Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: Firestone Walker Walker's Reserve Porter

Firestone Walker Walker's Reserve Porter
5.8% ABV
Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA
22 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Date on bottle: 12/14/12
Reviewed on 2/15/13

This porter pours a dark brown color with a frothy ivory-colored head with decent retention.  Moderate lacing.

Smell has dark chocolate, coffee, malt, hops, smokiness, toastiness, slight spice, slight floral, mild vanilla.

Taste has malt, hops, chocolate, coffee, vanilla, slight smokiness, slight toastiness, floral, hint of dark fruit.

Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy with a good kick of bitterness.  Some dryness at the back end.  

Overall, this is a nice tasting, smooth porter with a fairly classic porter profile.  Easy drinking with some good bitterness and dryness.  Another quality beer from Firestone Walker. 

My score: 90

Monday, February 25, 2013

Review : Crispin Prepare to Die

Crispin Prepare to Die    
6.5% ABV
Cider finished in Red Wine Barrels
Crispin Cider Company

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Draft from Max's Tap House in Fells Point.

9 out of 12
Crisp apple aroma, with a hit of vanilla and oak, as to be expected from wine barrels. Aroma leads you to believe a very crisp refreshing session brew.

3 out of 3
Very clear, no head, as to be expected from a nice cider. Pink in color, my guess is from the red wine barrels. Color was a nice surprise, first thought was bartender was trying to be cute and added food coloring like they would on St Patrick's Day. Totally forgetting about the red wine barrels.

16 out of 20
Crisp, refreshing, would love some of this on a nice summers day. Subtle taste of oak and cherries. Plays very well with the tartness of the apples. Citrus flavor at the end, but does not deter from the taste.

4 out of 5
Medium/high carbonation. Slight acidity from the apples, but not overwhelming. Slight alcohol warmth, but what did I expect from a 6.5%

8 out of 10
This is a lay back in the hammock and drink all afternoon one. Very enjoyable and the pink was a nice touch. I would buy this again.

TOTAL : 40

Review: Samuel Smith's India Ale

Samuel Smith's India Ale
5.0% ABV
Samuel Smith Old Brewery, Yorkshire, England
18.7 oz btl
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Reviewed on 1/27/13

This India pale ale pours a pale golden amber color with a frothy bubbly white head that has decent retention.  Decent carbonation and lacing.

On the nose, aromas of light hops, malt, floral, citrus, slight lemon, slight sugar, mild herbs.

Taste has hops, malt, wheat, floral, some citrus along the lines of grapefruit and lemon, some sugariness, mild herbs.

Mouthfeel is light, crisp, smooth, with good if mild strands of bitterness and dryness.

Overall, this is a light and crisp tasting pale ale with a decent if mild profile of flavors. Not bold and flavorful like other hoppy IPAs, but still a decent beer, particularly if you're in the mood for something on the milder side.  Fairly sessionable.

My score: 88

Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: Green Flash Palate Wrecker

Green Flash Palate Wrecker
9.5% ABV
Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
12 oz bottle
Served in Duvel Tulip Glass
Date notched on bottle: Brewed on 2/5/13
Reviewed on 2/17/13


Pours an almost clear golden amber color with a good frothy slightly off-white head.  Quite good lacing and head retention.  Plentiful carbonation evident.

Smell consists of hops, citrus (particularly apricot and grapefruit), pine, rye, some malt, some breadiness, some spice.  Strong dry and bitter hops are what hit you right at the onset.

Taste consists of strong bitter hops, pine, citrus particularly apricot and grapefruit and perhaps a lemony touch, rye, some alcohol, some malt, strong dryness.

Mouthfeel is earthy with a good grainy texture.  Strong bitterness and dryness overwhelm the palate in a good way.

Overall, one of my favorites, reviewed fresh for a new release, and it still does not disappoint. This is a bold tasting, super hoppy IPA that's well deserving of its name as it overwhelms the palate (with the name, you can't say you weren't warned).  Crisp and fresh tasting (drinking this one 12 days after its bottling date), with pine, citrus, malt, and even rye notes coming through amidst super hoppiness.  Definitely one for the hophead, and, for my money, one of the better imperial IPAs available.  Currently, number six on my top ten list.

