamata olives.

Wait, wait, wait...I need to explain that, so you don't think I'm saying their beer stinks like olives. You know, those really tasty black olives... they have a thick, rich, sweet, oily aroma. Yeah, those. It's a good thing. Besides, you don't taste it.

Taste & Feel
Every bit as decadent as it looks. The body is thick and full, with a smooth, creamy mouthfeel. 

The flavor was very chocolaty up front, with some light coffee notes. An earthy, oak middle sets in before leaving you with a dry, woody finish.

Verdict
This is a beautifully crafted beer. You must try it, if they haven't already run out. If they have, petition Josh to make more.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mother Earth Brewing - Tripel Overhead (barrel aged)

Bio
Hanging out in the Mother Earth Tap Room prior to Saturday's tour, I enjoyed the bourbon barrel-aged version of Tripel Overhead. It's on tap now, and according to the tap room manager, a limited release of bottles should be available in a few months. A non-barrel aged version is available in bottles now.

9.5% ABV

Appearance

Straight from the tap, it had a clouded, translucent appearance, and being unfiltered, it should. The amber-orange color looks very much like apple cider. Even though it had a thin head, quite a bit of carbonation was evident.

Aroma
This is a strongly aromatic brew. Vanilla, bourbon and oak stand out, while a slightly citrus hops essence hides behind the maltiness.

Taste & Feel
Tastes great. The bourbon flavor of the oak barrels shines through right away. Earthy
malts dominate, followed by a slight hoppy bite. Medium body, good carb tingle. Warm, boozy
finish.

Verdict
Excellent. Beers like this are the reason I drink. Take the time to sip and savor this one.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Brew Tour: Mother Earth Brewing, Kinston, NC

We left Atlantic Beach early this afternoon, which meant we'd be passing through Kinston just in time to stop off at Mother Earth Brewing. Having previously enjoyed their four main brews, I was eager to visit their production facility, which opened last October.

We arrived a bit after 2:00, which meant we had almost an hour to kill before the next tour began. Fortunately, the tap room was open, so I was able to pass the time with a couple beers (Alison had water). I started off with a barrel-aged Tripel Overhead, which I had sampled at the World Beer Fest and wanted to try on tap. I followed that up with another barrel-aged beer, the imperial stout, which taproom manager Travis Quinn highly recommended. Good stuff all around (and reviews forthcoming!).

Assistant brewer Greg Papp led the tour. Very informative if you've never been to a brewery. He covered everything from milling to bottling. Mother Earth currently has a 20-barrel system, with four 40-barrel fermenters. Greg said that they expect more equipment this summer, which should allow them to keep up with demand and expand distribution beyond North Carolina. If you're in NC, Mother Earth beers should be relatively easy to find.
 
The brewery itself is in an old brick building on the corner of N. Heritage and W. North Streets. The brewery rehabbed it in 2009, incorporating a number of green features like recycled denim insulation and a rooftop solar array. The renovation earned the Visual Improvement Award from the Kinston-Lenoir County Chamber of Commerce.

If you're ever near Kinston (it's only an hour and a half drive from Raleigh), I'd highly recommend checking it out. Even if you've done tours before, simply hanging out in the tap room and enjoying a few beers - several of which can't be obtained anywhere else - is definitely worth the time.  

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Moerlein Brewing Co. - Friend of an Irishman Stout

Bio 
Another craft brew of the month find from Cincinnati-based Moerlein.

4.7% ABV

Appearance 
Muddy, dark coffee brown color. Frothy head didn't hold up very long. Some light gets through, giving it a soft brown glow. Appears to be thin for a stout.

Aroma 
A sweet, smoky malt dominates. Coffee, toasted marshmallow, toffee and a light hickory smoke all come through.

Taste & Feel 
Starts off sweet, with coffee and a bit of chocolate as the prominent flavors. A bit of fruity tartness hits in the middle before a dry, roasted finish sets in.

A bit thin in the body. That and the carbonated tingle make this feel more like a porter.

Verdict
Interesting. Powerful aroma and a blend of flavors give this quite a bit of character. I'd give it a "B".

