Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Batton down the hatches, matey!

Brewery: Mission Brewery
Location: San Diego, CA
Name: Dark Seas
Type: Russian imperial stout
ABV: 9.8%
Purchased from: Whole Foods, Richmond, VA
Price: $7 or $8, can't recall.

There are dark beers. And then there are dark beers. This was my first encounter with Dark Seas and Mission Brewery for that matter. I couldn't pass it up as it had 5 of my most favoritest things on the label: Skull, lightning, awesome old ship, the word "imperial," and 9+% ABV. Like a moth to a flame, my hand was wrapping around this beast before I knew what was going on. I knew that once I popped the cap off of this beer I should be in for a hell of a time. As dark as the seas it boasts, Dark Seas storms and swells angrily which produces a MASSIVE milk chocolate colored head. I mean, the head was a good 2 fingers thick! Could it be attributed my an aggressive pour? Maybe...maybe not. As the foamy head de-foamed it graciously gave up the bouquet it was so staunchly protecting. Let us talk a bit about scent striation. The odoriferous strata Dark Seas provides you is a roller coaster of ballsy beer aromas. Bittersweet dark chocolate and toasted malt take the quick lead. Behind them is something that smells like the ghost of vanilla extract and a woodsy forest. A slight hint of licorice and booze bring up the rear. As I brought my glass to my lips and prepared to drink I braced myself for impact as I expected a thick bodied beer. Dark Seas did not disappoint in that regard. Thick, borderline syrupy, sumptuously velvety, and definitely chewy this RIS takes no prisoners and presumes you're wearing a life preserver. I couldn't help but to imagine the beer as being a miniature ghastly pirate swinging on a rope, a blade clenched in his teeth, ready to plunder my flavor receptors. Bold malt is the name of the game. Said malt props a woody and chocolate flavored miasma (and I mean miasma is the foreboding dread sense). Through lips laced with sticky malt and a healthy amount of alcohol, vanilla makes its way to the dance floor. The aftertaste is almost too sweet but is cut precisely with an unapologetic smokiness. And my breath smells like I just had a chocolate coffee. But it's not gross and bitter like if I had just consumed chocolate coffee. Nay. This is like the best parts of a chocolate coffee aftertaste...with booze added! Some might say this is a touch too sweet or the malt is too toasty and less roasty. To them I say, you've got your opinion and I respectfully ignore it. Pace yourself with Dark Seas. Do not dive blindly here and do utilize the buddy system if you have to. But savor this. Let it storm across your palate wreaking flavor havoc.

In Soviet Russia, imperial's stout you.

Have ye any wool?

Brewery: Uinta Brewing Co.
Location: SLC, UT
Name: Baba
Type: Black Lager
ABV: 4.0%
Purchased from: Grape & Gourmet, Va Beach
Price: $1.69

I've had a few Uinta beers in the past, but only a few. At least I think that's the case. I can't actually recall but I'm fairly certain I've had at least one prior to Baba. In any case, I grabbed this beer because of its name and it's label. There was something homespun about it. No flashy colors or slick paper. Just to the point as if to say "Take it or leave it, this is what I am." So I took it. And then I consumed it. Baba lives up to its nomenclature by being as dark brown something can be before it could be classified as black. There's also a slight crimson accent to it when you hold it up to the light. The head was pretty tight and tan colored which made the lacing look pretty along the sides of my glass. The nose is a mixture of bitter roasted coffee, prune, and a smoky kind of sweetness. Not at all surprising but still very fragrant and it did a pretty good job making my mouth water. The body is unquestionably light and ripe with carbonation. With a minuscule amount of alcohol I didn't expect anything heavy; so far, expectations have been met. To me this is coming off as a bit of a "one note" beer. The roasted malts are doing really well to give that great taste of bitter coffee but I'm struggling to pick up much after that. Sure there's a bit of bread present and a shy amount of dark caramel sweetness towards the middle...but that's about it. I felt like there was a bit of a watered down nature to this beer that swelled up towards the end of the flavor profile. The aftertaste was delightfully smokey and thick with roasted bitterness. There is a nice amount of flavor to this beer but I was left wanting a little more complexity to it. Maybe a heavier hand with the sweetness of the malt or a splash of chocolatey goodness would have been nice. I don't think that I'm being overly critical...I'm just feeling a little let down. Black lagers and black IPAs are hit or miss with me. Baba is a wonderful alternative to any other "light" beer you will come across. More flavorful than the platinums, selects, 55s, and ultras will ever hope to be. While bold in it's roasted bitterness, Baba bleats borderline boring.

