Sunday, February 12, 2012

Beer style of the week; The New England Beer All-Star Team

Week 52

It has been a lot of fun drinking and thinking about all the wonderful beers profiled in Beer style of the week for the past 51 Sundays. As a result of the column, many people have asked not only what my very favorite beer style is, but what my favorite beer is. The simplified answer to both questions has always been, depends. Depends on the weather, the season, the mood I’m in, the company I keep, the spontaneous urge to try something different, the meal or snack in front of me, or just what is being offered me at the moment.

Now if you were to hold a gun to my head and demand an answer, NOW! (not that I personally suggest this approach). I could begin prattling off all the styles and beers near and dear to me, along with providing minute detailed analysis, specific situational rational and cloudy recollections of my every thought about beer in general. You would turn the gun on yourself…

That said, there are some beers I come back to time after time. They are dependable beers. I look forward to their company. I miss them when they’re out of season. Some foods must be paired with certain beers. You salivate just thinking about that special occasion (must wipe the keyboard now).

Here they are…

Spring Time Beer

Maibock (Takes the sting out of a damp drizzly day)

Narragansett Bock – Narragansett Brewing – Providence, Rhode Island – 6.5% ABV

16 oz. can. No freshness date, except for some code stamped on the bottom.

Served in a tall Harpoon Nonic glass.

The color is brassy amber with a fast-fading white head. Thin wisps of webby lacing cling to the glass.

A grassy, wet hay smell dominates, followed by a light peaty malty aroma. A mild citrusy smell is followed by slightly boozy white rum fuminess.

The malt and hop flavors are fairly evenly matched. Bready dough, honey sweetness, metallic and citrusy hop bite and a separate and unmistakable rummy alcoholic punch all greet the buds in random order. A very faint taste of orange zest peeks in.

It's an unusual bock in that the flavor profiles remain distinct and apart, even as it warms.

This is definitely one of the better beer values ($6.50 a 16 oz.sixer, no less) in the New England area.

American Double (Pull on an old sweater, start up a low-burning beach fire, grab a hoppy/boozy brew…enjoy!)

Heady Topper – The Alchemist – Waterbury, Vermont – 8% ABV

Shared a 22oz bottle with a very generous friend.

Served in Delirium goblets.

Pours a hazy pale orange color with a fluffy, but fading white head. Lots of sticky and patchy lacing rims the glass.

A big whiff of pine and wild flowers blast out of the gate. A resinous hop aroma rises and pulls a dry malty smell, along with some perfumy citrus and a little mellow rum.

The tastes follow the aromas very closely. Very hoppy, yet held in check by a solid caramel malt with some honey sweetness.

So flavorful, yet so drinkable!

Summer Beer

Pilsner (Lawn-mowing or Goin’ Fishin’ Beer)

Samuel Adams Noble Pils – Boston Beer Company – Boston, Massachusetts – 4.9% ABV

On Tap. Pils Glass. Boston

It pours a shiny brassy golden color with a frothy snow-covered head. A good amount of sticky lacing trims the glass.

A very fragrant smell of flowery and citrus hops rises from the glass. A light aroma of fresh baked bread is in the background. A sweet malty smell lingers throughout.

Not as hoppy as I had prepared my taste-buds for, but plenty of hop tastes to ponder. There's citrusy and metallic, and floral and resinous. And a touch of leather and tobacco. My oh my, this is good!

A nice sweet, doughy malty backbone keeps the hoppiness in Czech.

It's difficult to have just one of these babies. Very well done!

Helles Lager (Refreshing after exercise, or day at the beach, or listening to the Red Sox on the radio on a hot summer’s night)

Thomas Hooker Munich Style Lager – Thomas Hooker Ales & Lagers – Bloomfield, CT – 4.6% ABV

Served in a standard pint glass.

Pours a pale yellow golden color with a solid snow-white head and some webby and trailing lacing throughout.

The aroma carries a mild noble hoppiness and a grainy bread smell upfront. A light whiff of wild flowers and herbs peeks through.

The flavors are very balanced. The lightly roasted malt has a touch of sweetness. The hops provide some metallic tang and a mild lime-like citrusy bitterness.

While the body is light in color, it has some depth. As the spritzy carbonation fades, a sweet and rounded caramel sweetness emerges providing a slick and refreshing, gulpable brew. Lots of flavors for a fairly small beer!

Saison (Late Summer – Cool Evenings)

Jack D’or – Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project – Westport, MA – 6.4% ABV

22oz brown bottle. Bottled on date on top label.

Served in a Piraat fluted goblet.

It pours a very deep and cloudy caramel/amber color with a thin beige head on top along with loads of lacing.

Nice citrusy and musty fruit smells rise at first pour. Sweet fruit and spicy smells linger. A light alcohol fuminess comes and goes.

The flavors represent the style very nicely, with the exception of the hop profile being the dominant taste, though it works extremely well for this particular farmhouse. Edgy citrus peel and resinous hoppy bitterness are tempered with a lightly sweet caramel malt. A faint metallic tang inches through in the background. Tastes of a crusty baguette come to mind.

It's a very well-made brew! Lots of creativity involved with this Saison Americain!

Fall Beer

Newport Storm Regenschauer Oktoberfest – Coastal Extreme Brewing – Newport, RI – 5.6% ABV

12oz brown bottle. No freshness date. Bottle code 0.223 (?) I felt compelled to include a representative from Rhode Island as it has been unrepresented in this Beer Style of the week series.

