Thursday, December 22, 2011

Where's the beef?!

Brewery: Bison Brewing
Location: Ukiah, CA
Name: Organic Gingerbread Ale
Type: Spiced Beer
ABV: 6.0%
Tis the season for all things gingerbread. Houses. Little men. Beer. Beer? Yes, beer. I've never had a gingerbread beer before. The label says its brewed with ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. I've had all of those things in beer before and I have to be honest, my least favorite on that list is ginger. I ran across a few ginger based beers and none of them sat well with me. But I do like ginger ale... Fascinating, no? No. The beer is about the same color as the bottle it came in, perhaps a shade darker. It actually looks like overcooked (burnt sounds so negative) gingerbread cookies. Not a bad thing at all. The notion of a big head is foreign to this brew. Nothing more than a quick appearance of a light tan head and then its foam around the top of the beer. The nose is very reminiscent of a lot of good pumpkin ales I have had in the past. There's a healthy amount of nutmeg and a healthy amount of spices, noticeably cinnamon (hooray for accuracy!). Ginger provides a quick bit of spice and heat to the bouquet. It also has notes of clove that can be picked up during deep sniffs. Somewhat of a medium body makes for a good mouthfeel. This beer looks like it should be a little more chewy and I feel like that impacts the flavors negatively. Mix that with a carbonation level equivalent to a standard soda and the flavors come out thin and a bit watered down tasting. I wish the aromas from the nose translated to a better tasting beer. There is a fair amount of roasted malt up front but very little of the nutmeg, cinnamon, and spice. Towards the back end you get a strong sensation of earth and herbs but, again, does more harm than good. There is a fairly noticeable bitter stinger that lingers for a moment. If this beer were fuller and perhaps more assertive with its flavor profile I could definitely see myself enjoying this beer much more. However, the deceptive nose paired with the weak mouthfeel and underwhelming flavor profile make this little more than a novelty. I wanted to really be blown away by Bison's Organic Gingerbread Ale but it ultimately left me wanting something a little more.

Fast as fast can be, you'll want to think twice about drinking me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Roll the footage!

Brewery: 21st Amendment Brewery
Location: Cold Springs, MN
Name: Allies Win The War!
Type:  Strong Ale
ABV: 8.5%
You have to read the name of this beer with that nasally radio announcer voice from the days of yore. "Our boys overseas sent the Jerries running!" Sidenote: I love art deco. In any case, I have had every 21st Amendment beer and was not going to pass this special edition up. I had heard nothing about this beer, saw it, and immediately grabbed it. I have had some good times and bad times with the gang at 21st (Monk's Blood is easily one of my all time favorite beers. Fireside Chat made me want to die). Allies pours more red than brown, I would put it on the darker side of amber mixed with ruby and completely translucent. A bubbly, off-white head answers its call of duty and fades back at a deft pace. The nose is sweet and full. This beer is brewed with dates so you get a not-so-bashful presence of sweet dates. The nice thing is that there is a healthy, but not pushy, amount of spices, citrus hops, and other dark fruits that jive well with the dates. Got to be honest. I was shocked with the mouthfeel. I expected something a little more viscous and full, especially with how sweet this smelled and its ABV, but instead got something crisp and effervescent. There is a nice splash of pine hops to lead the charge. Then sweet hops and dark fruits pull through. The finish is a little harsh and boozey. I coughed and I'm not sure if I can attribute that to the booze or the cold that I'm fighting. Draw from that what you will. Past the striking boozey taste the dates come through and tussle with the alcohol hints. There's also a little bit of earthy funk (in a good way) to this beer. I can't quite call this one. I like it but I don't love it. I don't know that I would fully recommend this beer to folks but it's not terrible. It is such a paradox! Better than Fireside Chat? Absolutely. I didn't pour this one out. As good as Monk's Blood? Not even close.

If the Allies lost this would taste like sauerkraut. Mmm...sauerkraut.

What was that thing the sea turtle said in Finding Nemo?