Hard not to feel sheepish here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's the blue eyes you have to watch out for.

Brewery: Avery Brewing Co.
Location: Boulder, CO
Name: White Rascal
Type: Belgian-Style White Ale
ABV: 5.6%
Purchased from: Total Wine & More, Va Beach, VA
Price: $1.99

It doesn't really have blue eyes. But it is a ginger so infer from that what you will. Aptly named, White Rascal is a through and through white ale of the unfiltered variety. This is my first time having this beer. As I've said in the past, I kind of got off white/wheat ales. And by "got off" I mean I never really got into them. I was always looking for something a little less acidic, a little more assertive. Well, turns out that white ales may not be an every day drinker for me, they are nice to experience every once in a while. Hazy like a foggy east coast morning, in a way that emulates the sun trying its damnedest to break through the fog, cloudy yellow straw. The head is a stark white pillowy cloud of foam. The bouquet puts it's spiciest foot (scent?) forward by putting off strong notes of coriander, clove, and black pepper. A nice layer of orange peel hides just underneath the strong spices. Lastly, the tang and tart twins toss their two cents into the nose giving the yeast a strong representation. White Rascal has a fairly zippy mouthfeel. The carbonation is prominent at the beginning but takes a right turns and melts into a smooth and creamy finish. Like the nose, this beer is spicy. The coriander used to brew this ale is showcased throughout, never really dying in flavor until the very end of your drink. Not at all lemony and only mildly orangey, I had braced for an acidic nightmare that would likely induce heartburn. Other flavors like wheat It seems my recollection of white ales has been woefully tarnished by some unknown source.

I'm not going to claim to be an expert on this style of beer. Hell, I'm not going to be an expert on any style of beer...Though I do have a slight understanding of what kind of beer goes into which type of glass. In any case, while I'm not an expert, I rather enjoyed this gingery devil. The creamy body and vivid, yet not at all acidic flavor profile was appealing to my malt-biased pallet. I don't see myself reaching for one of these over a massive double IPA or a chewy imperial stout, but I could definitely see myself enjoying a handful of these (I guess a handful is technically one) on a warm spring day or just whenever I feel like having a flavorful beer experience.

I really should add a "half mug" to help in instances like this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's election season again?

Brewery: 21st Amendment Brewery
Location: The can says Cold Springs, MN. But they're based in San Francisco, CA. Brain = hurt.
Name: Bitter American
Type: American pale ale
ABV: 4.4%
Purchased from: Wine Warehouse, Charlottesville, VA
Price: $2.50

I suppose the name of this pretty much sums up how I feel about the current (past, possibly future state) of the American political scene. It's just a circus. But I'm no political pundit. I'm here to talk about beer. More specifically, this beer. The one with the space monkey on the can. Physically on the can, not like the space monkey is on the can as a euphemism for going to the rest room. Bitter American is pleasing to the eye. A golden hued amber that I think moves closer to copper. The head is rich and off white, a lightly toasted almond color. So far, Bitter American has a lot going for it. Space monkey on the can (but not using the bathroom), visually appealing, and sitting right in front of me needing to be consumed. Before I obliged to its destructive wishes, I stuck my nose in the glass and took a deep draw. Happy citrus hops welcome you to Bitter American. There is a distinctive orange, perhaps tangerine, quality to the beginning of the bouquet. Towards the middle the hops get a little more bitter and grapefruit aromas arise. Past the bountiful hops is the delicately balanced sweetness of malt. Not overpowering or seemingly too sugary. Folks, this is a session beer. The prickly sensation the carbonation provides is nice. It's not going to blow the top of your dome off with aggressive hop characteristics. In fact, the hops mellow out quite nicely in the transition from smell to taste. Sure you get the nice blast of citrus zest straight away, but it doesn't make your face go puckered. The malt keep this beer close to the space monkey station. A slightly hint of nuttiness accompanied by a bread flavor set your taste buds up for one last go at the hops. The finish is crisp, dry, and decidedly bitter but in the good way. For the record, I burped and it was piney. SCIENCE! Shockingly this beer has a good amount of body to it. More so than the Evil 8 (a dubbel) I drank earlier and that had almost double the alcohol content. This is a quality American IPA.

Space monkey, that funky monkey.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Like the fru-eets of the Devil!

