Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays! International Beer Gift

Happy Winter Celebrations! I hope you have all gotten to indulge in your favorite holiday treats this year. I got this "Beer of the World" 10 pack as a gift from 2 dear friends. Yay! It's nice when people know what I like. A couple of German beers, a couple of British beers, my dad went right for the Mexican craft beer (in a can!) and I chose to first indulge on a beer from Sri Lanka and another from Australia.Lion Imperial Premium Malt Pilsner - a product of Sri Lanka with 8.8% alcohol by volume. It poured a mighty orange, much like the lion on its label, with a small sudsy white head. The smell was mild - faintly sweet malts and grassy hops. The taste was again mild - a bit of apple, grassy hops, and sweet malts. The alcohol was just slightly noticeable. It was smooth, mellow, light, and crisp. Not offensive, but not super flavorful. Fairly well-balanced. I wouldn't go out of my way to try this again, but was happy to get to try something new. B-

James Boag's Premium Lager states to be "Tasmania's Finest Since 1881." It poured like clear apple juice, with lots of rapid carbonation, and a huge fluffy head. Very mild nose, just vague sweetness. The taste, again, was extremely mild. A little tart apple, a little bitter/metallic taste, and a little bit of grass. Light, smooth, pleasant enough, but not enough flavor or substance to make it stand out. C

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

3 Pumpkin Beers: In Your/My Face

Holy wow, I've been doing this blog for 4 years now. Four years! And this is my 4th annual pumpkin beer review. And yes, I still love pumpkin.
I generally find cider a little too sweet, and this was no exception. However, the orange label on this Woodchuck called to me. It also informed me that this beverage contains 6.9% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) and is made in a small batch (2 1/2 hours on their assembly line) with pumpkin added at the end.

It drank like a regular cider, and mostly tasted like an apple cider. There was a little bit of spice (cinnamon, nutmeg) but it was pretty subtle. The body felt a little more substantial as well, perhaps from the pumpkin. Very sweet, still very strongly apple-flavored. Crisp, pleasant, but not that...Pumpkin-y. B-
Next was Screaming Pumpkin Spiced Ale from the local Michigan Brewing Company. I had this on tap last year and blogged about it! I liked it, but it was semi-frozen into beer chunks. No one likes that. No one. This time I tried it from the bottle, and enjoyed it. This is attractive - hazy orange, big fluffy head, some lacing. The aroma was strongly spicy. Nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon - these flavors also all dominated the taste. Cloves in particular stood out, as well as a little actual pumpkin flavor, and caramel malt sweetness. The focus is really on the spice rather than the pumpkin, and it is very spicy. A good local seasonal brew. B+
Oh I have some love for Southern Tier's Pumking. It's a big beer - not just a pumpkin beer but an "Imperial Pumpkin" beer.This has been my favorite pumpkin beer for a few years now. I only get it once or twice a year, and I always look forward to drinking it. This year was no exception. I got to share a bomber of it with a couple of friends. Everything about this is Halloween to me. The scary jack-o-lantern label. The bright orange color (pretty)...It smells like candy. Candy corn, to be precise. Brown sugar, real pumpkin, cinnamon, vanilla. It tastes like actual pumpkin, as well as pumpkin pie spices, caramel malts, and a touch of hops. After it warms the spices stand out more, and it is darn good. Yes it is sweet. Yes it is a bit boozy at 8.6% ABV. That is why we share. Creamy, smooth, delicious. A

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Stone Smoked Porter: Smokin'!

Stone Smoked Porter! I've been wanting to spend some quality time with this one for a while now.
As an aside, I've also been interested in trying more smoked beers. Rauchbiers are traditional old-school German beers that have had malts smoked over a beech wood fire. On the other hand, Smoked beers use peat-smoked malts in a variety of styles. Thanks! Stone's Smoked Porter would be the latter style, using peat.
Appearance: Way too many words on the bottle. I don't have time for this. But truth be told, it is an entertaining/informative read. AND, Stone recommends PB&J as a good food item to be paired with this beer. Very nice. This brew was very dark, but had ruby highlights around the edges. Also a beautiful foamy tan head rested on top of the dark liquid.The nose was fairly mild, but notes of sweet malts as well as smokey malts were present. And the taste: UHM. NUM. Roasty, robust coffee, sweet dark chocolate. Nutty, sweet malts, burnt sugar. Rich, tasty, earthy (wood). Smokiness is there, but not in the forefront.
Overall, this is a delicious porter. The smoked factor adds a little to the taste. This is a full-bodied, creamy ale. Delicious; I would totally have another.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lagunitas 13 Year Anniversary Release

How could anyone resist this sexy bottle? Lagunitas released Lucky 13 as their 13th anniversary release - an amber ale. I found myself wondering - would this be considered "imperial"? What makes a beer style imperial anyways? According to the first website I found on the topic, it used to refer to beer shipped to Russia from England for the imperial court. Now it simply means a beer with a higher alcohol content than the typical style, and often stronger flavors as well.

