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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Aviator Brewing Company - Black Mamba


BASICS
Style: Barrel aged oatmeal stout
Availability: Year round
ABV: 6.5%
Serving Type: 650 ml bottle, poured into snifter

APPEARANCE 
Color: Black
Clarity: Opaque
Carbonation: Ample
Head: Thin, tan
Lacing: Thin

EXPERIENCE 
Aromas: Coffee, vanilla, molasses, bourbon
Flavors: Espresso, dark chocolate, molasses
Body: Robust
Feel: Aggressive and flavorful, with a dry finish

VERDICT
Quite pleasing.  All the flavor of an imperial stout, without the high alcohol content. That just means you can have another

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Anchorage Brewing Company - Galaxy White IPA


Galaxy is brewed with Brett and aged in French oak wine barrels, so I've been letting it condition for several months. I haven't been a fan of white IPAs in the past, but this one was highly recommended.

BASICS
Style: White IPA
Availability: Appears to be year-round. Please correct me if I'm wrong. 
ABV: 7.0%
Serving Type: 750ml bottle, poured into a tulip glass

APPEARANCE 
Color: Pale straw gold
Clarity: Lightly hazy
Carbonation: Significant. Small, champagne-like bubbles
Head: Very pillowy, egg white frothiness.
Lacing: Thin, but sticky

EXPERIENCE 
Aromas: Pine, lemon, yeasty bread. 
Flavors: Hops dominate, with a balance between pine and citrus. Lemon eventually gives way to a piney finish, but reappears in the aftertaste. Hint of coriander.
Body: Light
Feel: Dry and bubbly

VERDICT
Excellent. I had to thank the friend who suggested letting it age. I'm certain that letting the Brett work was a huge contributor to both the flavor and the feel.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Starr Hill Brewery - Boxcar Pumpkin Porter

I was excited about this one, because one of my friends was over last week and drank my other bottle. He couldn't stop raving about it.

BASICS
Style: English Porter, with pumpkin and spices
Availability: Fall seasonal
ABV: 4.7%
Serving Type: 12 oz bottle, poured into a snifter

APPEARANCE 
Color: Black
Clarity: Opaque
Carbonation: Ample
Head: Dense, khaki, short lived
Lacing: Minimal

EXPERIENCE 
Aromas: Light, sour and dusty, with roasted malt and hints of nutmeg
Flavors: Toasted, nutty malt. Oddly, a bit of coriander. Very toasty finish. 
Body: Medium
Feel: Smooth

VERDICT
Most pumpkin ales go for a pumpkin pie flavor. This was more like roasted pumpkin seeds. Decent, but not likely to be on my must-have list next year. Sorry, John, you over-hyped it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Samuel Adams - Fat Jack (2012)

Fat Jack is a small-batch, limited release double pumpkin ale brewed by Samuel Adams. This is the second year that it has been available. The label boasts that 28 pounds of pumpkin go into every barrel.

BASICS
Style: Pumpkin Ale
Availability: Seasonal, limited release
ABV: 8.5%
Serving Type: 22oz bottle, poured into tulip glass

APPEARANCE 
Color: Deep ruby
Clarity: Jewel-like
Carbonation: Significant. Small, slow rising bubbles
Head: Foamy & cream colored. 
Lacing: Thick

EXPERIENCE 
Aromas: Caramel. Bourbon. Pie spice. Hard candy. Almond. 
Flavors: Brown sugar. Pumpkin. Cinnamon. Earthy hops. Bourbon finish. 
Body: Medium
Feel: Bold, bubbly and a bit boozy. 

VERDICT
This is a nice alternative to the super-spicy, malty pumpkin ales that have dominated the market for the last few years. It's still a bit spicy, but is very well blended and balanced. As big as they've become, Sam Adams still manages to stay true to the craft roots when it comes to putting out specialty beers like this.