Brewery: Blue Mountain Brewery
Location: Afton, VA
Name: Evil 8 (there's also a degree symbol up there)
Type: Dubbel Ale
ABV: 7.7%
Purchased from: Wine Warehouse, Charlottesville, VA
Price: $2.20

Even in mid-March my air conditioner is on. Even as the temperature will reach 75 degrees several times this week. Drinking a good dubbel slakes all types of thirst. "Proudly brewed and bottled in the heart of Virginia," Evil 8 casts a menacing shadow once freed from its brown glass prison. Rich mahogany brownness that looks like it hung out with a ruby colored crayon produces a frothy, dirty white head that swells to about a finger and a half, watching it deflate was almost upsetting. The bouquet is a shade shy of really complex. There is a fair amount of spiciness to the nose that pairs well with the caramel and plum and fig aromas this beer carries. The sharp tang of yeast is easily noticeable and an earnest bread quality is present. I expected a little more of an alcohol quality to the bouquet but it's well hidden. This has to be one of the lightest medium bodied beers I've had. Yeah, that didn't really make sense to me either. I had hoped for something with a little more chew to it. There's a considerable amount of carbonation that lifts the body and thins it out some. The sharp tang of yeast is front and center. It's also a bit towards the middle. The plum and fig from the nose is lost in a wash of light brown sugar and crisp biscuit. There is a little bit of the spice that you got in the nose but it's not as impressive as it should be. The aftertaste is a touch too sour and it just kind of lingers in the back of the throat. I wanted Evil 8 to be better than it is. It had to be a little fuller in the body, a little more potent, and a little more...well, dubbel. I've said something like this several times before but this would be a nice way to get someone introduced to "Belgian" beers. And I use "Belgian" loosely because they are far better dubbels to offer (Ommegang and Chimay Red spring to mind). Again, not terribly but I don't see myself going out of the way to get my hands on another one of these if other options are available.

Rounding first and slides into second beating the tag. Barely a double.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Communicating with my kinsmen.

Brewery: Diamond Knot Brewing Co.
Location: Mukilteo, WA
Name: Slane's Ale
Type: Irish Red Ale
ABV: 6.6%
Purchased from: Total Wine & More, Va Beach
Price: $3.99

Break the mold. While Guinness will be the most consumed beer today (and that's a perfectly fine thing), I wasn't in the mood for a light beer. Zing! I kid, I like Guinness just fine. But I wanted something a little different. This is my second foray into Diamond Knot's catalog and I'm pretty excited about it. Slane's is delightful shade of a ruddy ruby red that is graced with a nice and foamy light tan head. The nose is sweet and tart. But not like a sweet tart because beer shouldn't smell like that. For any reason. Unless it's Sparks in which case it's not beer. It's malt liquor and you've lost all hope. There's a delightful bit of earth to the bouquet and the faintest amount of peaty funk. Biscuits and malt dance into the finish of hops bitterness. Pour me a proper pint. This is honest ale. The flavor profile starts with a sharp blast of sour fruit tart and then immediately finds balance of caramel and a slight flavor of rye bread. The hops appear towards the back half of the flavor strata by way of bitter flora. The last bit of taste you get is that slightly smoked peat earthiness that I just can not get enough of. There are certain tastes that will bend someone one way or the other and often I find folks can't really get behind the flavor of "earth." I often here it described as dirt, which while not inaccurate, adds a "this hasn't been messed with" dimension to the flavor profile. The incredibly light body beckons you to drink some more and the pleasing amount of carbonation woos you into a safe place, assuring you everything is going to be OK. Having a reasonable ABV makes this ale enjoyable in ounces in mass and en masse. In my barely informed and deeply humble opinion, an Irish red ale is a suitable alternative to the "gateway stout" on St. Patrick's Day. Just say no to green beer today with a red. Slainte, I say to you all for being Irish for a day as I stroke my gingery beard.

I ate a proper Irish banger tonight.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Because "single platinum" just isn't platinum enough.

