Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tasting Notes: 2008 Longshot Beers

Brewery: Boston Beer Company
Date Poured: March 2008

Some notes from last month on the Sam Adams 2009 Longshot beers. More on the Longshot homebrew contest can be found here.

(The Longshot box usually contains 2 bottles of each winning beer. However, one of the winners this year was a Double IPA and Boston Beer was unable to secure the hops during this year's shortage. So one of the winning beers was postponed and 3 bottles of each of the following beer was included.)

First up is a weizenbock brewed by Rodney Kibzey of Chicago.

It's a murky opaque mahogany with a dense and creamy brown head that leaves sheeting lace behind. Sweet strong aroma of ripe banana and cloves, rich maltiness and just a hint of lemon in the nose.

Tastes of rich malt, banana estery flavors, lemony and spicy, especially clove and pepper. Rounded body and not nearly as full and sticky as I expected. Fairly clean finish for a weizenbock but a light sticky malt finish and aftertaste lets you know the beer was there.

Really, really good beer. It's got to be right up there behind Aventinus as the second best weizenbock I've tasted and there's certainly no shame in finishing second to that beer.

The next beer is called a Grape Pale Ale by the winning brewer Lily Hess. As the name implies, it's a pale ale brewed with grapes.

Pours a pale orangey copper with a frothy ivory head. Smell is quite sweet and grapey with the faint aroma of pale malt.

I was expecting this ale to be sweet in my mouth but it's actually quite dry with just a touch of sweetness in the finish. It's crisp and light, subtle and bright.

I wasn't expecting much from the grape ale as I don't like fruit in my beer as a rule. However it was surprisingly tasty and refreshing. I won't put it on par with the excellent weizenbock but it was no slouch either.

Boston Beer Company

Friday, April 25, 2008

Out of the Cellar: Hooker Imperial Porter

Brewery: Thomas Hooker
Style: Imperial Porter
ABV: 7.8%
Cellared: February 2007
Poured: April 2008

Even though I didn't buy or cellar this bottle until 2007, there is a label pasted over the flip-top cap that says 2006. The beer is usually released in late Fall so I'm going to assume the beer is actually 18 months in the bottle.

It pours opaque brown with nary a head even with a healthy vigorous pour. It has legs like wine when you swirl the glass. A little bit of alcohol in the nose surrounded by dark ripe fruit.

I am bracing myself for a flat blast of alcohol but am relieved that a very mild carbonation can still be detected on the tongue. The dark fruity flavors dominate (ripe plum and black currant) the rich maltiness with hints of vanilla. There's a lightly smoky flavor in the finish and hints of alcohol but not of the strength I was expecting.

I have to wonder about the wisdom of aging beers in these flip-top containers. I have only tried it twice in recent memory; the first was a Sweetwater Festive Ale which I aged for two years and it was flat and infected, so bad I couldn't even blog about it. The second is this beer which, while not horrible, is pretty unappetizing to me. I don't mind diminished carbonation but this beer is not helped by it at all.

I'll not be aging these flip-top bottles again and I would recommend drinking this Imperial Porter sooner rather than later.

Thomas Hooker Brewery

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tasting Notes: Schafly Stout

Brewery: St. Louis Brewery
Style: Oatmeal Stout
ABV: 5.7%
Date Poured: October 2007

More old notes from beers I got from my summer trip through the Midwest.

Pours very dark brown with ruby highlights peeking through, thin but (persistent) khaki head. Sweet, grainy oaty smells, creamy nose.

Roasty grain in the mouth. Hint of alcohol. Astringent but in a good way and creamy. A lingering roastiness and bitterness in the finish and aftertaste.

You can't go wrong with a good oatmeal stout as far as I'm concerned and this one isn't bad at all.

St. Louis Brewery

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tasting Notes: Opening Day Edition - Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale

Brewery: Clipper City Brewery
Style: IPA
ABV: 7.25%

(Rained out last night, the Orioles play a double header this afternoon against the Texas Rangers. It would have been cool if this beer was a Double IPA but hey, what are you gonna do? This is the 9th inning of sort as this is the last installment of the series of beers from Clipper City from Baltimore.)

It pours a crystal clear copper. Vibrant color in the body with a thin ivory head. Lots of citrusy hops in the nose.

Taste is dominated by hops, herbal and citrusy. Strident bitterness, orange rind and grapefruit. There's a nice bready malt to support the hops. Lightly sticky, nary a hint of alcohol with lingering bitterness in the finish. It's very nice.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tasting Notes: Opening Day Edition - Clipper City Peg Leg Imperial Stout

Brewery: Clipper City Brewing
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 8.0%

(The Orioles continue their improbable run to open the season, now at 6-1 and still leading the AL East. Here's the third installment of this series from Baltimore's own Clipper City brewing.)

It pours deep black but you can pick up a hint of mahogany highlight every so often. In the nose, bitter hops, almost smell like noble hops...(Fuggles and Goldings actually, British style...) Some roasty aromas from the malt

First impressions are that it seems bit overcarbonated in the mouth. Very creamy and sweetish, almost like an imperial milk stout! Tasting lots of that herbal hop character in the flavor. Quite hoppy for an Imperial Stout. But it's yummy.

