Monday, December 31, 2012

A Specific Gravity's Guidelines for New Year's Eve

Here at A Specific Gravity, we realize that tonight is the big show for revelry and drinking.  We do, though, follow some simple rules as connoisseurs of craft beer: 

Quality over Quantity.  Our number one principle any night of the year.  If you're a connoisseur, tonight would be a good night to break out a special bottle you've been holding on to for the right occasion, or even just drink your favorite beer.  We plan to drink something good tonight, not just something for the sake of drinking. 

Moderation.  In drink and in food.  Early morning stomach woes and next morning headaches are no fun. 

No Reviews.  Reviewing new beers is fun, and perhaps there is a fun way to do it on a festive night such as tonight, but we feel it's best to put the pen/computer/smartphone down for the evening and enjoy.  We say enjoy the beer you're drinking, and enjoy the company you're with. 

Avoid Beer Evangelism.  We're not big on trying to convert drinkers of macro brewery fare anyway, but tonight especially is not a good night for it, in our opinion.  People will be looking to have fun, so they don't want to hear bad stuff about the beer they may happen to love, and some people will be looking to drink too much and succeeding at it handily, so they're not going to be able to appreciate the complexities of an exquisite craft beer.  We do believe, however, if an opportunity presents itself to provide some beer education, go for it. 

Don't Drink and Drive.  Need we say this?  It can't hurt.  We're all about responsibility here.  Have a plan, be careful, and just don't do it.
Have a Happy New Year!

Review: Trappistes Rochefort 10

Trappistes Rochefort 10
11.3% ABV
Brasserie de Rochefort, Belgium
11.2 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Reviewed on 8/1/12

Pours a  dark brown with a thick beige bubbly head.  Good carbonation.  Excellent lacing.  Sediment left at bottom of bottle.

On the nose, notes of malt, yeast, bananas, vanilla extract, caramel, chocolate, and slight berry.

Taste has malt and yeast at the front, with creamy chocolate and caramel notes coming through soon after.  Coffee and banana bread type notes also come through, with alcohol and vanilla layered in there as well.

The mouthfeel is smooth and velvety, with a great balance of many flavors.  Quite full bodied.

Overall, this is an exceptional, rich-flavored Belgian ale worthy of the praise it receives.  As it warms up, nuances of flavors appear, proving almost a different taste with each sip.  The ABV is high but it is mildly evident in the taste.  As you can see on the right column of this blog, this is my top beer.

A shout out to the Shab Row Bistro and Wine Bar in Frederick, MD, where I picked up my bottle of this gem for a great price.

Score: 99

Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout (2012)

Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout (2012)
10.2% ABV
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass 
No date on bottle
Reviewed on 12/16/12

This stout pours a thick dark brown color with a good bubbly beige head. Good lacing.

On the nose, malt, dark chocolate, coffee, slight hops, caramel, slight cherry, slight raisin.

Taste has chocolate, malt, coffee, licorice, cherry, (almost a chocolate-covered cherry cordial flavor comes in), mild hops, hints of raisin, touch of sugar, touch of vanilla extract.

Mouthfeel is smooth and dry, with some good creaminess and a nice pointed kick of bitterness.  Fairly bold with some nice bite at the back of the mouth.

Overall, solid, tasty imperial stout with a distinct profile of flavors.  As its temperature rises, dryness and bitterness really come through and penetrate the palate.  This one would be a good candidate for some aging.  A nice surprising offer from Sierra Nevada, though quality from SN is not something unusual, but more so since I only just learned about this tasty stout a couple of weeks ago and it's good.  Is it possible I'm beginning to like stouts more than IPAs?

My score: 94

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Hopefully, you have better things to do today than reading this blog!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Review: Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (2012)

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (2012)
15.0% ABV
Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, IL
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass 
Bottled on 9/26/12
Reviewed on 12/14/12

This stout pours a thick dark brown color with a thin brown bubbly head.  Decent lacing evident. Pouring this into a glass, you can't help but think, in the best way, motor oil.

On the nose, strong aromas of malt, alcohol, coffee.  Slight aroma of soy sauce.  Also, a chocolate syrup like aroma.

Taste has full, strong flavors of coffee, dark chocolate, alcohol, malt, hops, brown sugar, syrup, toast, soy sauce, and whiskey.

On the palate, smooth with a solid alcohol kick.  Good syrupy thickness.  Nice bit of bitterness.  Coats the tongue well.

Overall, bold, strong flavored stout that goes near the border of being overwhelming but doesn't go over.  The alcohol taste is there--how could it not be considering the ABV--and comes with a soy sauce like thread of taste.  This one probably would be quite interesting with age, but it's quite interesting fresh, and I only have one bottle of this highly sought after item.  One to savor.  And, yes, Budweiser owns Goose Island, proving that high quality craft can still exist even with macro involvement.