Therefore, I declare Lucky 13 as an Imperial Amber Ale. I also declare it as damn good.
Appearance: From the sexy label to the lovely subdued orange-amber, sudsy off-white head, and visible carbonation, this is an attractive beer.

Smell: Sweet, sweet pineapple.

Taste: Tropical fruits, again pineapple in particular. Also strongly sweet caramel malts. Then very bitter hops. Strong flavors all around on both the hops and malts front, making this "balanced yet bold." (I should go into advertising, amiright?) Not much noticeable alcohol in the flavor, but certainly some warmth could be detected.
I shared this one with my dad. His thoughts? "It's fruity. Light yet not lite." (He spelled that one out). That's a fair assessment.

Overall - this is a solid beer. Tasty, strong flavors, strong hops the way I like it, great flavors of tropical fruit, sweetness, caramel, and bitter hops in yo' face. I'm a fan. Well done Lagunitas!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

2 Michigan Belgian-Styles

There are a lot of lovely Belgian beers out there. I often eye them in the store, consider them, then consider my limited budget. I've been wanting to do a vertical Chimay tasting for years now. Wow, I should just do it. Or, in the meantime, find more affordable locally-made brews in the traditional Belgian style. Such as these 2 brightly colored cans! Hey, hey - check it out. I picked up "Solitude" and "Triomphe," from Brewery Vivant out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Their slogan? "Belgian Tradition, Local Mission." Nice.
I began with the Solitude, although not in solitude. The Solitude is an Abbey-Style Belgian Dark Ale. It poured from the can (which included a message about the environmental reasons for using cans) to my wine glass as a murky brown with red highlights and a small fizzy brown head. Kind of like an ugly cola. The nose was strong; Belgian yeast and dark fruits.
Solitude was malty and fruity...Dark fruits - plums, raisins. The strong Belgian yeast flavor with a little funk. This was medium-bodied, had low carbonation, and felt smooth and soft. At 6% alcohol by volume, this was pleasant and mild enough. As it warmed I enjoyed it more. B
Next was the green can: Triomphe, a Belgian IPA. Now, pardon my naivete, but what is a Belgian-style IPA? I turn to the experts at BeerAdvocate: some Belgian brewers are creating strong IPAs in the style of American Imperial IPAs and geared towards an American audience. They often use Belgian yeast strains and American hops, and are drier than American IPAs.
Not to be shallow, but Triumphe was a little prettier than the Solitude. Sorry. It poured a pretty, cloudy, orange-amber with a huge fluffy off-white head. It left lots of lacing and had a very inviting appearance. The nose was fairly mild but pleasant; hoppy citrus and floral. And delicious - initial sweet citrus (pineapple, orange) gave way to bitter pines and subtle Belgian yeast flavors. Strongly stated flavors, but not a super hop-bomb. Great drinkability at 6.5% alcohol by volume; smooth, soft, pleasant, and tasty. A

This was a nice way to discover yet another cool Michigan brewery AND a new style of beer to boot!

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Firkin of Smells Like...

So a local tavern has "firkin Fridays." I've never partaken. Partook? (Seriously, which is correct? I really want to know). What's a firkin again? A 1/4 barrel, often encased in wood. It contains 72 pints of cask-conditioned ale. Usually a specialty ale left to complete the fermentation process in the barrel, producing a fresh and evolving product. On this particular "firkin Friday" they were tapping a barrel of "Smells Like Weed" by Dark Horse Brewing Company. Obviously an alluring name to many, and when I arrived at 5 minutes prior to tapping time, there was already an eager group of people surrounding said firkin.
It poured surprisingly dark and murky. It looked like very cloudy apple cider with a big sudsy light brown head. The nose was...mild. Pleasant. Floral hops. So far, not too exciting...
Okay, but do not fret! The taste made up for it. This is a good IPA. Strongly floral and citrus hops. In particular pineapple and mango. Strongly bitter hop notes were off-set with just a touch of sweet malts. Then there was a slight banana flavor along with a slight unique flavor I can only describe as "funk." Strong, good flavors for those of us who like strong and bitter IPAs.
"Smells Like Weed" was kind of thick and oily. I asked a couple of guys sitting by me what they thought. Their sentiments: "It doesn't smell like weed, it doesn't look very pretty, but it tastes really good." That pretty much sums it up!