My score: 97

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Review: Dogfish Head Cask 75 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head Cask 75 Minute IPA
7.5% ABV
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
On tap at the Dogfish Head Brewpub, Rehoboth Beach, DE
Served in a nonic pint glass
Reviewed on 2/2/13 at the brewpub 

This IPA has a hazy golden amber color with a frothy white head.

On the nose, smells of hops, citrus, pine, sugar, slight honey.

Taste has hops, some bitterness, citrus, pine, malt, sugar, grapefruit, honey, syrup.

Mouthfeel is dry, bitter, somewhat creamy, fairly smooth.

Overall, flavors come through well .  As a cask offering, served at a warmer temperature than the usual tap. Hoppy with good bitterness and dryness.

My score: 91


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Craft Beer Conversion?

I think sometimes with craft beer, it's tempting to want to win new converts to those great beers you love.  The people that you're trying to convert aren't people who don't have an interest in beer but rather those who drink the macro products (Coors, Budweiser, Miller, etc.).  You want to show them that, hey, you say you like beer, but try this one, which will blow away what you think about beer and make you see even the blue sky above you in a different way!  Maybe this might work in some cases, but in general, I think this is a faulty approach.  In fact, I'm not even sure any approach is necessary.

The fact is, many people just like what they're currently drinking and aren't looking to make a change.  They find it tasty and refreshing.   It's the perfect thing for them at the end of a long day or week.  Maybe it's economical for them.  Complexities and nuances in flavor might not be anything they're concerned with.  There are likely many different reasons.  Why not just let them enjoy what they enjoy and you enjoy what you enjoy?

For me, I think the best thing for the craft beer lover is to continually try different beers and gain knowledge about beer.  Develop your palate and learn about the various styles,  the history of beer, what's going on with contemporary beer, and the process behind making beer even if you don't intend to ever make any yourself.  That way, if a conversation turns to beer, you'll be well prepared and represent what you like quite well, and maybe this will help people see craft beer in a different light.  In my opinion, being a craft beer ambassador is more important than trying to convert people.

If you're still really bent on converting, I think you have to view getting people to craft beer as a gradual process.  If someone has not gone beyond, say, Coors Light, do you think they're going to like a Green Flash Palate Wrecker the first time they have one?  If someone's experience with stout begins and ends with Guinness, do you think they'll appreciate a Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout?  Consider how you got into craft beer and work from that.

I think the Samuel Adams regular line of beers provides a good gateway into craft (particularly Boston Lager, one of The Classics, all of which are a good starting point), and they're available pretty much everywhere (which may have already laid the groundwork for you--how many non-craft beer drinkers have at least had a Sam Adams?). New Belgium Fat Tire is another good gateway beer too.  During the fall season, the various pumpkin beers that are available could serve as nice entries as well, as they combine some familiar flavors with some solid if muted beer tastes.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Review: Lancaster Brewing Milk Stout

Lancaster Brewing Milk Stout
5.3% ABV
Lancaster Brewing Co., Wilkes-Barre, PA
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
No date on bottle
Reviewed on 11/30/12

This stout pours a dark brown color with a thin beige head that quickly dissipates.  Mild carbonation.  Moderate lacing.

Smell consists of chocolate, milk, malt, slight licorice, some hops, coffee.

Taste consists of malt, chocolate, coffee, milk, some licorice, hops.  Fairly in line with its smell.

Mouthfeel is quite smooth with some good bitterness and a touch of dryness.  Nice, creamy feel on the palate.

Overall, this is a tasty, smooth milk stout with a good, consistent profile of flavors.  It has some good creaminess to it, and it gets mellow--if a bit on the thin side--as it comes up to temperature.  Fairly sessionable, if a stout can be sessionable.  Well worth it for the inexpensive price. 

My score: 88

Monday, February 11, 2013

Review: Dogfish Head Test Batch 61

Dogfish Head Test Batch 61
6.5% ABV
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
On tap at the Dogfish Head Brewpub, Rehoboth Beach, DE
Served in a pint glass
Reviewed on 2/2/13 at the brewpub 

This ale, exclusive to Dogfish Head's Rehoboth brewpub and a test batch of the upcoming new  61, pours a solid amber with a minimal head and not much carbonation.

Smell consists of hopes, pine, grapes, honey.