My score: 97

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Bantering of a Homebrewer

Greeting Programs,

    As this is my first attempt at blogging, I would like to thank Mr. Bell in his thoughtful, and brave, invitation to take part in this exchange. I have been friends with Chris since the beginning of known time. We met a few milliseconds after the big bang, hurtling through space at faster than the speed of light, we said "hello" to each other and a friendship was born. Ok, I admit I may be slightly off on the details, but that's how long it feels.

    I've been home-brewing since 2007 and have loved every batch I've concocted, even as I was pouring some of them down the drain because they were unpalatable. Malt, Hops, Water, and Yeast. Four things that were put on this earth for the sole purpose of making that wonderful elixir we know as beer. Yeah water may have some other useful purposes, but they are secondary. "Oh, without water there would be no life, and we use yeast to feed people with bread." byproducts I say! They should be rationed for all but the use of making beer. Simply stated, I enjoy beer.

    I woke up this morning expecting to see what resembles Johnny Depp, David Bowie, Russell Crowe, and Harvey Fierstein, riding on four different variations of Sarah Jessica Parker, raining death and destruction upon the world. Needless to say, the day is still not over.

    Looking forward to posting about my tour of the Sam Adams Boston Brewery.

May you go through life without ever having met Honey Boo Boo,


A New Contributor: Mike Sherman

Please welcome Mike Sherman, lifelong friend and fellow beer connoisseur, as a contributor to A Specific Gravity!  Mike brings with him homebrewing experience, something of which I know close to nothing.  He's also a member of Cross Street Irregulars, a Baltimore homebrewing club.

I'm just a guy buying beer, drinking it, and writing down notes in a journal.  Mike's actually making the stuff!  Now, if I can just keep his posts to a PG rating...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review: Samuel Adams White Christmas Ale

Samuel Adams White Christmas Ale
5.8% ABV
The Boston Beer Co., Boston, MA
12 oz bottle
Served in Boulevard Tulip Glass
Date notched on bottle: Best by March 2013
Reviewed on 12/11/12

This ale pours a hazy golden color with a nice bubbly white head.  Decent lacing.  Moderate evident carbonation.  Appears reasonably fresh.

On the nose, aromas of wheat, orange, lemon, slight hops, yeast, mild cinnamon, mild nutmeg.

Taste consists of wheat, slight hops, yeast, fading orange and lemon, mild cinnamon and nutmeg flavors, slight clove.  Tastes are decent if mild overall.

Fairly smooth on the palate, with a nice mellow feel and some good earthy fruitiness.  Decent balance of flavors.

Overall, decent tasting ale that comes across as fairly mellow.  It's not reminiscent of a seasonal beer or the "festive brew" proclaimed on the bottle--it could almost be from any season of the year--but it still has some nice fruity flavors.  Sessionable.

My score: 86

Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: Tröegs Mad Elf

Tröegs Mad Elf Holiday Ale
11.0% ABV
Troegs Brewing Co., Hershey, PA
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass 
Date on bottle: 2012-13
Reviewed on 12/6/12

This ale pours a reddish amber color with an ivory-colored head.  Moderate carbonation.  Mild lacing.

On the nose, aromas of malt, cherries, slight hops, alcohol, sugar, mild citrus, slight floral.

Taste has cherries, honey, malt at the front end. Alcohol, citrus, sugar, spices, floral notes present as well.

Thick, syrupy feel on the palate.  Some bitterness present.  Good bite on the mouth.  Balance?  I don't think so.

Overall, this is an interesting, flavorful ale with an unusual profile of flavors and no real sense of balance.  There are tastes of alcohol, but it's not as overwhelming as it could be given the ABV.  At times, it seems like you're drinking cough syrup (it's even cherry flavored!), and at times, it seems like you're drinking something truly inspired.  Serious points for being interesting and unusual, even if for me it doesn't always quite work.  "Mad Elf" is the perfect name for this concoction, as it is truly mad!

My score: 90

Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat

Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat
4.4% ABV
Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, MO
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Date on bottle: Best by 11/29/12
Reviewed on 10/19/12 

This wheat beer pours a hazy gold with a good white head that quickly dissipates.  Moderate carbonation.  Mild lacing.

Smell has wheat, hops, citrus, yeast, hops, mild floral and spice notes.

Taste has wheat, bread, citrus, yeast, hops, mild watery floral, hint of ginger.  Only some mild differentiation from the smell.

On the palate, it's smooth, mild touch of dryness, a bit thin through the middle. Present flavors are decently balanced and not overwhelming on the palate.

Overall, this is a moderate tasting, somewhat thin wheat beer with some decent if underwhelming flavors.  Overall, fairly mild, easy to drink, but not something to have if seeking bold flavors.

My score: 82

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review: Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
12.0% ABV
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass 
Bottled on 4/12/12
Reviewed on 8/8/12

This ale pours a thick dark brown with a thin beige head that quickly dissipates.  Decent lacing.  Mild carbonation.

On the nose, aromas of coffee, dark chocolate, alcohol, caramel, vanilla, malt, and wood.

Taste has malt, vanilla, strong coffee, definite alcohol, wood notes, caramel, stout like.

