Monday, November 30, 2009

Tasting Notes: Mad Hatter India Pale Ale

Brewery: New Holland Brewing Company
Style: IPA
ABV: 5.8%
Date Poured: July 2009

This is one I picked up during a recent trip through North Carolina. I would imagine Georgia will start to see the beers from this Michigan brewery soon.

Pours an bright orangey-gold with a rocky ivory head leaving big chunky lace. Floral hops in the nose, underneath is a light, sweetish malt profile.

In the mouth, sweet malt with a strong herbal hop profile. Somewhat sticky in the finish with long herbal hops in the finish. The hops are a bit harsh and heavyhanded. It's not unbalanced per se but this beer is just trying to hit you over the head. Nothing wrong with that in itself but it's just not that tasty. It goes for bombastic instead of good flavor. Just doesn't work that well here.

New Holland Brewing Company

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Session #33: Framing Beer

This month's version of The Session is about "Framing Beer". I'm not sure what Andy had in mind exactly but my mind seized on this sentence:

I have not done much blind tasting, and I would be intrigued to hear about this ‘frameless’ evaluation of beer.

Well, I have never done any blind tasting and I have always wanted to do one. This installment of The Session gives me the perfect excuse.

Now, it wouldn't be a perfect blind tasting...I was having my wife pick out 4 12oz bottles out of my cellar. I am vaguely familiar with what is in my cellar so I imagine that this colors my "blindness" during the tasting but I have enough inventory that I can't keep it all straight. My wife grabbed the 4 bottles, poured me a sample of each and did not tell me what beers she had picked until after the entire tasting was complete. Here they are in chronological order.

Beer #1

Lots of dark fruit in the nose and a bit of alcohol. Taking a sip, big flavors from this one. Pronounced alcohol is evident first. Fruity, oaky...and roasty. The roastiness comes out more as it warms with lots of sweet dark fruit in the finish. Warming alcohol as it moves down the throat.

After sipping on this for a few minutes, I am pretty certain that this is am Imperial stout. It felt like a strong old ale at first but the dark roasted malt flavors gave it away. No idea what label the beer is but if you made me guess, I'd say a young version of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout.

The Beer Revealed: Duck Rabbit Imperial Stout

I had the style right and I was pretty happy about that. Again, the roasted malt and strength of the alcohol flavors gave it away.

Beer #2

Big caramel aromas in the nose...some faint herbal hops too. The flavor takes a 180 from the smell. The aroma was big and rich, the taste is difficult to detect. Perhaps this is because it follows the Imperial stout but I struggle to get anything from my first couple sips. The body is thin and light, the finish is fairly clean. An American wheat beer? A golden ale? That doesn't go with the smell though. No idea on this one...I'm stumped. If I had to guess, I'd say a strong Belgian pale ale.

The Beer Revealed: Anchor Christmas 2005

Amazing. Without being able to see the beer, I picked up none of the porter-like elements I usually detect in this beer. The age on the beer explains the thinnish feel of the body.

Beer #3

Big malty caramel in the nose. Alcohol too and some pronounced bitter hops. For lack of a better phrase, it smells like a barleywine. In the mouth, big fruity and caramel malt. And hops. Lots of hops followed by an alcohol bite. The hops bite too but you can detect some citrusy notes there too. Some dark fruit and warming alcohol.

It's assuredly a barleywine, almost surely American. If I had to guess, I'd say Rogue Old Crustacean.

The Beer Revealed: 2004 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine

I am surprised that a nearly 6-year-old sample still has that much hop flavor going on. Wow.

Beer #4

Bright fruity aromas, roasted malt and no hops to speak of. Roasty dark malt in the mouth and a lot of carbonation, more than you would expect from what is almost certainly a stout. It's creamy and certainly thinner in body than the Imperial stout I had earlier. There's a character that I can't put my finger on that leads me to believe that this is not an ordinary stout. It got something extra...maybe a milk or cream stout?

The Beer Revealed: New Holland The Poet Oatmeal Stout

I love oatmeal stouts but couldn't identify that oatmeal quality beyond "something else".


So what have I learned? I learned that, unsurprisingly, beers with big bold flavors are easier to identify than those with more muted and subtle ones. I was still pretty pleased that I was able to identify about 2.5 beer styles out of the 4 I sampled...I've seen blind tastings that go far worse. I am also curious what would happen if I sent my wife to the local Whole Foods with $10 and told her to bring back 4 random single bottles what this exercise would look like. Hmmmm........

For more entries for this month's installment of The Session, check out this post on I'll Have A Beer, this month's host.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Beer Hunting: Green's Discount Beverage in Atlanta

If you peruse this blog on a regular basis, you know that I cellar beer. Well, a second child and the economy in general has slowed down beer acquisitions for my cellar over the last couple years. But when my wife recently gave me some birthday money for beer, I knew there was only one place to take it...Green's.

Green's offers the delightful combination of the best selection and the best prices when it comes to beer in Atlanta. There are two locations but the Ponce location downtown is my store of choice. My goal was to get some new bottles for the cellar.

The only problem with Green's is that it's easy to get sidetracked. And that's what happened to me. Seemingly, for every beer that I got for the cellar (like 2007 N'Ice Chouffe) I found another that was for drinking now (like Sweetwater Wet Dream Ale). But really, it's a good problem to have.

It goes without saying that if you have to pick one place to buy beer in Atlanta, Green's is the runaway winner. Best selection, best prices and, at the Ponce location, a climate controlled beer cellar where much of the Belgian beer is housed.

The haul:

Moylan's Ryan Sullivan's Imperial Stout (2 bombers, 1 for the cellar)
Smuttynose Big Beer Series - Baltic Porter (1 bomber)
Sweetwater Dank Tank - Wet Dream Ale (1 bomber)
Smuttynose Big Beer Series - Imperial Sout (1 bomber for the cellar)
Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza (1 750ml bottle)
Unibroue Trois Pistoles (2 750ml bottles for the cellar)
Gueuze Girardin 1882 (1 375 ml bottle for the cellar)
Terrapin Side Project #8 - Pumpkinfest (1 bomber)
N'Ice Chouffe 2007 (1 750ml bottle for the cellar)
Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence (1 750ml bottle)
Houblon Chouffe (1 750ml bottle)
Stone Cali-Belgie IPA (1 bomber)
Heavy Seas The Great Pumpkin (1 bomber)
Stone Vertical Epic 09.09.09 (1 bomber)
Sierra Nevada Harvest Wet Hop Ale (1 24oz bottle)
Brew Dog Riptide Stout (1 bomber)
Samuel Adams Imperial Stout (4 12oz bottles, 3 for the cellar)
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale (4 12oz bottles)
Weyerbacher Old Heathen Imperial Stout (6 12oz bottles for the cellar)
Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale (6 12oz bottles)

Still, it was a nice addition of "new blood" for the cellar and I'll have to re-inventory the thing to reflect the additions as well as recent subtractions.