I'd call this one a must-try.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Orange Blossom Pilsner - Toasted Coconut Porter

I'm playing around with the formatting for reviews. For now, I'm trying short narratives for the background and verdict, but the facts will be in a simplified format. Feedback is welcomed!
Have to credit both OBP, the creators of Orange Blossom Pilsner and OBP Squared, as well as the folks at Thomas Creek Brewery. This is an OBP recipe, but brewed at Thomas Creek. I picked up a couple bottles during my first-ever visit to Bottle Revolution in Raleigh. It's a cool place with a good selection. Check it out when you get a chance.

Anyway, back to the beer...

BASICS
Style: American porter, brewed with coconut
Availability: Year-round
ABV: 5.25%
Serving Type:12 oz. bottle, poured into a snifter

APPEARANCE 
Color: Dark brown
Clarity: Opaque
Carbonation: Ample. Small bubbles near head.
Head:Dense, khaki-colored, quickly dissipated
Lacing:Very light

EXPERIENCE 
Aromas: Strong and roasty. Coffee is most prominent with coconut, caramel and cream notes
Flavors: Dark roasted coffee with a touch of coconut. Light, earthy hops.
Body: Medium-full
Feel:Aggressive up front, smooth middle, dry finish

VERDICT
It's good, but not spectacular. The coconut flavor is a decent complement for a porter. If you have the opportunity to pair this with a sweet dessert, especially something creamy or vanilla, definitely do that. I bought two bottles, and I'll likely try pairing the other one with a carrot cake ice cream that I have.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Weyerbacher Brewing Co. - Imperial Pumpkin Ale (2012)

When it comes to fall seasonals, there's no doubt that there are some serious players out there. That's why I was surprised last year when, in a very crowded pumpkin market, Weyerbacher's relatively under-the-radar pumpkin ale was easily my favorite of the bunch.

I picked up a couple bottles of the 2012 edition, hoping for the same. One noticeable difference is that they have changed the packaging this year.

8.0% ABV

Appearance 
Almost identical to last year: deep copper color, clear to semi-translucent appearance and a thin, cream head.

Aroma 
Warm and inviting. The familiar pumpkin pie and  brown sugar aroma contains a bit more clove than I remember, while the cardamom is noticeable this time, too.

Taste & Feel 
Definitely the sweet and spicy pumpkin pie taste I remember, with a touch more cardamom. I like this one.

Verdict
Very consistent with the beer I loved so much last year. Still the king of the pumpkin ales.

Monday, October 1, 2012

21st Amendment Brewery - Monk's Blood

I don't even have to come up with a description  it's right there on the can. Monk's Blood is a "Belgian-style dark ale brewed with cinnamon, vanilla, oak chips and dried figs." I really can't write anything more enticing than that. Sounds snifter-worthy.

8.3% ABV

Appearance 
This is an opaque ale that has a deep mahogany color. It's capped with a dense, tan head that leaves a bit of lacing.

Aroma 
Monk's Blood has a very sweet and sticky aroma. Dark cherry, figs and bourbon define the nose.

Taste & Feel 
Huge flavor, with sweet, dark fruit up front. Cherries, raisins and figs lead off. Mid-sip, a light spice character builds, accompanied by a robust, woody flavor. The cinnamon, vanilla, figs and oak combine to give it a boozy taste that reminds me of the shot of Balcones Rumble that I had earlier this year. Earthy hops and a dry, peaty finish round out a complex and pleasing flavor profile.

Verdict
Spectacular.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Southern Tier Brewing Co. - Pumking (2012)


It's Sunday, the Buffalo Bills are on TV and it's only appropriate that I enjoy a Western New York beer with the game. Pumking is an imperial pumpkin ale from Southern Tier Brewing. Like nearly every other pumpkin ale, it is a fall seasonal and usually shows up in late August. This is the 2012 version.

8.6% ABV

Appearance
Pumking has a deep, golden color and excellent clarity, The thin, cream head dissipated almost immediately. Compared to previous editions, this year's installment is lighter, clearer and less carbonated.

Aroma
It has a spicy, nutty aroma. Most noticeable in the nose are pumpkin and nutmeg, with a bit of pecan. It's not as bready as before.