Brewery: Sixpoint Brewery
Location: Boogie Down Bronx, NY
Name: Righteous Ale
Type: Rye Ale
ABV: 6.3%
Cast your canned beer aspersions aside. I'm not even sure how the criticisms of canned beer ever arose. I mean, people drink Corona and that shit comes in a bottle so the argument is pretty moot. And I'd like to thank Mr. Joel Parker for getting Sixpoint beers into my hands. Righteous is pretty tubular. Super ruddy and chestnut in appearance, capped with a snow white head, my mouth immediately watered. Even after its slow dissipation, the head clung hard to the glass leaving a generous amount of lacing as I journeyed to the bottom of the glass. Big hops in the nose. Nice amount of pine and citrus. A healthy amount of rye bread and a little bit of pepper marry nicely to help raise the step-child like aroma of burnt caramel. Really nice mouthfeel on this one. It's super punchy with the piney hops right up front. Rye is not hidden, thankfully. It is always nice to have a flavor that isn't used very often. The tail of the taste is really intriguing. There's a very active flavor of grapefruit peel...kind of like a zest or the oil of the rind from a grapefruit. That citrus is then mixed up with that slight roasted caramel only for a second and then you get the full on citrus zest again. You do get some of those peppery notes familiar to rye bread in there as well, easily noticeable if you're looking for it. While not violent, the taste of Righteous is pretty aggressive. It is easily one of the most unique tasting beers I have ever had. You have a glorious amount of citrus hops that headbutt up against a flash of pine hops. You have a strong rye grain taste that mashes up with a mild sweetness. And it's all tied up with a crisp and clean mouthfeel. And yes, it comes from a can. In fact, I would say that coming from a can adds to the experience of this beer. Did I mention it's a 16oz can? Sold yet? Find this beer and enjoy this beer.
Do the can can can!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Alkaline Trio - Olde English 800

Not at all an official music video. But an official song. I've had OE800 before, I was young and stupid then. HOWEVER! If this song inspires you to make me review Olde English 800 then speak up. If I get enough people daring me to do so, I will. Begrudgingly. ENJOY!

Hickory, chicory, dock...

Brewery: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Location: Milton, DE
Name: Chicory Stout
Type: Sigh...I refuse to tell you.
ABV: 5.2%
Yep. Dogfish puts it out there for you. No fancy names. No clever anything. Just, "Hey you. This is a chicory stout. Wanna try it?" Wikipedia tells me that chicory is a woody, precocious (just kidding...perennial herbaceous plant) that is often used as a coffee substitute. Because if Starbucks has taught us anything, coffee is 'spensive. I can report, without question, this beer looks like coffee. As most stouts do. In fact, this stout smells like coffee. ORDER IN THE COURT! One more outburst related to a crazy statement and I will hold all of you in contempt. It also smells a bit like caramel that was cooked a little too long, but it mostly smells like cold Folgers. Pretty crisp mouthfeel. Light feeling, actually. It's not overly alcoholic so that must give it its waifish body. That was harsh. Listen, I'm not trying to be negative it just has a surprisingly light mouthfeel! Taste is pretty stout standard. I feel like if it were a little thicker the roasted coffee/malt flavor would be more pronounced but this tastes like an amped down, carbonated, iced coffee. Again, not a bad thing. To be fair there is a slight bitter dark chocolate presence as well as nice, smoky finish. No bandit, however. I'm not going to apologize for any pun. EVER. My pallet isn't educated enough to pick out the chicory in this stout...because I've never tasted it. Hey, this is a pretty good beer. I feel lucky when I pick up beers that I've heard about for a while and have always been interested in trying and they end up tasting good. Though I prefer my stouts to have a little more body than this, I endorse this beer. Shocker, I know. I like DFH because they make quality beers. Give this one a try before running headfirst into an Imperial stout.

I'd like stouts more if they were called "portlies."

Damn kids! Get off my lawn!

Brewery: Bell's Brewery, INC.
Location: Comstock, MI
Name: Kalamazoo Stout
Type: Stout...
ABV: 6.0%
First off, the guy on the label looks like he knows how to party. Or he's Clint Eastwood's racist towards Koreans old man character from that one movie where he played a racist towards Koreans old man. El Camino or something like that. Kalamazoo is in Michigan. Bell's is in Michigan. Pretty nifty coincidence. I've had this beer many a time at a local bar called Still, known more for their whiskey selection but still a great place to have an adult beverage or 5. But this isn't an advertisement for them. This is a review of a pretty stoutariffic beer. Ever seen liquid shadow wearing a crown of foamy peanut butter? You can. Easily. Buy one of these and pour. The head has legs, stands about an inch and a half tall and slowly recedes while maintaining a death grip on the glass. Just smelling this beer makes you feel like a bona-fide beer fanatic. Bitter roasted coffee-like malt, super big smoke scents, a bit of tobacco, and chocolate milk compete for your noses' attention in this fragrance free for all. The first drink is delightful. Wonderfully smooth mouthfeel but not chewy. Moderate effervescence, not at all detracting from the taste. Roasted roastyness and bitter coffee reigns supreme. Slight touch of licorice fortified by those smokey hints. The finish is incredibly smooth and cocoa-esque, not the harsh, bitter, black coffee taste you'd expect. Aptly named a stout. Quintessential and clean. Think Guinness is a big boy's (or girl's, or even boygirl's) stout? Break away from those preconceived notions and find a stout that gets its message across clearly. That message? "Drink the shit out of me."

Seriously. GET OFF MY LAWN!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Watch it, rudeboy! This is totally second-wave.