Brewery: Starr Hill Brewery
Location: Crozet, VA
Name: Double Platinum
Type: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.6%
Purchased from: Total Wine & More, VA Beach
Price: $1.99

Well before that other "brewery" put out their version of a platinum "beer," the folks from Starr Hill in Crozet released this unto Virginia and some surrounding states. This doesn't come in a blue bottle. Nor does it need millions of dollars in advertising to make it feel relevant or to try to convince anyone that it tastes like something worthwhile. This is beer that makes that other platinum beer look like...well...water. Double Platinum is a super hazy orange color, kind of like if George Hamilton emitted a fog. The orangey nature of the beer is emulated in an almond colored head that laces nicely. You don't have to get too close to this beer to realize it's an imperial IPA. Hops are heavy handed, proclaiming their dominance of the bouquet with notes bitter pine and orange-peel. There is barely a trace of malt in the nose, super faint and very easy to miss if you aren't smelling for it. I luckily stumbled upon it. I can tell (well, hope rather) Double Platinum will not let me down supplying that much needed fix for my recent hops addiction. The first thing you'll notice about this beer is it's temperature and how wet it is. I can't tell you how long I've been wanting to write that. Sorry, Starr Hill, you caught the bullet. But seriously, the bitter hops takes its scent and turns it into a taste with reckless abandon. Past the pine is a nice rush of grapefruit and citrus peel, which adds another dimension to the bitterness. I'm not saying this is a bitter beer, it's just that the hops does a great job supplying resiny bitterness in an even handed manner. There is a slightly sweetened bready malt towards the end of the taste and some more (and delicious) hops bitterness that sort of lingers on the back part of your tongue. The alcohol is well hidden in this beer. At no point did I feel like I was drinking a beer with a moderately high alcohol content. While sometimes that burn is welcomed, it would feel out of place with this beer. It's an incredibly balanced beer that does a good job in bridging the gaps between East Coast and West Coast IPAs. While hoppy enough that hop heads will enjoy it, it is also an easy to drink beer that may help persuade people to join us on the hop side.

If your "platinum" beer comes in a blue bottle, punch yourself in the face.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I wish all waterfalls lead to hops.

Brewery: Victory Brewing Co.
Location: Downingtown, PA
Name: Headwaters
Type: Pale Ale
ABV: 5.10%
Purchased from: Wine Warehouse, Charlottesville, VA
Price: $1.70

I'm on a bit of a pale ale/ipa kick these days. Maybe it's because the weather is unseasonably warm and I am terribly worried that I might have missed the window on some of the super stouts I have in my fridge... Hahah, there's no window on super stouts! That's neither here nor there, this is Headwaters Pale Ale from Victory! Victory ranks up there when you talk about breweries that consistently put out great beers. This golden offering is no exception. The color is a nice shade of orange and honey that almost looks like it should be contained in one of those bear bottles with the squirt-top hat. There is slightly off white head that melted away quickly and immediately gave up the bouquet. There is a healthy amount of grapefruit-esque citrus hops that barrels towards your nose and brings along a fresh, grassy note with it. A deeper pull will yield a healthy caramel malt note. This is a pale ale, through and through. As the Headwaters rushes into your maw you will immediately notice a super light body with a respectable amount of carbonation. Spicy hop flavors and earthy grass are the stars here. The sweetness of the malt plays nicely, if somewhat sedated, with the excellent hop profile. The light body does allow this beer to have a little play. You'll notice the grassiness a little better and the faint malt doesn't distract the way it might in a higher ABV beer. The other upside to the low ABV and light body is the fact that you can session this beer and not get blotto too quickly. Also, this beer would go FANTASTIC with a rich, spicy meal or for cooling down on a warm summer day. So load up on Buffalo wings or a spicy curry and catch a ride on Victory's Headwaters to a satisfying meal.

I doubt this beer would be as good if it were named "Headcheeses."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Moby Dreck? Harsh!

Brewery: Cisco Brewers
Location: Nantucket, MA
Name: Whale's Tale
Type: Pale Ale
ABV: 5.60%
Purchased from: Total Wine & More, VA Beach
Price: $1.70

I was having a hard time trying to figure out what I should drink. (If you want to see a picture of my current catalog, speak up). So I asked Tessa, she rarely ever gets into this but it seems as she was in a play-along type mood today. She told me to pick a bottle that had light blue on it. Fortunately for me, there are no Labbats or Pabsts in my fridge. She then had the choice of Massachusetts or here we are. Whale's Tale is a nice shade of sunset with a little bit of auburn and a splash of copper for good measure. The head is a super tight, foamy, eggnog shaded cloud that wants to do nothing more than to hang around hoping you enjoy the bounty it rests lightly upon. There is a vast amount of carbonation that is easily noticeable. It looks as bubbly as champagne but imagine slower moving bubbles. The nose has a bread dough quality to it with a smattering of floral hops. There is also the strangest combination of red apples (not something I have come across before) and malt. Outside of that though, the bouquet was pretty standard. I feel like generic is too harsh of a word, especially with the red apples I'm sticking with standard. The carbonation provides a nice snap as you drink. The flavor profile isn't quite what I was expecting. You get a lot of floral hops up front, almost as if you were chewing on a flower. Then that slips away so that doughy bread and very light caramel malt taste comes through. Towards the back end the yeast brings out just a small amount of that apple flavor and then takes a turn into a flavor I can best describe as "mineral." It's very noticeable and, sadly, a little distracting. If you took that mineral quality away from Whale's Tale you'd be left with a pretty stand up pale ale. No tricks or turns or surprises, just a pretty good pale ale. It's a bit too floral for my tastes, in fact the only bitterness that the hops provide are in the aftertaste. In fact! The aftertaste is damn near a marzen with a thick splash of malted bread. But there are just a few things that detract from the overall experience. I just can't get past it.