Taste has hops, grapes, some rye, malt, sugar, slight cherry.

Mouthfeel is earthy, a bit thin, slightly uneven.

Overall, this was full of interesting tastes, though it seems evident that it's not fully formed.  On the palate, it was somewhat thin through the middle and the tastes were slightly uneven.  It'll be interesting to see what the final bottled product tastes like.

My score: 85


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Changes to My Current Top Ten

I've made some changes to My Current Top Ten, which lives on the right sidebar of this blog.  There are two new entrants to the list:

--Oskar Blues Ten FIDY Imperial Stout, which is at #8.

--Firestone Walker Wookey Jack, which is at #10.

Falling off the list are Stone Russian Imperial Stout, which was at #8, and Boulevard The Sixth Glass Quadrupel, which was at #10.  I do still love both of these beers.

The two Firestone Walker beers sitting at the bottom appear poised to make some hay and climb, don't they?

The list is still dominated by IPAs, but I see stouts one day breaking that.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Review: Green Flash Friendship Brew

Green Flash Friendship Brew
5.7% ABV
Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
12 oz bottle
Served in Boulevard Tulip Glass
Date notched on bottle: Brewed on 8/7/12
Reviewed on 11/17/12

This saison pours a dark cola-like brown with a a thick bubbly beige head that keeps good form.  Mild carbonation.  Great lacing.

Smell consists of malt, hops, nutmegs, pepper, slight banana, slight yeast.

Taste consists of malt, dry spiciness, hops, banana, pepper, yeast, slight floral.

Mouthfeel is earthy, dry with a decent mix of flavors.  Some bitterness comes through.  A bit rough on the palate.

Overall, this is an interesting, unusual saison with a varied profile of tastes.  Pepperiness becomes a bit overwhelming as the temperature rises.  It has some good taste notes, but it's somewhat hard to drink. 

My score: 84

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Review: Lagunitas Sucks Brown Shugga Substitute Ale

Lagunitas Sucks Brown Shugga Substitute Ale
7.85% ABV
The Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, CA
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
No date on bottle
Reviewed on 1/26/13

This IPA pours a light golden amber color with a frothy, bubbly slightly off-white head.  Good lacing.  Lively with lots of carbonation.

Smell consists of strong hops, pine, citrus, wood, grapefruit, some malt, spices.

Taste consists of bitter with strong pine and citrus notes.  Some notes of spice and a bit sugary.

Mouthfeel is quite bitter and dry on the palate.  Has a fairly smooth finish.  After a few sips, the hoppiness takes over the tongue.

Overall, a strong tasting IPA that has some blasts of bitterness and strong pine and citrus flavors.  This is one of those hoppy, dry, bitter IPAs that take over the palate--my kind of beer, and definitely one for the confirmed hophead.  This matches up well with other strong IPAs such as Palate Wrecker.  Nicely done. 

My score: 96

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Classics

If you're a craft beer connoisseur, there are certain beers that were likely your gateway into the world of craft beer.  You may not have known it at the time, but once you tasted them, your palate realized that, yes, beer can be something different than what's being sold as beer on clever tv commercials.  If you came of drinking age in the 1990s, I think the following three beers, which I consider the "classics," were likely part of your craft beer introduction:

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale:  The classic pale ale that was likely my introduction to craft beer back in the '90s.  It still doesn't disappoint.  In terms of flavor, it may have been surpassed by others over the years, but this one is the grandfather of them all.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager: Possibly the most pervasive craft beer in America (Blue Moon doesn't count).  If you're into craft beer, it's easy to overlook, but it's still worth coming back to now and again.  At many dining establishments, this might be your only craft choice.  My review here

Anchor Steam Beer:  It took me a long time to realize that the brewery is "Anchor" and the beer style is "Steam," rather than "Anchor Steam" being the brewery name (which would be a cool name for a brewery).  "Steam" beer is an old American style that's not widely brewed anymore, and everyone but Anchor has to call it "California Common," as Anchor holds the rights to the designation "steam beer" (more info here).  Anchor Steam has a distinct, even unique taste.  Malty, with hops, bread, and touches of caramel and citrus, and even what I call a slight cotton candy touch at the front. 

The best thing about each of these beers is not only are they tasty, but they're affordable and widely available.