Taste & Feel
The taste is spicy and sweet. Lots of nutmeg, caramel, pecan and pumpkin in this medium-light bodied ale. It has a bold, but not overly aggressive flavor and a spicy finish.

Verdict
Very good. A bit more pumpkin than the last time I had one, which is an improvement. A- this time around.

Mikkeller 19

Mikkeller 19 is an American-style IPA brewed with 19 (surprise) varieties of hops. This is the first beer I've tried from the Danish brewery.

6.8% ABV

Appearance
This is a nice looking IPA. It has a deep honey color and translucent appearance, giving it a warm, welcoming glow.  Significant carbonation is visible, feeding into dense, beige head.

Aroma
19 has a light aroma, with evidence of a hops explosion waiting beneath the surface. Both citrus and pine hops are prominent, with some bready yeast notes.

Taste & Feel
The flavor of this medium-bodied IPA is dominated by grapefruit, start to finish. A big burst of carbonation leads off, then a bit of honey sweetness cuts into the citrus, making it very enjoyable. Then a dry, spicy hops finish kicks in.

Verdict
An aggressive IPA, but not over-the-top. I'd highly recommend it.

Also, very cool packaging.

Monday, September 10, 2012

21st Amendment Brewery - Back in Black


Back in Black is a black IPA and is part of 21st Amendment's year-round selection. Again, despite their site saying it's not available in NC, I managed to find a good selection of 21st Amendment beers at East Wake Wines & Craft Brew.

6.8% ABV

Appearance 
This beer is almost entirely opaque. Only by holding it up to very bright sunlight was I able to reveal a deep cola brown-black color. It is capped with a dense, tan head that leaves a thick, sticky lacing.

Aroma 
It has a very pleasing aroma. A rich, caramel malt with hints of dark fruit.

Taste & Feel 
This one is medium bodied and has a big, robust flavor. Dark roasted malts greet you up front. The flavor is a mix of coffee, with molasses sweetness, and a touch of black cherry. Earthy hops show up in the middle, before giving way to a dry, roasty finish.

Verdict
Excellent. I give it a solid A.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

21st Amendment Brewery - Brew Free! or Die IPA

San Francisco-based 21st Amendment is well known for packaging their craft beer in cans. Brew Free! or Die is one of their more popular offerings and is available year-round. This IPA is brewed with 6 varieties of hops.

Oddly, their website does not list North Carolina as one of the states where their beer is available. However, I recently picked up 3 of their brews, and saw Hell or High Watermelon available earlier this year.

7% ABV

Appearance 
Brew Free! or Die has a deep golden color and a translucent appearance.I held it up to an open window, and it glows in the sun like a tangerine lightbulb. Thin streams of carbonation rise up to form a thin, cream-colored cap.

Aroma 
I expected it to be very hoppy, but the malt is more prominent in an otherwise light aroma. It has a sweet, bready scent with notes of yeast and honey.

Taste & Feel 
This one is very sweet, with a bright, citrus hops character. Honey and orange flavors give it a mimosa-like quality. It has a light body and clean feel, with soft, velvety carbonation.  The hoppy, orange peel finish is a nice touch and perhaps the best indication that this is a west coast brew.

Verdict
It's good. Very balanced for a west coast IPA, which are sometimes so strongly hopped that they taste like bile. I'd give it a B+.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Brewery Ommegang - Adoration Special Winter Ale (2011)

I've been aging this bottle since Christmas. Felt like the right time to pop it open. It's still hot outside, I biked my ass off today, and I needed a bit of winter, even if it was just a winter beer.

Adoration is a Belgian strong dark winter ale brewed with coriander, cardamom, mace, grains of paradise and sweet orange peel. It comes corked & caged in a 750 ml bottle. I'm enjoying the 2011 edition.

10% ABV

Appearance 
This beer has a glowing, translucent appearance and a warm ruby color. It is heavily carbonated and small, sparkling bubble feed into a thin, tan head.