Overall a solid IPA that I would try again. B+

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Beer Art (Bart?)

This is a pretty amazing print. 89 beer varieties, appropriate glassware, and examples. I think I could get lost in the beauty of it for a while.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter

Ahhh, the infamous and mighty Edmund Fitzgerald. Yeah I never heard of it either. But apparently it sunk in Lake Superior in 1975. What I had heard of was the beer named after it created by Ohio's Great Lakes Brewing Company. This beer has won lots of awards, and is highly scored on both BeerAdvocate and Ratebeer. And I gotta say...This is good stuff.

This is an attractive beer. Pitch black with a sudsy brown head, good retention, moderate lacing. The first word that came to me when smelling it was "soft." Softly chocolate and roasty. Same with the taste.
Chocolate and coffee notes with a solid roasted grains and flavor and enough hops to keep this more bitter (or bittersweet) than sweet.

Smooth, creamy, medium-bodied, low carbonation. Again, "softness" comes to mind.
This is a solid beer. Well-balanced, tasty, flavorful, & not overwhelming.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Short's Rich's Rye

Have I ever had a Rye beer? I don't know that I have. And only being a semi-fan of rye bread, I've been curious but not super-excited about trying this style. Rye beer, rye. And is marked by bitter, sour, and spicy notes. Short's Rich's Rye is described as a "super-hopped golden rye beer." And there is an adorable picture of a "brewery dad" on the label. So I figured this was a good choice to start with.
This is a unique-looking beer. And not in a "Well, at least you've got a great personality" kind of way. It is good looking! Handsome, even. This is a very hazy muted amber. A sudsy and sturdy white head left lots of lacing. This is also an intensely-carbonated beer.
It smelled like rye, peppery spice, and sourness. It reminded me of overly ripe peaches.

The taste was interesting. At first like a regular lager but then you get hit with some bitter hops, strong spice, and a touch of sourness. The rye definitely gives it a unique flavor. I like the combination of bread, spice, and bitter pine hops.
The mouthfeel was medium, smooth, and creamy. Great drinkability, especially considering the fact that its a style and flavor I'm not used to. I can't compare it to other Ryes, and I assume this one is extra hoppy. But I would welcome some other Ryes in my future. Feel free to recommend some!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

may the beer in me be the beer in you: namaste

Check out this film trailer. For The Love of Beer, a documentary focusing on women working in the craft beer industry in the Pacific Northwest. Awesome! And while I love women and beer and am excited for that aspect of the film, I also got real excited about Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head brewery and all around beer rock star. I'm pretty gay, y'all. But I want to beer-marry this man. Whatever that means.
When I first began to explore the craft beer world, I hit up Dogfish Head right away. I've tried a lot of their beer. I don't love it all, but I love a lot of it and I respect their creativity and boldness. Anyways, after seeing this little trailer with Mr. Calagione I had Dogfish Head in my head and went to search out something new. I went searching for an answer. I found namaste.
The label is very cute and informative/entertaining:
Namaste the word kinda sorta means the spirit in me recognizes and celebrates the spirit in you. Namaste the brew kinda sorta means white ale as in wheat and coriander but also means dried orange slices and lemongrass. A refreshing summer thing, Namaste.
(Check out the cute skeleton label!)
Namaste poured a completely hazy bright orange-yellow. Lots of visible sediment floating around along with the carbonation. Nice 1.5 finger of solid white head, excellent retention, and just a bit of lacing. This is sunshine in a glass.

It smells...Juicy. "Drink me." Strongly orange and lemon. Wheat and just a bit of spice. It tastes great - very refreshing. A strong wheat flavor, plenty of fruity citrus, and a strong coriander spice. The spice is a little much at times, but really, this is a super tasty flavorful beverage. It's also just a little sour. Looks good, smells good, tastes good too.

The body is medium and creamy, and the drinkability is great. 5% alcohol is pretty low, making this a good "hot summer day beer."