I feel a blowhole joke in here somewhere.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Behold! A great illusion!

Brewery: Sixpoint Brewery
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Name: Diesel
Type: Turns out it's a stout.
ABV: 6.3%
Well, I feel foolish. I thought this beer was a black ale through and through. And you can't really blame me when you stick your shnozz into this bouquet. But I'm getting ahead of myself here... This beer is a pure shade of black. "Diesel" is a fitting name because it's the same color of the tips of an exhaust stack on a big rig. And this thing rumbles like a big rig, too. It produces a massive khaki colored head that peaks and crags making it visually appealing. What's it smell like? Well, it smells like someone set a pine forest on fire. You get massive amounts of roasted malt in the nose and then like a subtle sledgehammer...PINE mothertrucker! The hops push a great amount of piney earth into your nasal pathway which balances the chocolate roasted malt perfectly. It's like someone dropped a hop nugget in my black-as-night, yet touched by dark chocolate pint of coffee. Again, I feel foolish for mistaking this as a black ale but it was an honest mistake. How do you feel about flavor? I'm a big fan of it, I like the way flavor tastes...for the most part. Diesel is pretty great. The heavy body and the slightest hint of carbonation make this a formidable opponent. It is super rich and dense in its earthiness. The roasted (hell, almost burnt) malt asserts itself front and center and bends only slightly to let some other flavors into the taste party. The hops aren't as pungent on the pallet as they are in the bouquet but they are definitely there and remind you that Diesel isn't a run of the mill stout. The aftertaste is exactly how you want it to be, bitter and sharp but not sour with a healthy dose of earth. I recommend drinking this beer in a glass. I had one before in a can and while tasty, it just did not have the same impact that this one did. Sixpoint pulled off something incredibly interesting here. I really like stouts. I really like hops. I really like hoppy stouts. I'm hopeful that you all can find this and experience it. I'm cautious with that, however. This won't make the stout purist happy nor will it melt the hop-head's face but it is a delightfully different take on an established style of beer.

My eyes say stout. My mouth says hops. My heart says MORE!

I'm sorry. It's called what?

Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Location: Petaluma, CA
Name: Censored
Type: Red ale
ABV: 6.75%
Apparently, the original name of this beer was a tad on the iffy side. In fact, Lagunitas says that its name was "originally derived from an origin so heinous that we cannot reveal its aboriginal oregeny." They're very sorry about it, however. And to get everyone on the same page, Lagunitas Brewing offers up the phonetic pronunciation of their name on every bottle, "lah-goo-knee-tuss." Even without knowing what Censored was before drinking it, you can look at it and tell this is a red ale in all of its auburn glory. In fact, the color of the beer looks very close to the color of the bottle it came from and the head is an ecru-esque color. The nose is there. It's not a very imposing feature, though. You get a good splash of freshly baked bread and a sweet hint of caramel from the malt. Hops are sort of present, slightly floral and citrus but you may have to really work to get them. There is a note of alcohol throughout. The beer has a nice mouthfeel to it, almost creamy. The carbonation is fairly crisp. Much like a beer bruschetta, bread is the underlying flavor of Censored. You get some nice caramel notes from the malt and the hops that show up were surprising due to their weak profile in the nose. Towards the back end is a watered down earthiness that is then quickly enveloped by a strong taste of alcohol. A stronger than it ought to be taste of alcohol for a beer with an ABV of just under 7. In fact, I've had beers that were in the double digits for ABV that hid its alcohol better. As the beer warmed, the bread flavors waned and the caramel became more pronounced as did the alcohol, unfortunately. I wasn't terribly taken with this beer. I have had this in the past and I want to say I liked it better back then. It's not terrible; hell, it's a far better red ale than Killian's will ever hope to be. 

More upsetting than a half-time show middle finger.