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Heavy Seas - Pale Ale

Bio 
The Heavy Seas line of beers is brewed by Clipper City Brewing Company out of Baltimore. It's available throughout the east coast and Great Lakes. I received it in my craft brew of the month shipment, but I'm fairly certain I've seen it at Total Wine & More.

4.75% ABV

Appearance
Pours an attractive warm amber color with a clear, bubbly appearance. Large bubbles form a modest, but dense, cream colored head that quickly dissipated.

Aroma
Very straightforward... biscuity malt and light, floral hops

Taste & Feel
A nice, medium body with a slight carbonated tingle, but otherwise smooth mouthfeel. Taste is sweet up front, followed by a mild flavor balanced nicely between a light, yeasty malt and crisp, floral hop.
Finishes clean and slightly hoppy.

Verdict
A decent, safe beer. This would make a good transitional beer for your yellow beer drinking friends.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

World Beer Fest - Raleigh

Highlights from World Beer Festival at Moore Square in Raleigh:
  • Being the spring event, the selection was far more weighted with light ales, wheats and IPAs than what they had at the fall event in Durham.
  •  A few good meads and ciders. The Vanilla Cinnamon Mead from B.Nektar was particularly tasty. 
  • Finally got to try the OBP Squared from Orange Blossom Pilsner.... and now I know why East Wake Wines is always sold out of it.
  • Most interesting beer - Bison Honey Basil. Very herby, but still very good. Must have been popular, because when I brought someone over to try it, they had run out.
  • Waiting in line for New Holland Brewery's Dragon's Milk? Awesome. Probably the best beer I tried all day. Definitely worth the wait, even if I had to pee ferociously. 
  • Speaking of peeing... I got flashed in the port-o-potty line.
  • Boobs aside, the the highlight of the day was... getting a Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine poured for me by Sam Calagione himself (pictured).

Moerlein Brewing Co. - Emancipator Doppel Bock

Bio 
Until it arrived in my Craft Beer of the Month package (a Valentines gift from wifey), I hadn't heard of Moerlein.  The Cincinnati brewery has been in operation since 1981, a rebirth of the Christian Moerlein namesake. The original brewery existed from the mid 1800s until Prohibition. 

Appearance 
I don't typically comment on the how a beer sounds, but this one had a particularly crisp and fizzy voice as I poured. Emancipator has a clear appearance with a ruddy brown complexion. The carbonation level is high, and large bubbles rise to form a tall, buttery colored head that fizzled away quickly.

Aroma 
Malty and sweet. Not as thick and syrupy as a number of the doppelbocks I like, but more of a thin, fruity sweetness. Smells like caramel apples and light brown sugar.


Taste & Feel 
Energetic carbonation leads off. The medium body has a light, yet complex maltiness. Flavors are rich, sweet and fruity before letting the dry, earthy finish take over.


Verdict
A decent beer. I'm just not sure where to get it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sweetwater Brewing Co. - Georgia Brown

Bio
Over the past 6 months or so, I've noticed Atlanta-based Sweetwater's brews slowly popping up in more places throughout the Triangle area.  Sweet Georgia is, predictably, their brown ale.

5.1 ABV

Appearance
Sweet Georgia is a bit lighter than most brown ales. It has a bright, copper color. The appearance is somewhat hazy, but you can easily tell that it's quite carbonated, with some rather large bubbles rising into a foamy, cream-colored head.

Aroma
Light, sweet, malty. The aroma is mostly caramel, with a slightly sour character as it warms.

Taste & Feel
Sweet, smooth, medium body. Apple and caramel are prominent in the malty flavor. It has a light carbonated tingle and a very mild hop bite. The surprise comes near the finish, where instead of the sweetness you expect from a brown, some some grapefruit hoppiness comes through.

Verdict
I found this to be a pretty enjoyable beer. A solid B+. The hoppy finish was certainly a surprise and added a welcomed level of complexity to an otherwise simple, straightforward brown ale.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Black Boss Porter

Bio
Another suggestion from Ken at East Wake Wines, who is quickly becoming my beer concierge. Black Boss Porter is brewed by Poland's Browar Witnica.

