Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Aventinus - Weizen-Eisbock

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

12.0% ABV

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

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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. 

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!

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

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.

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. 

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.