Sunday, May 30, 2010

AleSmith Speedway Stout

Imperial Stout – San Diego, CA – 12% abv

25.9oz Dark green bottle. No freshness date.
Inky, oily black, with a smallish tan head on top, along with some sticky lacing.
Rich, potent aromas of coffee, bitter chocolate, dark malt and piney hops are released upon first pour. A whiff of dark rum lingers in the background throughout.
A strong earthy dark malty body lays a solid foundation for a variety of complex and distinct flavors. Espresso, dark chocolate, buttered biscuits, cherries, white grapefruit, spruce, burnt caramel, vanilla, cream, and rum all mingle quite separately, then, as it warms, blends into a wowingly balanced Imperial Stout extravaganza.
Almost anyone can make an extreme beer. Many brewers lose sight of the purpose of their extreme creations by concocting a sea of over-the-top flavors and aromas with no clear direction in mind. AleSmith Owner/Brewer, Peter Zien understands the complex art of brewing beers that are full flavored and highly drinkable while maintaining high-quality beer-related foundations. Simply put; He gets it! And when a brewer "Gets it" we all get it. Get it?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wolaver's India Pale Ale

Tonight we're eating organic chili. So the appropriate thing to do is to have an organic ale to wash it down. Later, I'm going out to hug a tree.

Wolaver’s India Pale Ale - Organic - Middlebury, VT 6.5% abv
Brown bottle. No freshness date.
It pours a deep shiny golden coppery color with a firm white head on top along with lots a sticky, trailing lacing.
A hoppy citrus aroma is upfront but fades rather quickly. A light smell of cut oak and fresh cut hay lasts throughout.
Nice citrusy bitter hop tastes mingle with a hint of pine and copper. A slightly sweet malt flavor inches forward as the ales warms. The hop to malt taste balances very well at about the halfway point. A mild pepper spiciness and slight alcoholic taste are noticed with little effort.
I’m glad to see more organic beer choices popping up. The more the merrier!

Friday, May 21, 2010

St. Bernardus Abt 12 60th Anniversary Special Edition

Belgian Quadrupel - 11% abv
Watou, Belgium

25.4oz dark brown bottle. Best before 03/05/11.

Pours a lovely ruby-hued mahogany with a big fluffy, slow-fading beige head and lots of sticky and patchy lacing.

The first smell out of the gate is cow barn-like (not in a bad way) with a nice dark rum background. Smells of hay, cloves, pepper, orange zest and hops all vie for attention.

The deep malt body is home to a wide range of tastes. Sweet caramel, rye toast, honey and brown bread are upfront.

The big maltiness is balanced nicely with a tart lemon zest bitterness and a faint metallic tang. Tastes of bitter oranges, spicy cloves, rum-soaked raisins and candi sugars are all quite active. A dose of white rum provides some alcohol kick and fuminess.

This is a well-made brew. I look forward to reviewing it in a year.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Harpoon Leviathan Series – Imperial Red Ale

Boston, MA - 9.2% abv - Bottled by date 02/12/10

Pours a ruby-hued amber color with a firm rocky beige head, with some patchy lacing.
Smells of pink grapefruit, cut wet hay, lemon zest and white rum vie for attention. The aroma fades rather fast and blends into a malt-based mealy smell with traces of rum lingering.
Bold tastes of grapefruit bang the palette from the start. Sweet lemons with a slight metallic tang follow. Malty caramel and doughy bread flavors gain some ground, as does the warming alcohol fuminess. A pleasant taste of orange Lifesavers comes to mind.
The mouthfeel is well-rounded and slightly slick. The flavors are all large with very few subtleties to consider.

Sinebrychoff - Baltic Porter Finland – 7.2% abv

A nice winter beer (or any other season). Dark Rich Coffee flavors. Full Bodied. Very Hoppy

Flavored. Hint of Sweetness. Rich, yet Drinkable. Bit of an Alcohol Kick!