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Baltika #9 Extra: My 1st Russian Beer!

I've seen a lotta beer in my day. Never before have I seen a bottle quite like this - it is plastic, with a plastic screw-on top. At 51 ounces and 8% alcohol (for $3.99), this could easily be a dangerous party beer. The brewery is Baltika (check out the website! fun dance music, very European). What is also European is the style of this lager. According to BeerAdvocate, this style is "Euro Strong Lager," a style that uses more malts and less corn/rice (like most American-style lagers). Cool, a new style to explore! And I have to say, I like it.
It poured darker than I expected; a good sign. Medium amber, crystal clear, lots of carbonation, and a huge sudsy white head with little retention. The smell was STRONGLY green apple. Like, regular apples plus artificial green apple, very sweet. And the taste...Again, I was expecting to hop on the train to Blandsville, but this is flavorful! Strong caramel malts, a big apple bite, some grassiness, and a touch of bitter hops. Even with 8% alcohol, I do not detect much in the taste.This has a stronger body than expected as well. Almost too thick. But then again, maybe that's because I'm not familiar with this style. It is not a bad drinking beer. However, it is really sweet. A little too sweet. But, you know, sweet flavor is better than no flavor. Ya know?(Plus I got a cool bottle cap for the ol' collection). B-

Short's Hangin' Frank: Controversy!

Oooh, nothing like a little controversy in the beer world, eh? Hangin' Frank by Short's has a story behind it. And a quick Google search shows the debates over the rather gruesome label. I have to admit, the label is what caught my eye, besides also generally enjoying Short's products and IPAs. SO, the short story is that there is a bar in Petoskey, MI, where a bartender hung himself. There is a rumor that his ghost haunts the bar, and this beer was named in his honor. Cool story, cool tribute to a small-town Michigan bar. But Short's....Really? Really you didn't think the label might be in poor taste? The early version of the label made Frank look black. Um, yeah a beer label with a hanging black man without context? Terrible idea. You know, American history and such. The label has been changed, so Frank looks white now. Still totally creepy. Anyways, the beer is to be rebranded next year. Probably a good idea.So, how's the actual beer? Pretty good! I got over the label. It's a purty beer. Nice, light amber with hints of red; almost peach-like. Mostly clear, but a bit murky. Plenty of visible carbonation and a sudsy 1/2 finger head which left lots of lacing.
Hops are quickly detected upon opening the bottle. Odors of lemon, orange, and a little bit of sweetness, almost like honey.
This is a very pleasant IPA. Lots of citrus hops, some bitter pines, with a touch of malty sweetness for balance. Strongly bitter, but not over-the-top. The feel is a lil sticky, and surprisingly light and soft compared to other IPAs. Definitely has good drinkability. I'd pick this up again for sure...Perhaps at that time with a new name and label.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Couple of Cans: 21st Amendment Brewing

On a recent road trip to MA, I decided to make a beer run. Namely to find my absolute favorite beer that you cannot get in MI. I stopped in Mentor, Ohio and found a really amazing store that had all kinds of goodies. Really amazing considering the kinda crappy strip mall and unassuming name - "Save On Tobacco and Beverage." Inside, aisles of beers from all over the country and world. Including some 21st Amendment beers from San Francisco.
First up was the Back in Black, an American-style IPA brewed with dark malts. It has 6.8% alcohol and 65 International Bitterness Units (IBUs). This poured very dark, although not exactly black, into my chicken glass. It had 1 finger of a rocky brown head with excellent retention. The nose was quite hoppy, and notably grapefruity.
Back in Black was a tasty IPA. There was an interesting balance of hops, a touch of spice, and just enough nutty malt taste to balance it out. A nice medium to full body and easy and pleasant to drink. I like IPAs a lot, and definitely enjoyed this one. It's kind of a strange style though, and I'm somewhat of a hop head, so don't see the need for dark malts in my IPAs.
I totally scored a can of Monks Blood too. I didn't know it was a score, but the cashier was excited because it's a limited release and I got the last one in the store. Therefore, SCORE. 21st Amendment has some nice packaging, and I enjoyed reading some of the scripture about monks on the can...But mostly went ahead to the tasting. This has 8.3% alcohol and 34 IBUs. Description: "Belgian-style dark ale brewed with cinnamon, vanilla, oak chips, and dried figs." OOH LA LA fancy pants.
Monk's Blood poured a cloudy brown with a thick sudsy light brown head. It smelled mildly sweet and malty. It tasted very nice. Sweet vanilla, mild cinnamon spice, and the oak flavor stood out as the beer warmed. This is a nice, mellow, well-balanced ale. Very soft in body, but a sipper due to the noticeable alcohol. Also I did not pick up a lot of fig or dark fruit flavors, which is my preference. So yeah. I enjoyed the Monk's Blood a lot.