Aroma 
The nose is rather enjoyable. It has a sweet, sticky malt aroma filled with spicy notes and plenty of citrus. I'd best describe it as candied fruit

Taste & Feel 
The first sip is rather aggressively carbonated up front. You'll soon feel an army of fine bubbles disperse to coat you mouth in a soft, velvety blanket.

The flavor is a balance of rich, honey malt and citrus hops. It's pretty spicy. Coriander stands out at first, followed by orange. Cardamom peeks through toward the finish.

Verdict
Quite tasty. A classic Belgian ale with a spicy kick. Get some.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Life is Grand

I'm sitting at the bar at Fullsteam Brewery. It's early Saturday afternoon.

I'm surrounded by bricks and beer and blues and a fan-blown breeze.

I wonder, what in life could I possibly have to complain about?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Southern Tier Brewing Co. - Oat

Oat imperial oatmeal stout is part of Southern Tier's limited-release imperials collection. A fall seasonal, it is released in August. Needless to say, I've been sitting on this particular bottle for a few months.

10.8% ABV

Appearance 
Dense, black, opaque. Capped with a creamy, tan head. Although thick, it quickly dissipated.

Aroma 
The aroma is lighter than I expected. Still, it's easy to make out the dark, roasted malt. Hint of a boozy burn and a touch of cocoa sweetness. 

Taste & Feel 
The flavor is much bolder than the aroma. Dark, sweet and robust. A sweet molasses, with a deep roasted coffee are prominent up front. It has a bit of an earthy, hoppy bite, coupled with a boozy burn. The finish is sticky, and has hints of black cherry flavor.   


Verdict
Very good.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Great Divide Brewing Co. - Yeti Imperial Stout

We've had an extremely mild winter here in NC (in fact, I was wearing shorts yesterday), but today a wintery cold front has moved in and it's threatening to snow for the first time this season. Seems appropriate, then, that I'm breaking out a beer with a particularly wintry name. 

Yeti is probably Great Divide's best-known beer, and part of the Denver brewery's year-round offering. Great Divide's website describes the imperial stout as "an onslaught of the senses."

Sounds baddass; let's give her a try.

9.5% ABV

Appearance
Yeti looks bold. It pours thick, black and opaque. It is capped with a super-thick, mocha milkshake head. A thing of beauty.

Aroma
Yeti has a big, roasted aroma, with bittersweet dark chocolate notes.  It's balanced by an earthy, peaty scent and just a hint of dried black cherry.


Taste & Feel
Yeti boasts an exceptional balance of creamy mouthfeel and bold flavor. Sweet toffee notes up front, followed by a healthy kick of earthy hops, strong espresso malt and a touch of fruit. It has a dry finish, with a heavy coffee aftertaste.


Verdict
Onslaught is an understatement. This beer boasts a bold, yet nicely balanced aroma and flavor. You must put this in your face.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

New Holland Brewing Co. - Envious (2011)

While shopping my local Total Wine, I stumbled upon this primarily because of the shiny purple foil on the packaging.

Envious is part of New Holland's Cellar Series. It is a fruit ale that is brewed with pears and aged in oak and raspberries. This is the 2011 vintage.
 
7.5% ABV

Appearance 
Envious is dark brown ale with a warm, ruby glow. It appears to be very well carbonated, with a very thin cream head that quickly fades. 
 
Aroma 
This is a very aromatic brew. The brandy-like aroma hit me hard as soon as I poured it. Notable scents include raspberry, plum and an oaky whiskey.

Taste & Feel 
An effervescent burst of carbonation leads off before any taste sinks in. The flavor is loaded with sweet, sticky malts. Dark fruits are prominent, especially raspberries and prunes. Is is medium bodied with a tingly mouthfeel that offers up touch of warm booziness. The finish has a touch of dusty, dark chocolate. Very desserty.