Sinebrychoff, or Koff as it is called in Finland makes a variety of beer styles, but in this researchers opinion, only their Porter really stands out as a "craft" brew (this brew becomes a "Vintage" or aged style Porter in time). In the past, silly governing bodies of the state regulated the brewing industry and generally frowned upon interesting or varietal styles. Fortunately, brewers and beer lovers across the country have developed awareness and lobbying groups to help promote a wide variety of Finnish brews. This Baltic style Porter, although it had long ago passed muster with state regulators, is a prime example of a beer crafted with care, attention to detail and love. The color is like strong, dark coffee. The full and rich body envelopes an abundance of sharp-edged fresh hops. This powerfully flavored brew contains an alcohol kick, yet it remains very drinkable. It ages very well. Pair with wild game. Goes very well with creamy desserts and rich chocolate.
Kiipis! (Cheers)

Great Divide Denver Pale Ale - 5.6%

12oz brown bottle. Freshness date etched on label.
It pours a dark coppery amber color w/ a smallish beige head along w/ some patchy and trailing lace.
It has a dry hoppy aroma with a solid malty grain background.
A sweet caramel malty taste gives way to a potent hop concoction. Grapefruit, citrus zest, metallic and floral hop bitterness prevail.
A mild sugary taste vies for attention, throughout. Like a kid sister; she's cute but doesn't belong with the big guys.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eisenbahn Organic Pilsner – Brazil 4.8%abv

11.2oz light brown bottle. Freshness date stamped on bottle.

It pours a shiny golden yellow with a firm snow-white head on top with lots of sticky and trailing lacing.

It smells mostly of fresh cut dry hay with a nice whiff of sweet malt. A mild lemony citrus aroma comes and goes, forcing me to continue sniffing at the glass.

The malt has a light caramel sweetness and a little nutty taste, which lays a balanced platform for the edgy citrus and mildly metallic hop bite. A taste of sweet limes is noticed in the finish. Mild balancing herbal notes are just the right touch.

This is a world-class Pils. I’ve heard it has entered the US market but have yet to actually see it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lammsbrau Organic Pilsner

Neumarkter Brewery, Bavaria Germany
Certified Organic Hops (Nobels) and Barley, Deep well Mineral Water 4.8%abv

Pours a hazy gold color with a medium-sized snow white head along with loads of sticky, clinging lacing.
The aroma has that typical Nobels hops, light citric, cut hay, herbal nose to it. Whiffs of basil and parsley come to mind.
The malt body has a very clean and well-rounded mouth-feel. A light malty sweetness balances nicely with the subdued metallic and lightly citrusy hop bite. There’s just a hint of a ginny alcohol fuminess.
This is a very important brew not only because it’s organic, but because it rivals the very best of the style while maintaining its purity. Nice Brew! Bummer it comes in a green bottle. Who doesn't know green bottles are inferior to brown bottles in filtering out harmful sunlight and florescent lighting?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ayinger Jahrhundert Bier (Helles Lager) Aying, Germany 5.5%abv

The straw/pale golden body with a big pure white foamy head is a one-of-a-kind, in a league of its own. I drank the first one too fast to notice the lace, so I popped open another and noticed some sticky lace. The floral hop and lightly roasted malt lasts a good long time. The lightly roasted malt is heavier than it appears and possesses a pleasing sweetness. A bountiful sharp-edged bitterness is lightly tempered with caramel notes. A faint note of vanilla is detected. Balances slightly, although the hoppiness remains dominant. Hmmm, grilled bratwurst would hit the spot right about now!
Food: German, Fish, Shellfish, Pork.

Pilsner Urquell Plzen, Czech Republic 4.4%abv

Bright, shiny gold color with a snow-white head. A nice light malty smoothness and almost oily roundness makes this Czech Pils very gulpable. The abundant Saaz hops and the crisp sharp bitterness (and aroma) is unmistakable and proper for the style. A mild herbal taste in the background keeps the metallic hop bite in Czech. Low alcohol content.
Foods: Pan Asian, Curried Dishes, Poultry in light creamy sauces, Pork, sharp cheeses.

Czechvar Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic 5.0%abv

Serious Lager. A true representation of the Pils/Lager style. A must try!
This Pils/Lager from Ceske Budejovice (Budweis), Czech Republic has been embroiled in a one hundred plus year legal battle over the name “Budweiser”. Pours a dull Blonde/Gold color with a nice frothy white head and plenty of sticky lace. The distinctive Euro-hop aroma awakens the senses upon pouring. The Light/Medium sweet malt compliments the crisp spicy and somewhat metallic hop bitterness. Clean and dry with a nice mellow herbal quality. No beech wood? - That’s a plus! Sold as “Czechvar” Beer in the US and some scattered countries giving in to corporate pressure, and Budvar elsewhere. You have to try it! least to help defray legal expenses.
Foods: Indian, Thai, Chinese, spicy, mild or sharp cheeses, chicken

Radeberger Saxony, Germany 4.8%abv

This crisp Pilsner is shiny straw in color. Though light in malt body, it maintains a refreshing herbal malt flavor. The aroma is lightly malty sweet with hops being the dominant smell. The sharp metallic and citrus hops blend in nicely with the malt, which reveals itself further throughout the glass. A hint of herbs and lemon can be detected. Nice white head lasts awhile and leaves behind a nice lace. Bright and clean finish.
Foods: Mild Cheeses, Fish, Shellfish, Poultry.