Back in Black IPA: B+
Monk's Blood: A-

Saturday, April 30, 2011

New Glarus Two Women: Our First Ever Joint Blog

Recognize these two? No, you say? Oh, that's just us, Sarah and Reem, out for some beers at the New Glarus Brewery on a beautiful, sunny day. If you've met us before, you probably know that we cause quite a scene wherever we go, and today was no different. In fact, we were such a hit today at the brewery that they created and named a beer after us! It's called, duh, Two Women. Two fine women, I might add!
We found ourselves in the Tasting Room of the New Glarus Brewery. As you can see, there were a lot of white people here.
Thanks for setting the stage, Reem. In the tasting room we each got a wrist band with 3 tickets attached, each for a "taste". Quite a deal - $3.50 for 3-3oz. glasses. And you get to keep the glass!
Our first sample was Cabin Fever, a honey Bock. It is brewed with Wisconsin barley along with European hops. I found it to be a light, crisp, pleasant lager. Reem noted, "The mouthfeel is nosy. I detect hints of honey and Bock."
Here we have Sarah looking adorable and knowledgeable, taking notes on the various beers we sampled.
And here's me, being a total jerk.
Like I said before, New Glarus Two Women. I imagine this is the moment at which the official brewers decided they needed to document this magnificent day by way of alcohol. Good choice, brewers!
Here we are 'sitting in our storm, drinking a toast to the slim chance of love's recovery'. Whoops, there may have been some Indigo Girls on at some point. Anyways, our next selection was Moon Man- a Pale Ale, and Fat Squirrel - a nut brown ale.
The Moon Man was delicious. New Glarus's description is funny - the "bold blend of five hops flirt obligingly with the smooth malty backside". But it's true!! Hey Sarah - THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!!!
I suppose I'm being pensive about this one. And enjoying its tasty citrus hops and well-balanced character.
There they are! Moon Man on the left, Fat Squirrel on the right.
Reem was not so much a fan of the Fat Squirrel. Me neither. Generally brown ales are a little boring to me. It had a strong caramel maltiness to it; and is described as having hazelnut notes.
But, as Reem wrote, "Sarah said all this stuff about hazelnuts and caramel. So I was expecting dessert. I was thusly surprised and disappointed to discover that it just tasted like beer."

Okay, so our last two were the Golden Ale: R & D Edition and the Wisconsin Belgian Red Cherry Ale. The Golden Ale was a limited edition, but you can get the cherry one anytime. Sarah wrote about the ale: "slightly strong, soap-y, spices." Well, at least I think she wrote that; her writing is atrocious! JK, guys. We're still BFF. Here's what I wrote: "It smells like one thing and tastes like a different thing. Also, I didn't think about soap until Sarah said 'soap,' so now all I can taste is soap. Thanks a lot, Sarah."
The cherry ale, on the other hand, was pretty delicious and completely non-soapy! Sarah's words: "Gorgeous. Red head. Cherries. Tart. Friendship." I couldn't agree more, Sarah! My words: "Now you're talkin'! Sarah is being a TOTAL nerd right now. Oh man."
After enjoying our samples we explored the brewery. They had bowls of hops and malts. One could smell and touch. Perhaps even taste, if one was to be that bold.
Reem smelling the nuggets of hop goodness.
The outside of the brewery is real pretty.
There was a beer store. We made some purchases.
There were also some funny signs up around the brewery. You know, about things like yeast. And there were some cute gentlemen working. We noticed that Sarah was really interested in the beers and I was really interested in the BOYS! Am I right, gals?!?!?!
Giant bottle cap! Wah Wah.
This is a true fact.
Overall, this was a fun visit to a fantastic Wisconsin brewery. And yes we scored the beers.

Sarah: Reem:
Cabin Fever: B Cabin Fever: Pass
Moon Man: A Moon Man: A+++
Fat Squirrel: B- Fat Squirrel: F-
Golden Ale: C Golden Ale: F-
WI Belgian Red: A+ WI Belgian Red: A++++