9.4% ABV

Appearance
Very dark cola brown color. It's not quite opaque, and actually somewhat 'clear' despite the very dark color.... almost jewel-like.  It also has a thin, tan head with tight bubbles and almost no lacing.  There appears to be significant carbonation.

Aroma
Very aromatic. Rich and malty. The aroma is sweet and sticky. Dried fruits are prominent and I'm picking up dates more than anything. There's also a hint of licorice in the nose.

Taste & Feel
Different than most porters in that the aggressive carbonation hits right away.
The medium body has a sweet, plummy flavor filled with subtle chocolate notes. The finish is interesting... dry, with a lingering tingle.

(Wouldn't lingering tingle be a great name for a band? No? )

Verdict
A pretty good beer. Not as smooth as most porters, but definitely worth a try.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Support Your Local Brewery: National Call for Action

ACTION ALERT:

Support local craft brewers by asking your Congressman to sign on to H.R.4278, a bill that would reduce excise taxes for small breweries.

For more details: Support Your Local Brewery

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Duck-Rabbit - Amber Ale

Even though I thoroughly enjoy their brews whenever I can, I haven't reviewed many of Duck-Rabbit's beers for my blog. Since East Wake Wines has made the effort to build up their stock of local, North Carolina beers, I felt the need to pick out a few to add to H&H.

Bio
This amber ale is a traditional, malty ale, part of Duck-Rabbit's year-round offering.

Appearance
Duck-Rabbit Amber Ale has a clear appearance and bright, copper color. The pillowy tan head dissipated rather quickly

Aroma
It has a sweet, malty aroma.  Caramel dominates, but some some fruity apple and raisin notes peek through.

Taste & Feel
This beer has a rich, malty flavor, with a lightly roasted quality. It has a medium body, and crisp energetic, carbonation. The finish was dry, sweet and fruity, and gave way to a nice roasted aftertatse.

Verdict
Another fine ale from Duck-Rabbit. This one is flavorful, without being overpowering.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Weyerbacher - Heresy

Finally back from a brief hiatus. A couple weeks of travel followed by a brief cold put a bit of a damper on beer reviews. But, I've been stocking the fridge and have a good lineup ready to be enjoyed. First up is Heresy.
  

Bio
Heresy is limited-release, oak-aged imperial stout from Easton, PA's Weyerbacher Brewing Co. Good thing I read my newsletters from Ken at East Wake Wines & Craft Brew. Otherwise, I might have missed it!

8.0% ABV

Appearance
Heresy pours a thick, opaque brown-black color. It has a dense, foamy mocha head, which leaves heavy lacing.

Aroma
The aroma is strong. Roasted malts are prominent. It has an oaky, bourbon character with some coffee and smooth cocoa notes. Hints of sweet, dark fruit also come through, especially as it warms.

Taste & Feel 

Pretty much a typical stout... full body; smooth, creamy mouthfeel. The flavor is dark and roasty, with plenty of cocoa and vanilla present. There's also plenty of tart fruitiness. 

It has a nice, earthy finish.

Verdict
Good. A bit sweet and fruity for a stout, but I found the earthy, oak character to be a nice addition.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Aventinus - Weizen-Eisbock

Bio
An ice-distilled wheat doppelbock, brewed by G. Schneider & Sohn of Germany

12.0% ABV

Appearance
Pours a cloudy, raisin brown color.It has a tall, pillowy cream head, which quickly dissipates and leaves modest lacing.

Aroma
The aroma has a rich, caramel maltiness loaded with sweet, sticky, plummy fruit notes. Despite the high ABV, there's only a slight alcohol burn in the nose.

Taste & Feel
Taste is strong and malty. Much like the aroma, it is filled with sweet, syrupy caramel and plum notes. I enjoyed the warm raisin finish and the touch of apricot in the aftertaste. 

It has a medium body and rich, smooth flavor.