This beer is quite bold on the palate with decent balance of flavors, a good smoothness, and the kind of creaminess you'd get from an imperial Russian stout.

Overall, this beer is considered a brown ale, but it has characteristics of a bold stout.  Definite uniqueness in its style.  Quite flavorful, with the high alcohol content coming through but not overwhelming.  One to savor.  Another winner in the extreme department from DFH.

My score: 97

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Porters: Not Just the Other Dark Beer

It's fairly well known that porters preceded stouts.  In fact, "stout" was a descriptive used to describe porters, essentially meaning "strong," and eventually "stout porter" just became "stout."  Porters used to be fairly popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, until they eventually fell out of favor and were cast aside for the most part by breweries  (for a better, more comprehensive history on such things, check out the works of Randy Mosher and Garrett Oliver).  What we know of porters and stouts and what's popular now, it's hard to imagine a time when porters ruled.  It's hard to imagine porters as being anything other than an offshoot of more widely available stouts and not the other way around. 
A good question that I've always wondered is, what's the essential difference between a stout and a porter?  I don't have an answer, though a common one seems to be, stouts have roasted barley and porters don't.  But, apparently, this is not always the case.  For me, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what's different.  Perhaps a bit more of a burnt or toasty taste, and perhaps not as smooth or creamy, though not always.  There's a lot of overlap in the styles, and I'd venture to say that the defining line is rather fluid. 
Anyway, as I'm getting more in more into this beer thing, I'm experiencing more porters, and I'm finding some good ones.  Here are a few worth trying:

Smuttynose Robust Porter 
A bold tasting porter, worthy of being called "robust."  Flavors of chocolate, malt, coffee, licorice, caramel come through, along with smokiness, toastiness, and spiciness. Smooth and bursting with flavor. One of the better porters out there, particularly for the price. 

Founders Porter
Strong milk chocolate and coffee flavors at the front, with dark chocolate and toastiness following.  A good mixture of sweetness and bitterness.  This porter doesn't come across as flashy, but it excels at what it has.  For me, top of the list for porters.  Unfortunately, Founders is not distributed to Maryland. 

Kona Pipeline Porter
The first time I tried this porter was in October at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival in Disney World, where it stood out among the beer offerings. It's quite tasty and smooth with a nice coffee heavy profile that retains solid notes of a more traditional porter. 

Fuller's London Porter
Deep flavored porter that has a nice mellowness.  Creamy and consistent from start to finish.  A classic porter from one of the traditional English breweries.  In your porter discovery adventures, this is one you must try.

Others to try: Samuel Smith's The Famous Taddy Porter, Anchor Porter, Sierra Nevada Porter, Williamsburg Alewerks Washington's Porter, Evolution Lucky 7 Porter
My wish list: Ballast Point Victory at Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter, Harviestoun Old Engine Oil, Stone Smoked Porter, Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald, Port City Porter

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Review: Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine (2011)

Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine (2011 edition)
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Date on bottle: Bottled in 2011 (purchased 10/2011; aged 1 year, 1 month)
Reviewed on 12/1/12 

This barleywine pours a hazy golden amber color with a thin bubbly off-white head with moderately good retention.  Not much carbonation. Good lacing.

On the nose, malt and alcohol are the upfront, dominant aromas.  Slight caramel, slight whiskey, slight grape-like fruitiness, with some hints of bread and yeast.

On the palate, malt, caramel, and alcohol are the dominant flavors coming through, with some whiskey and even some slight hops coming through more on the back end.  Mild notes of fruit.  Some sugariness coming through as well.

Mouthfeel is a bit harsh with the prevalent alcohol taste.  There's some decent bitterness, with a touch of dryness.  After some time and a few sips, a good smoothness emerges beneath the alcohol.

Overall, a quite strong, interesting barleywine that has some decent tastes beneath a hot alcohol taste at the front.  As far as my memory goes, this beer has mellowed a bit over the last year, and it would be interesting to see what it would be like after two years of aging.  Beyond the alcohol and malt flavors, caramel, whiskey, and some fruity notes come through and give it a neat and distinguishable profile.  A nice one to savor.  Nowhere near being sessionable (no surprise given the ABV).

Score: 92

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Review: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (2012 edition)
ABV: 6.8%
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Reviewed on 11/24/12 

This ale pours a dark amber color with a nice thick frothy head with good retention.  Moderate carbonation. Great lacing.

On the nose, notes of grapefruit, hops, malt, pine, slight floral, and other citrus, maybe a hint of lemon.

Taste has hops and malt, grapefruit, slight lemon, pine, some floral, hints of wheat and yeast.

Mouthfeel is dry and bitter in a good way yet with a fairly mellow feel on the palate.  Flavors are superbly balanced.

Overall, a quite tasty IPA that is both well hopped and well malted.  Great balance of flavors with a profile that comes across as a deep, earthy ale that, even as an IPA, fits well with the winter season.  A superb offering at a great price, showing yet again that you can get world class beers without destroying your budget.

Score: 95