IMHO, this is one of Coastal's better offerings. It pours an Autumn-like honey/amber with orangey hues. The off-white head fades rather fast. A robust sweet malt aroma blends with a bit of hops and mild alcohol fuminess. The malty body is reminiscent of a Vienna/Oktoberfest blend - Velvety smooth, almost oily, and just a tad pasty. A mild citrus, ripe pear taste and light spiciness are in proper proportion to this malty brew. This will go well with Autumn Stew (Squash, apples, chicken stock, spices and a dash of maple syrup)

Pumpkin Ale

CBC Great Pumpkin – Cambridge Brewing Company – Cambridge, MA – 4.5% ABV

22 oz. brown bottle. Bottled on date and Batch # stamped.

Poured in a nonic tumbler.

It has a shiny, orange-hued copper color with a thin to medium-sized white head along with some lace dotting the glass.

It smells similar to a mild pale ale with caramel malt, dry grass, tea-like hops and whiffs of pumpkin and spice that linger in the background throughout.

The flavors are very balanced. You get the pleasure of seeking the tastes rather than them finding you. Mellow tastes of fresh doughy pumpkin bread, blend with mild tea and lemon with honey flavors. The spiciness is in check. A little peppery nutmeg, a dose of tart citrus, and then a clean finish.

Wonderful, wonderful creation here!

Imperial Pumpkin (while Reading ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ on a frosty, moon-lit night)

Smashed Pumpkin – Shipyard Brewing Co. – Portland, Maine – 9% ABV

22oz brown bottle. Served in a Chimay goblet.

It pours an oily, orange-hued amber color with a beige head along with some wisps of trailing lacing.

A strong and delightful whiff of rum-soaked pumpkin pie rises at first pour. I think I can actually smell the crust! The nutmeg spiciness is subdued, but thoughts of Thanksgiving dessert flood my senses. A solid malty smell mingles with some spicy and citrusy hops. Dark rum in the nose never fades.

The flavors are bold and upfront. Very little in the way of subtleties. Big spiced pumpkin taste, Big Doughy Maltiness, Big Ruminess, and not so big, yet noticeable hoppiness.

SO much better than Shipyard's other Pumpkin Ale, and not because it's much bigger. It's big but balanced and wonderfully rich and decadent.

Winter Beer

English Strong Ale/Warmer (Button up your overcoat)

Geary’s Hampshire Special – DL Geary’s Brewing – Portland, Maine – 7% ABV

This is a winter seasonal - Must Try! Deep golden bronze/amber with a tint of red. Very complex dry robust malt with a trace of sweetness. Powerfully hopped, then dry hopped for good measure. The maltiness rolls forward throughout the glass and begins to reveals a trace of berries and some smoothness. An unusual, but nice pine essence is long lasting. The alcohol is noticed, though not overly so. The creamy beige head lingers and nice lace is formed. As with all of D.L. Gearys brews, there sort of a raw wildness, like Maine itself. It’s easy to picture a Norman Rockwell Maine coast pub scene in winter where the cheerful patrons are toasting one another with a frosty mug of Hampshire Special. Now that really warms the heart! BTW Hampshire Special pairs really well with hearty stews. Try braising a roast with this ale in place of Burgundy wine.

Imperial Stout (Baby, it’s COLD outside!)

Smuttynose Imperial Stout – Smuttynose Brewing – Portsmouth, NH – 9.8% ABV

Reviewed in 2003

This "Big Beer Series" is proof that BA and like beer lover groups are making an impression upon brewers and they are responding by digging out the top ingredients and notching up their brewing techniques in order to appease our ever growing thirst for excellent beer. This mild Imperial Stout is pitch black in color with a thin brown fading head and lots of sticky, patchy lace. Bitter chocolate, sweet malt, hop and mild alcohol aroma. A thick and rich chocolaty malt is nearly perfectly matched with sharp citrus bitterness and lightly astringent and pine-like flavors and light alcohol lung-feel. The creamy, almost oily liquid is quite luscious and very drinkable, although the intensity fades towards the end of the glass.


Allagash FOUR – Allagash Brewing Co. – Portland, Maine – 10% ABV

Corked brown bomber. Man, was that thing under pressure! Poured into Piraat tulip-shaped glass.

It pours a deep amber and mahogany color with a firm beige head.

A big whiff of sweet malt rises up. The smell of a freshly opened tin of toffee comes to mind, as does the smell of Kahlua.

Abundantly malted with tastes of buttery caramel, fresh banana bread, and hint of maple.

The hops provide the citrusy flavors of sweet pink grapefruit and orange zest, along with a good blend of peppery spices. A faint taste of cloves and coriander sneak in as accompaniments, but just to add complexity not to showcase themselves.

Nice warming brew!

Everyday Beer

Sam Adams Boston Ale/Stock Ale – Boston Beer Company – Boston, MA – 5.4% ABV

Stock Ale is my favorite "everyday" ale. When researching and rating a vast array of ales and lagers, from delicate pilsners to over-whelming imperial stouts and barleywines, it's good to find an ale with which to refresh the palette or to simply enjoy without research in mind (yes, at times we need a break from the daily grind). This ale has a deep copper color with reddish hues, nice malty body and is amply hopped. The separation between the distinct malt and hops flavors, smooth out and become more balanced after a few gulps. The fresh finishing hop aroma lingers. There's a clean fruity finish and nice long lasting head. It goes very well with a wide variety of foods. Now I’ve gone and made myself thirsty for one!

Well, there you have it. 52 weeks have passed and yet there is something like 13,000 beers yet to discover. I hope you’ve enjoyed ‘Beer styles of week’ as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together.

Now back to work I go!

Cheers everyone!

Quote: “Beer, if drank with moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health." Thomas Jefferson

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