Verdict
A tasty brew. The high alcohol content hides itself well. The price is a bit steep, but worth grabbing a bottle or two.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Fullsteam Brewery - Sweet Potato Ale

I think I mentioned before that Sean at Fullsteam had given me a couple bottles to try. For those who missed it, the other day I posted a review of Hogwash!, the coming-soon Durham brewery's smoked porter. After knocking out that one earlier this week, I was looking for an opportunity to try the other one, Sweet Potato Ale. Who am I kidding? I was saving it for the Super Bowl.


Bio
The Sweet Potato Ale is another of Fullsteam's Plow-to-Pint brews. Those familiar with pumpkin ales might assume that this, too, would be brewed with pie spices. Instead, it's actually brewed with real sweet potatoes. Baked sweet potatoes are added to the mash, giving this beer its color and unique aroma and flavor.

6.2% ABV

Appearance
Bright, golden color. Mostly clear appearance, with only a slight haziness.
Thin white head. Ample carbonation.

Aroma
The aroma is almost what you'd expect... strong and sweet with a distinct soft and mellow sweet potato smell.

Taste & Feel
Imagine a mellowed-out pumpkin ale.. sweeter and not as spicy. The flavor starts off with a light, honey malt. The sweet potato flavor is well-deifned, and is sustained right through the mild spice finish. 

It has a medium body and smooth, rich mouthfeel with a bit of a carbonated tingle.

Verdict
As much as Sean was touting the Hogwash!, the Sweet Potato Ale sort of blindsided me with how good it is.

This beer will be on my next Thanksgiving table. However, I don't want to pigeonhole it as a fall seasonal. Fullsteam plans to offer it year-round. It holds promise as an accompaniment to a variety of meals, but the unique flavor will allow it to stand on its own as a good casual drinker.

Bell's Amber Ale

Bio
Part of the year round offering from Bell's Brewery. Bell's calls it their flagship. It's available in parts of the midwest and mid-Atlantic.

5.8% ABV

Appearance
Bell's Amber Ale pours with a thick and foamy cream head that leaves heavy lacing. It has a bright honey-amber color and a warm, translucent glow. Very bubbly.

Aroma
This beer has a light aroma. Slightly sour, with herbal hops and subtle bready notes.

Taste & Feel

Overall, a pretty mild flavor to match the aroma. It is nutty with a sweet, caramel malt taste up front. The middle is tart and sweet, like autumn fruits, and it has a bit of a hoppy bite at the finish. It has a medium body and crisp, active carbonation. 

Verdict
A pretty straightforward ale. Neither the flavor nor the aroma is particularly strong, opening up the possibility that this could be a decent transitional ale for a new craft brew drinker. 

I'd give it a B. 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Beer Wars: Watch this movie



I just finished watching Beer Wars, an insightful look at the ongoing battle for market share in the U.S. brewing industry.

I highly recommend watching it. If you're a craft beer fan, you'll certainly appreciate it and if you're part of the 95% of Americans who settle for tasteless yellow water, it may open your eyes.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fullsteam Brewery - Hogwash! Hickory-Smoked Porter

When I started Hops & Hickory, it was purely for my own enjoyment. I assumed a few people would visit it here and there. But, even if nobody read it, I'd press on, happily writing away, beer in hand. Still, I've built up a small following and regularly get encouraging comments, tweets and emails from other beer lovers.

One particular message that caught my attention was an email from Sean Lilly Wilson, the leader of North Carolina's Pop the Cap effort from 2003-05,  which succeeded in raising the ABV limit on beers sold in this state.

Sean's latest endeavor is Fullsteam Brewery, which is currently under construction in Durham and is expected to open later this spring.  He offered the opportunity to try two of Fullsteam's beers before they go into full-scale production.

First up is Hogwash!

Bio
Hogwash! is - or will be, anyway - part of Fullsteam's Plow-to-Pint series, designed to be a celebration of Southern agriculture. Plow-to-pint beers will be made primarily from local ingredients, and are a bit more experimental than Fullsteam's true-to-style Workers' Compensation series beers.

Crafted specifically to pair with NC barbecue, Hogwash! is a porter brewed with barley that has been smoked over local hickory.

6.5% ABV

Appearance
Hogwash! is very dark brown... nearly opaque with a soft, golden brown glow around narrowest part of glass. It poured with a tall, frothy cream head that dissipated quickly and left modest lacing.