Rating Beer “In The Moment”- It’s Really All About the Beer!

Have you ever considered the circumstances you find yourself in while you’re rating beer and how it may affect your ability to remain objective? Rating beer, or in my case, "researching" beer is an additional activity attached to the actual act of examining and consuming the product. It should be an enjoyable part of the beer-drinking process, but it should be taken seriously as well. There are many different reasons to rate beer. Some, like me for instance, like to keep track of all the different beers we have sampled. After over twenty-five-hundred beers, (not all at one sitting) it’s not always easy to recollect with any degree of accuracy exactly how each beer looked, smelled, and tasted. Another good reason to rate is to track year-to-year quality consistencies of breweries. Certain beers are well suited for cellaring. As these vintage-type beers age, they evolve in flavor, aroma, and appearance. So rating beers of this nature can get very interesting. Of course it’s of vital importance to maintain these vintage brews in a light and temperature-controlled (around 55°F) environment. But I digress. Vintage and cellaring is a topic worthy of a separate article.

Anyone who takes rating beer seriously understands that ratings can be somewhat subjective, with personal preferences coming into play. Raters who prefer rich stouts and porters may, for instance, need to raise their objectivity level to fully appreciate and describe a delicate pilsner or crisp clean lager. The flavors and aromas of the lighter beers are naturally subtler and require an increased amount of concentration to identify specific brew characteristics.

Which brings me to the point. As we rate beers we have a responsibility to the reader to remain objective in spite of personal preferences. A less obvious factor that may create bias in our writings- is what Co-founder, Todd Alström refers to as, "The Moment", or the current circumstances we find ourselves in while we are rating.

For instance, I was laboring with heavy video gear in the sweltering 105° F humid heat of smoggy Bangkok, Thailand. I had no idea my hotel could be so well hidden and frustratingly distant. As I was about to ask for directions ... again, or worse, hail a tuk-tuk (little rear-seated, open-air, death-trap scooters with awnings), I spotted my hotel.

Dripping with sweat, I entered the lobby. The staff, astutely sensing my extreme discomfort, relieved me of my gear and provided me a hot, scented washcloth. The inviting teak and mahogany bar's A-C was blowing Arctic quality air. Freshly chilled prawns with a spicy dipping sauce and jumbo salted peanuts were promptly delivered to me at the bar. "Welcome back mistah Don", chirped the cute barmaid in the tight silk dress, as she handed me an ice-cold Singha Beer in a frosted mug. "Ahhh"!

Now fellow beer raters, I pose to you the following question; given my extreme change in fortune and most excellent surroundings, should I be allowed to bestow the non-existent “10” overall rating on Singha? The answer, of course, is no. Let’s face it; embalming fluid (if it was cold and had a head) would be tempting in the aforementioned circumstances. By the way, Singha is a pretty good beer and it needn't be served tongue- numbingly cold to enjoy. No beer deserves near freezing conditions.

Remember, though, objectivity is key. Although that beer you're about to consume with your favorite special pizza may seem to taste better, don't be fooled. Beer can improve a dinner, but the dinner cannot improve the beer. Conversely, a bad meal should not reflect poorly on the beer. That promotion at work will not make your beer taste better. You will, naturally, enjoy it way more. That tasty ale you just enjoyed will not make your mate more attractive ... it may, however, seem that way. Beer IS magic like that! And the magic of beer can be tricky!

So, please, for the sake of our readers, and for our own benefit, let’s try to remain focused on the beer. We are, after all rating the beer, not the “moment”.

Happy Rating!


Jever Northern Germany 4.9%abv

Light gold in color with a snow-white, fairly long lasting head and some sticky lace. The aroma of fresh cut hay with herb garden smells. Fresh hop, a faint sulfuric smell and a faint maltiness. The malt body is somewhat light and has a clean herbal and slightly grainy character. The abundantly applied Hallertau hops are spicy, lightly citrusy and a bit metallic, creating a bit of a back of the throat edginess and bite. The taste of hard water adds to the intense bitterness. Fairly long shelf life due to high hops.
Foods: Seafood, poultry, German sausages, mildly spicy dishes.