Verdict
Pretty good. Not as smooth and well-blended as it could be, but still a solid B beer. This is a decent beer to sip with a rich dessert. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bell's Brewery - Christmas Ale

Christmas Ale is a winter seasonal from Michigan's Bell's Brewery. Bell's touts it as a sessionable holiday beer designed to contrast against spiced winter ales. 

5.5% ABV

Appearance 
The deep copper color and hazy appearance give Bell's Christmas Ale a warm, welcoming glow. It's loaded with ultrafine carbonation, which feeds into a thin, off-white head.

Aroma 
The aroma is filled with lightly toasted malt notes. Spicy hops offset sweet autumn fruit  and toffee scents.

Taste & Feel 
This is a dry, light-bodied ale. The carbonation is rather aggressive up front and, although it fades, never really disappears. Flavors include apple, nuts and toffee. The hops add just enough balance and a bit of spiciness before leaving a nutty finish. 

Verdict
Flavorful, but easy to drink. It drinks well on it's own, but isn't so bold that it can't be paired with a meal or a dessert. I can definitely see exactly what Bell's was trying to achieve. Worth a try.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bison Brewing - Gingerbread Ale

Gingerbread Ale is a spiced holiday porter. Not surprisingly, it is brewed with ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Of course, being a Bison brew, the spices and hops are all organic. This is a fall seasonal that I picked up in early November. Meant to save it for Christmas, but I'm just now getting to it.

 6.0% ABV

Appearance 
This beer is a dark, cola brown color and is nearly opaque. Only a small sliver of light is visible near the bottom edge of the glass. It is capped by a thin, creamy, off-white head. 

Aroma 
Gingerbread Ale pretty much smells exactly like gingerbread dough. The aroma is dominated by a robust, spicy malt featuring plenty of nutmeg and a sweet molasses touch. As it warms, the molasses softens into a warm brown sugar scent. No sign of hops in the aroma.

Taste & Feel 
Again, no surprises. The flavor is sweet and spicy, with molasses and nutmeg being the key players. The flavor is consistent from start to finish, leaving a spicy aftertaste after the sweetness disappears. It's a medium-bodied brew, with a a creamy base that lies just beneath its spicy bite.

Verdict
A pretty solid holiday ale. The flavor begs for a dessert to accompany it, as the spicy notes can be a bit much on their own. Grab something sweet, and a couple of these to wash it down. I'd give it a B+.



Sunday, January 1, 2012

Samuel Adams - Infinium (2011)

Infinium is a limited-release seasonal collaboration between Sam Adams and Germany's Weihenstephan, the world's oldest brewery. Part of the uniqueness is that they set out to create a new style while sticking to the traditional four brewing ingredients.

Infinium comes corked and caged, in a 750ml champagne bottle, and is not cheap. I paid $20 for a bottle at Total Wine, which was limiting purchases to two per customer.

10.3% ABV

Appearance 
Infinium pours a honey-amber color with a hazy appearance. It has champagne-like carbonation and the explosion of fine bubbles creates a thin, fizzy white head.

Aroma 
This beer has a light, sweet aroma. The malt is filled with honey and apricots, while citrusy hops notes round out the bouquet.

Taste & Feel
Wow... this is incredibly carbonated. Thin body, but very sweet and somewhat tart up front, with hints of apricot and orange marmalade. It's a bit aggressive through the middle with a citrusy hop flavor paired with a slight spiciness. More orange marmalade comes through toward the finish, before giving way to a perfumy, floral aftertaste. Despite being a higher-alcohol brew, you really can't taste it.

Verdict
It's great. Definitely amazing that they were able to craft such a unique beer while conforming to Reinheitsgebot.

Now, I'd be lying if I said it was one of my all-time favorites, but its unique character and relative rarity makes Infimium worth shelling out twenty bucks to get yours hands on a bottle. 

Also, I normally wouldn't say this, but this is definitely a beer to share. Typically, I can finish a bottle this size in one sitting by myself, but between the sweet flavor and intense mouthfeel, I think this warrants at least two people to drink it. Besides, at twenty bucks apiece, you may want to go halves on it.