Aroma
For starters, it smells like BBQ... sweet and smoky. It has a distinct hickory aroma, with some brown sugar and a tart apple cider fruitiness in the nose.

Taste & Feel
The flavor is delicately sweet and malty. Hickory smoke flavor is present, but not overpowering. Hints of apple peek through in the malt before the light, smoky finish.

It has a light-medium body and a clean mouthfeel.The carbonation plays nicely off of the fruitiness. 

Verdict
Hogwash! was meant to be paired with barbecue and it achieves that goal nicely. It's smoky and sweet, but not so excessively thick or flavorful that it competes with the meat or can't be paired with lighter-tasting foods.  Once it becomes available, enjoy it with your favorite pulled pork.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Founders Brewing Co. - Breakfast Stout

This is the last of three installments in the Founders Weekend series. I saved what I anticipate will be the best, for last. 

Bio
Breakfast Stout, aside from being named after two of my favorite meals, is a seasonal brew from Founders Brewing Co. (which, if you haven't been paying attention this weekend, is quickly rising to become one of my favorites). It is an imperial stout that Founders labels a "double chocholate coffee oatmeal stout".

Let me repeat that... double chocolate... coffee... oatmeal stout.

Beer porn, right there... hardcore beer porn. 

8.3% ABV

Appearance
Right out of the bottle, I can tell this stout means business. It pours a completely opaque, deep brown-black color. The head is thick, dense, foamy and a dark mocha color. It leaves a hearty root beer float lacing.


Aroma
The nose is filled with rich, roasted malts. A soft smokiness nicely complements the chocolate and coffee notes.

Taste & Feel
It has a thick, smooth mouthfeel and full body. Robust, toasted coffee malts lead the flavor parade, followed by a sweet, tangy molasses middle. It has a nice bitter, chocolate finish and a dry, smoky aftertaste.

Verdict
I'm regretting only bringing two bottles home this weekend. Both went down far too quickly.  This is a fantastic stout, everything I imagined it would be. It also went well with the coffee ice cream I was having for dessert.

I'll definitely stock up before the season ends.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Founders Brewing Co. - Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale

Founders Weekend continues...

Bio
Moving on to the second of three Founders' brews in this weekend's lineup. Dirty Bastard is a malty, Scotch ale. 

8.5% ABV

Appearance
Dirty Bastard has a rich , deep, mahogany brown color that emanates a warm, ruddy glow. It has a dense, foamy tan head and light lacing.  There doesn't appear to be much carbonation.

Aroma
The aroma is light and sweet. Caramel malts stand out the most, but there is also a hint of smooth banana and just a touch of raisins.

Taste & Feel
Sweet, roasted malts are prominent all the way through. A nice blend of brown sugar and dark fruits... primarily plums and cherries. It has an earthy finish, with a very subtle peat smokiness and a lightly hoppy aftertaste.

This beer has a medium body, smooth mouthfeel and mild hops bite.

Verdict
Founders is two for two today. I thought this was a thoroughly enjoyable beer. I really like Scotch Ales, and this was no exception.

Founders Brewing Co. - Red's Rye PA

On Thursday, I stopped in to East Wake Wines & Craft Brew to check out their ever-expanding selection of beers. Ken was excited that his delivery of Founders had arrived. I, of course, was equally excited since I had been dying to try the Breakfast Stout. I ended up grabbing all three varieties they had, making this a Founders weekend.

I'm leading off with the Red's Rye, partly because I think it's the one I'll enjoy the least, but mostly because the wild-eyed curmudgeon on the label was glaring at me with a look that says, "if you know what's good for you, you'll drink this one first."

Bio
Part of Founders' year-round selection.It is a rye-malted pale ale.

6.6% ABV

Appearance
Looks good. It has a bright, copper color and translucent appearance, capped by a foamy tan head. It's heavily carbonated and leaves modest lacing.

Aroma
The aroma is loaded with strong, grapefruit hops, with some pine notes. It mellows and takes on a caramel sweetness as it warms.

