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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Red Brick Brewing Co. - Smoked Vanilla Gorilla

Trying to get the house ready for sale, but taking a much-needed break to drink a beer and watch a little football. Today's choice is Vanilla Gorilla,which is part of Red Brick's (formerly Atlanta Brewing Co.) Brick Mason Series. It is a smoked porter that is whiskey barrel-aged with smoked vanilla beans.

7.8% ABV

Appearance 
A deep, dark porter. Pours a jet black color with a totally opaque appearance. A bit of a swirl reveals quite a bit of carbonation beneath a thin, tan head.
 
Aroma 
Much like a great BBQ sauce, the smell is sweet, rich and smoky. It also has pleasing vanilla, caramel and whiskey notes.

Taste & Feel 
Tasty and complex. Smooth vanilla and light smoke flavors lead things off. It has a full bodied, creamy mouthfeel. Halfway through, sweet, caramel malt comes through. It also has a slightly boozy character, brought out by the whiskey notes. A strong, smoky wood character defines the finish.

Verdict
A glorious balance of flavor. An "A" in my book. If you like bold, complex flavor, this is one you'll want to try. Pair it with a good, smoky barbecue and you'll have a winning meal.If you don't like smoky beers, skip this one. You won't appreciate it.

As an aside, while drinking this beer, CBS switched to the final minutes of the Bills-Patriots game. The Bills answered a late tying score by New England by racing down the field and kicking a game-winning field goal as time ran out. Needless to say, Vanilla Gorilla wasn't the only thing I'm savoring today. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Anderson Valley Brewing Co. - Hop Ottin' IPA

As the seasons change, I'm determined to get in one more IPA before completely giving in to the siren song of dark fall beers. Clinging to the final vestiges of summer, I had to go with a canned IPA. This one is from Anderson Valley Brewing in Boonville, CA.   AVB has been in  business since 1987 and has grown steadily since. Hop Ottin' is part of their regular offering.

I haven't seen other Anderson Valley beers for sale in stores locally, but I have seen one or two on tap at Draft in Raleigh if you'd like to check it out.

7% ABV

Appearance 
A nice-looking IPA. It has a deep amber color and hazy appearance that gives it a warm, welcoming glow. Ample carbonation is present, at least in the pour. That feeds into a cream-colored, root beer float-like head that leaves a bit of sticky lacing.

Aroma 
A light, pleasant aroma. Yeasty, bready malt notes underlie a pungent, floral hops. Balanced, but clearly favoring the hops.  
Taste & Feel 
Hoppy, hoppy, hoppy. Pine and citrus hit strong and fast up front. A light, caramel sweetness peeks through the middle just before a bold, dry, grapefruit finish that leaves a citrusy, resin aftertaste.

Verdict
Impressive. If you enjoy big, bold and hoppy, this is one you'll want to try. For as powerful as the hops are, it remains surprisingly well-balanced. Good enough to earn an A- from me.

My realtor was here today and I offered her one. Her first reaction was, "Hoooooooo, that's flavorful!" After a few sips, she said it was a bit strong, but the taste really grew on her. I think you'll agree.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Highland Brewing Co. - Clawhammer Oktoberfest

Named after nearby Clawhammer Mountain, this Marzen-style lager is a fall seasonal from Asheville, NC's Highland Brewing.

5% ABV

Appearance 

Bright amber color. Good clarity. Slow, light stream of bubbles.
Thin, egg white head. 

Aroma 
 Light, bready aroma. Spicy hops. Subtle malty sweetness.

Taste & Feel 
Sweet and smooth up front. Malt filled with fresh bread an honey notes. Middle emerges with a spicy hops kick and a more aggressive feel. Finish is crisp and clean, with a light, lingering spiciness.

Verdict
Extremely easy-drinking, great flavor. I'd give it an A.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Green Flash Brewing Co. - Double Stout

It's a cold and rainy day in Raleigh, which immediately put me in the mood for something dark. Funny, considering how just last week the warm weather had me struggling to make the transition from summery IPAs to heartier autumn seasonals.

I stopped in to East Wake Wines where Ken, the owner, always seems to know which beer I'll want to try next. I asked him what was new, and he instinctively skipped over his newest Oktoberfests (fear not, I grabbed two on the way out) and steered me directly to Green Flash Double Stout.

Green Flash is a San Diego craft brewery in operation since 2003. Double Stout is a 2010 World Beer Cup silver medalist.

 8.8% ABV

Appearance 
No surprises here. When the label says Double Stout black ale, you know what to expect, and this beer delivers. It's completely opaque and black and is capped with a dense, suede-like,  mocha colored head.

Aroma 
It has a rich, sweet aroma. Coffee and dusty, dark chocolate notes are most prominent. 

Taste & Feel 
Well, damn, this beer has a big, bold taste. It starts off with a dark, robust espresso flavor and an underlying chocolatey sweetness. An aggressive mouthfeel and coating, full body add to the strong character. The finish is dry and heavily roasty.

Verdict 
Quite pleasing. Ken rarely ever steers me wrong. However, I'm torn between wanting to take big, flavorful gulps and slowly sipping and savoring  it. I guess that's why I always buy two.

I'd give this a solid A-.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Weyerbacher Brewing Co. - Imperial Pumpkin Ale

My second pumpkin ale of the fall (not quite, yet) season. Weyerbacher's fall seasonal hits a bit harder than most, weighing in at 8.0% ABV.

Appearance
This beer has a deep copper color with good clarity. It is capped by a thin, cream head that quickly dissipates.

Aroma 
It has a rich and balanced aroma. Sweet pumpkin pie filling and brown sugar are complemented by light whiffs of nutmeg and clove.

Taste & Feel 
Mmmm... this one is rich, smooth and full-bodied. It's sweet and malty from the start with a good balance of pumpkin pie flavors: pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar... and hints of clove and cardamom. Finishes sweet and smooth, with a subtle boozy warmth and a light, nutmeg aftertaste. 

Verdict
Very good. Smooth and rich, with a nice balance of flavors. I could easily see this being part of my fall rotation.

Monday, September 5, 2011

New Holland Brewing Co. - Ichabod Pumpkin Ale (2011)


Labor Day means one thing to me... the NFL season starts next week! Since I plan to spend many of my Sundays this fall watching football and reviewing beer, it's perfect that the fall seasonals are starting to show up in my favorite stores.

Last week, I picked up two pumpkin ales at East Wake Wines.  The first up is Ichabod from New Holland. Ichabod is brewed with real pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Look for the headless horseman label.

5.2% ABV

Appearance
An attractive beer. It has a bright, copper color and a slightly hazy appearance. Ample carbonation is visible, with fairly large bubbles forming a dense, pillowy cream-colored head.

Aroma 
Ichabod has a light aroma. It's bready, with dusty, spicy, nutmeg notes.As it warmed, a sweet pumpkin scent becomes evident.

Taste & Feel 
This is a medium-bodied beer with a light, carbonated tingle. Brown sugar sweetness and nutmeg start things off up front. Faint hints of pumpkin pie come through in the middle. Light, spicy hops give it a bit of a bite toward the finish. Strong nutmeg aftertaste.

Verdict
Decent. The nutmeg flavor really overwhelms any indication of pumpkin or cinnamon and overpowers the beer . I'd give it a B-.