Brewery: Ska Brewing
Location: Durango, CO
Name: Modus Hoperandi
Type: IPA
ABV: 6.8%
Cue the t-bone. Checkered suspenders in place? Skinny ties? Watch the trumpets. PICKITUP PICKITUP! Packaging alone earns points. Kind of hard to tell but the dude in the middle is totally a skeleton. And this beer is totally an IPA. An unmistakable, remarkable, and apologetically hoppy IPA. MoHop (I'm calling it that, we're close like that) is a nice tarnished brass color... In fact I would say that it looks like a saxophone or trombone that has seen some time in an early 80s UK dance hall. The off-white head rises, sticks around a bit, and then clings to the side of the glass as if it was trying to break out of it. You like hops? You like a lot of hops? This beer is teeming with hops. All of the usual suspects are present; citrus, pine, and floral. If there were an ingredient list on the can I'm sure the first 5 things listed would be hops. I was super excited to get a nice dose of sweetness along side the hops. I couldn't wait. I had to drink this immediately. A lighter than expected body and a crisp mouthfeel deliver heaps of piney hops directly to the hop pleasure center of your brain. The citrus hops bounce soulfully into the mix without hesitation. The lightness of this beer caught me off guard, I feel like if it had a little more oomph to it then the high level of bitter flavoring from the hops would be better balanced. That being said, I like hops just fine! And not having enough body is minor in my book. MoHop is super bright and exhilarating to drink. I can't stress the fact that if you are not a hop head then you should maybe work your way up to this beer. It's not that this beer is strong in alcohol, it's strong in hops and the light mouthfeel might throw some people off. The special thing about this beer is that it isn't pretentious. If it is hops you seek then hops you will find in the green can of Modus Hoperandi.

No Doubt is not ska.

Some people say "horse."

Brewery: Great Divide Brewing Co.
Location: Denver, CO
Name: Hoss
Type: Rye Lager
ABV: 6.2%
The viscosity with which Hoss poured made me think that it was going to be in the double digit ABV range; I was shocked to see that it was not. However, my anticipation was not sullied. Hoss is a dusky tan-orange color (probably closer to the color of a penny) that has the thinnest of khaki colored heads. Visually there is little carbonation which isn't a terrible thing. The scent this beer gives off is quick to hit the nose. The presence of yeast is pretty difficult to hide. That mixes nicely with a grain smell...similar to that of rye bread. Not surprising at all, is it? The yeast also puts a sharp tang onto deep caramel notes as well. A seemingly complex bouquet but it isn't really too mind boggling. There's a taste of earth up front that fades as soon as you notice it. Right behind the earth is a dose of darker fruits though it isn't as pronounced as it would be in, say, a barleywine. The yeasty malt flavors continue through from the smell and stick around just long enough. Any longer and it might come off as a little too sweet for a rye lager. The hops, though faint, blend nicely with the yeast and bready malt. Towards the back end there is a slight hint of alcohol and an even slighter hint of metal. Hoss is pretty good, if you ask me. Even though the front of the label says "rye lager," the side of the label says "marzen." I'm more inclined to call it a marzen due in part to the justright amount of sweetness and the mouthfeel (rather light but substantial at the same time...paradoxical, I know). Great Divide delivers again!

I'd give it a 3.5 if I had half a mug left of it...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Which was the dog? Milo or Otis?

Brewery: Napa Smith Brewery
Location: Napa, CA
Name: Lost Dog
Type: Red Ale
ABV: 7.2%
A beer from wine country? The concept seemed solid enough. I'd never heard of this beer or brewery and to be honest...I can't remember where I purchased this. I have a stockpile of beers eagerly waiting to give their 12 ounce lives to a greater cause and this one was on the top. Regardless, what's it like? Lost Dog is a warm and hazy autumnal orange that teeters on the reddish side. The creme colored head foamed up nicely and quickly ended up as a white ring around the top of the beer. There's a slightly sweet but floral hop note mixed with a slight hint of malt backed up by the ever familiar fragrance of sticky alcohol. Imagine a mildly strong IPA that has a shot of malt running through it. The problem with only buying one beer at a time is that you never know that if it's supposed to taste how it's tasting or if you just managed to grab a bad beer. The carbonation hits and then fades quickly leaving a taste that is slightly modified from the bouquet. I didn't get a huge amount of hops but there's a nice dose of nuttiness and caramel in the middle. The aftertaste is pretty bitter and seems a little off. There's an earthiness to it that I can't quite tell if its intentional or not. I think "musky" would be an apt description, but not like the musk of your grandmother's cellar. I know what it is, there's a certain dry-ness this beer leaves you with. Wasn't exactly expecting it but the more I drank the easier it became to identify. There's alcohol in this beer that's only slightly masked but it's hardly abrasive. I don't have anything disparaging to say about Lost Dog. However, I don't have anything remarkable to report about Lost Dog. It's a middle of the road red ale that amps up the taste of the earth. I'd take this over Killian's any day of the week and twice on Sunday if I had to.

You can't teach a lost dog new tricks. But it will need a bath when it gets home.