Taste & Feel
Red's Rye has a medium body and crisp flavor. Aggressive hops up front, with grapefruit dominating. Between the hoppy start and finish, some caramel malts sneak through. It has as spicy and citrusy bitter finish.

Verdict
Remember back when I said I thought this would be the one I liked the least? Well, The crazy old man on the label knows his stuff.  This is an awesome beer... bright, hoppy, flavorful. A solid A. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fort Collins Brewery - Chocolate Stout


Bio
Part of Ft. Collins' year-round offering. It's available on the East Coast, parts of the Midwest and, of course, Colorado.

Appearance
Extremely dark brown, almost black. Thick and opaque.Dense, pillowy mocha head.

Aroma
Roasted, malty aroma. Mildly smoky and a
dry, almost dusty, dark chocolate character.

Taste & Feel
The flavor is mostly an intensification of the aromas, roast and. malty. A touch of an earthy hops bitterness sneaks through before ending with a dry, bitter chocolate finish.

Medium body and an active carbonation provides a somewhat acidic feel.

Verdict
A pretty good beer.  Not surprisingly, it goes great with chocolate, as I discovered during my second bottle.

Weyerbacher Brewing Co. - Blithering Idiot

Here's another one that I picked up on my most recent trip to East Wake Wines & Craft Brew. When I was there, I discovered that they had actually posted a couple of my reviews in the store. Cool deal.

Bio
Blithering Idiot is an English-style barleywine ale from Easton, PA's Weyerbacher Brewing. It is available year-round and can be found on the East coast and in Ohio, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

11.1% ABV

Appearance
It has a bright amber-orange color and hazy appearance.Pours with a dense, creamy head that dissipated quickly but left a good amount of lacing.

Aroma
Strong and sweet. The aroma is loaded with honey and dark fruit scents. Give it a good sniff, but be careful... if you draw too deep, the high alcohol content gives the inside of your nose a little burn.

Taste & Feel
It has a medium body and sweet, sticky flavor. Dates, raisins and honey are most prominent. A distinct alcohol taste cuts through some of the other flavors, especially as it warms. Not surprising, since it has a hot finish and an alcohol aftertaste.

Verdict
Decent. I struggled a bit with this because it pulls me in opposite directions. It's a barelywine with a high ABV, so I really want to let it warm and savor it because, quite honestly, the flavor is pretty good. However, it's better off enjoyed cold, which doesn't really work for what I would call a sipping beer.

I've had several other beers in this ABV range that hid the alcohol nicely. Blithering Idiot almost embraces it, regrettably at the expense of other flavors. Almost all of the other barleywines I've had taste better as they warm. This one is the opposite. It's at its best 10-15 minutes out of the refrigerator.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hirschbräu - Doppel Hirsch

There are a number of reasons why you might try a beer. Perhaps, you saw it advertised somewhere. Chances are, if you're a beer geek, a friend recommended it or you read about it on somebody's blog.

Or, maybe you just thought the bottle was cool.

Yep. That was me, bought it for the bottle. There's something about two stags trading headbutts on the label of the 500ml swingtop bottle that somehow lends credibility to a beer. To be fair, I was sold at just the swingtop.

Bio
I had a bit of trouble finding information about this beer. I know it's a Bavarian doppelbock, but haven't found much about the brewer.  Their website is in German and doesn't appear to have an English version. Everything else I came across were other beer review sites.

I found it at East Wake Wines & Craft Brew. They had a few other varieties from the same brewer, but I haven't seen it carried anywhere else. 

7.2% ABV

Appearance
This beer has a dark, mahogany color and is topped with a foamy, tan head. The deep red hues and crystal clarity give it a jewel-like appearance.

Aroma
Banana bread... rich, roasted malts heavy with essences of bananas and walnuts. It's also filled with sweet, dark, prune notes.

Taste & Feel
Medium body and silky mouthfeel. The flavor was sweet and plummy up front, with earthy malts and some piney hop notes coming through later. It provided a mild, hoppy bite at the top-back of my tounge, and gave way to a warm, dry finish. It has a raisin aftertaste, which became nutty as it warmed up.

Verdict
It's good. I'd definitely like to try it again.