It's bottle conditioned so the last two bottles go into my cellar. Maybe I'll break one out when the O's reach the World Series in October. Nah, who am I kidding...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tasting Notes: Opening Day Edition - Clipper City Small Craft Warning

Brewery: Clipper City Brewery
Style: Imperial Pilsner
ABV: 7.25%

(Oriole update: The O's are 5-1, they sit atop the AL East and have a 4-0 lead over the Texas Rangers as I type. Sweet victories and sweet beer!)

Part two of a four part series dedicated to the beginning of the baseball season, my Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore's own Clipper City brewery. Next up to bat is Small Craft Warning, a beer I would call an Imperial Pilsner but they describe as an Uber Pils.

As you can see, it pours a luminous pale coppery gold with a billowy snow white head. It leaves big thick lacing down the sides of the pilsner glass. Nose is sweet pilsner malt and noble hops.

Lots of noble hops in the mouth. The website mentions amarillo but all I'm getting is the saaz and tettanger. Otherwise, the body is quite sweet and the mouthfeel is sticky but it's not cloying.

Another good one. More Clipper City to come tomorrow.

Let's go O's!

Clipper City Brewing

Monday, April 7, 2008

Tasting Notes: Opening Day Edition - Clipper City Winter Storm

Brewer: Clipper City Brewing
Style: Imperial ESB
ABV: 7.5%

I should have thought of this last week but I guess various other commitments would've made this impossible last week...

Seeing that the baseball season kicked off last week and that I am a die hard Baltimore Orioles fan (and that the O's started an impressive and unexpectedly great 4-1 this week) I thought I would highlight some beers straight out of Baltimore.

We are lucky enough here in Atlanta to be able to get Clipper City beers (straight out of Baltimore!), at least the Heavy Seas Series (a line of beers that could best be described as "extreme"). I picked up a 12-pack sampler and will be making my way through them in tribute to the upstart Orioles this week.

First up is Winter Storm, described as an Imperial ESB. It's still pretty rainy and cold down here in northeast Georgia so these beers are going to hit the spot.

Pours an orangey (black and orangey?) copper with a thin but persistent ivory head. Some light lacing.

Lots of big citrusy hops in the nose buoyed by bready malt aromas.

The first sips reveal big hops but this beer is not just a hops delivery vehicle. Although it does that quite well. It's strangely balanced with the sweet and considerable bready malt profile. Bitter herbal and citrusy hops dominate the finish and aftertaste. Their website says they use American and English hops and I believe it. Not sure I've ever tasted this combination of hops working in such balance before.

Hell of a good start! I'd never tried this one before but tomorrow I'll be revisiting an old friend...

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Session # 14: Beer People

This is a tough installment of The Session for me since I really don't know many people in the brewing industry personally and I didn't really have a "beer guru" who introduced me to the wonders of craft/artisanal beer. Also, I have covered some of this ground before during The Session (#5 - Atmosphere) as I consider people to be the ultimate atmosphere when it comes to drinking.

So in the absence of a true beer person, I'll rehash a bit about my "beer partner" in my explorations, my good friend Dave.

The world of beer began to open up a bit in college from the day we discovered we could get a beer called Genessee 12 Horse Ale for the same price they were selling Busch Lite and the ilk at our favorite music bar. 12 Horse was not a great beer by objective standards but it turned the light on for us. It was quite different from the American industrial lagers we knew as "beer". And it was actually tasty!

Once we were able to buy beer legitimately (after the age of 21, 1991/1992), it was Sam Adams Boston Lager that opened our eyes even further and we began to delve more deeply into the American microbreweries as well as downing pint after pint of Guinness on the weekends. (Now that I think about it, Dave introduced me to Guinness and, in turn, to all stouts)

From there I remember discovering great beers and Dave was always in the vicinity. There was the party in DC when we walked down to the corner market and discovered Old Rasputin. My girlfriend split to study in Europe and that evening was my first taste of La Fin Du Monde.

After that there was a split as far as our beer journey. I joined the Navy and had already began to turn to the malt side. Belgian ales and big malty German lagers began to be my beers of choice. From 1995-99 I was either overseas or in the beer desert of northern Florida. Good beer began to be synonymous with imports and the big malt flavors many of them imparted became my preference. Ports of call in Belgium, The Netherlands, Great Britain and a backpacking trip through Germany solidified this thinking.

Meanwhile, Dave remained in the Washington D.C. area during the boom (and bust) of the initial American craft beer movement. Dave was cutting his teeth on lots of American craft beers and the hops were prominent in these brews.

So when I got out of the Navy, our tastes were quite different. Dave was quite the hophead while my tastes craved the malt and yeasty esters. I considered the big IPA's overdone and heavy-handed. He considered many of the beers I championed quite boring.

I moved to Maine and he joined me a couple years later. At that point, he was able to show me the appeal of some of these hoppy beers (Tupper's Hop Pocket Ale, Troeg's Hopback Amber and finally Stone Ruination got me over the hump) while I was able to introduce the Belgian styles and the new-found microbreweries in Maine, which were, by and large, quite dedicated to making English style ales.

I've been gone from Maine for four years now but he still ships me the occasional package of Cadillac Mountain Stout and I send him Sweetwater IPA. Even from a distance the education continues.
So what's the moral to this story? I guess if you're not going to have mentor as you begin your journey into beer, at least get yourself a good foil and/or a good friend. You learn more that way.
More entries in this month's installment of The Session can be found over here at Stonch's Beer Blog.