Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: Wychwood Hobgoblin

Wychwood Hobgoblin 
5.2% ABV
Wychwood Brewery, Witney, Oxfordshire, England
18.7 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
No date on bottle
Reviewed on 3/6/13 

This dark English ale, as indicated on the label, pours a dark amber color with a bubbly ivory-colored head that has decent retention.  Nice carbonation.  Decent lacing. 

Smell consists of malt, hops, caramel, hint of chocolate, sugar, hints of wood, some dark fruit. 

Taste consists of malt, dark fruit, caramel, hops, sugar, some spice, touch of citrus. 

Mouthfeel has a good mix of bitterness and dryness.  Earthy with a good balance of flavors. 

Overall, this is a good tasting English ale that's fairly lively with a nice profile of flavors.  Malty with nice undertones of dark fruit.  Has characteristics of a winter warmer type of ale, but it's deeper tasting and more substantial on the palate.  Nicely done.

My score: 90

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Dogfish Head World Wide Stout

Dogfish Head World Wide Stout
18.0% ABV
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
12 oz bottle
Served in Firestone Walker brandy snifter
Date on bottle: Bottled in 2011
Reviewed on 10/12/12

This stout pours an inky black color with a thin beige head that dissipates quickly.  Moderate lacing.  Very mild carbonation.

On the nose, aromas of malt, hops, coffee, chocolate, licorice, alcohol, slight caramel, slight brown sugar.

Taste has strong coffee and alcohol flavors right at the front.  Malt, slight hops, dark chocolate, whiskey, licorice, some pepper, touch of brown sugar.

Mouthfeel is definitely hot--no surprise considering the ABV.  Good dryness and bitterness come through.  Somewhat harsh, but a good flavor profile develops on the palate if you give it a chance. 

Overall, this is a tasty if hot stout with a good, complex flavor profile that's quite bold.  I had this one for close to 9 months before opening it.  It's definitely one open to aging.  Be careful, as this is one that will knock you down. 

My score: 92

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: Samuel Adams Double Agent IPL

Samuel Adams Double Agent IPL
5.0% ABV
The Boston Beer Co., Boston, MA
12 oz bottle
Served in Duvel tulip glass
Date notched on bottle: Best by July 2013
Reviewed on 2/22/13

This lager (an India pale lager) pours an almost clear golden amber color with a decent bubbly off-white head.  Decent lacing.  Moderate carbonation.

Smell consists of hops, malt, wheat, sugar, floral, citrus, spice, grapefruit.

Taste consists of dry hoppiness with good malt lager notes mixed in.  Wheat, spice, citrus, floral, slight pepperiness.

Mouthfeel is smooth, dry with a decent touch of bitterness.  Good floral earthiness on the palate.

Overall, this is a good mix of a hoppy IPA and a malty lager.  Nice dryness and spiciness come together with some sugar, wheat, and citrus flavors.  Not sure who this style of beer is meant to appeal to, though it does appeals to this hophead and it makes for a neat and somewhat unexpected brew.

My score: 89

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bell vs. Dogfish Head

This is the first of an irregularly published series I'll be posting where I'll be taking on what I like and what I dislike about various breweries and their products.  The "vs." aspect sounds a bit more confrontational than I will actually be. I'm quite fond of each of these breweries.
The brewery: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Location: Milton, Delaware
The main man: Sam Calagione
Products of theirs you might know: 60 Minute IPA, 90 Minute IPA, 120 Minute IPA, Indian Brown Ale
Their slogan: Off-centered ales for off-centered people 

What I Like 

Not afraid to innovate 
Look at the Dogfish Head lineup and you will see a variety of beers that use unusual ingredients, combine styles, and break the limits of ABV.  Along with not being afraid to innovate, I'll add in they don't seem to be afraid to fail, as not all of their products quite hit the mark.  For me, Palo Santo Marron is innovation hitting near perfection, while Immort Ale, though innovative, just doesn't do it for me.  But they're willing to push the boundaries, which is commendable. 

The brewpub is an experience
The Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, not only takes its namesake's beer seriously, serving up all of the regular line of beers plus seasonals, various rotating products, and beers exclusive to the pub, but it also serves up quite good pub food.  Build-your-own burgers, tasty pizzas, and even a double chocolate bacon cheesecake.  I've been there about five times now and never had a bad experience.  The staff is friendly and knowledgable, and the food is tasty and complementary of the beers.  Also, the pricing on items relative to other brewpubs and tap houses is quite inexpensive (relative to Maryland, which is not the tax-free experience of neighboring Delaware).  The place is hopping even for midweek lunch in the dead of winter (it's tough to get a spot at the bar).  Look for beers to go and various Dogfish Head branded items at the walk-up window shop next to the front door.
More positives: Bottles have nice branding and artwork.  Their signature glass is my go-to glass.  Good availability in my state.  90 Minute IPA and Burton Baton are two of my favorite beers. 

What I Dislike 

Pricing of large format bottles is expensive relative to other brands
Their regular lineup of beers in four and six packs have nice price points, even with Burton Baton and Palo Santo Marron pushing the mid-teens in my area.  But their single bottle, large format beers are just too expensive, as they start at $7.99 in my area and go up to about $14.99, with many of them in that middle range.  If you've got a limited beer budget as I do, it's hard to justify buying these beers at these prices, considering that I've had some of these beers on tap at the brewpub and other locations and, while generally good, don't warrant paying a premium.  While I appreciate the unusual ingredients and the measure of innovation involved, many other breweries offer large format bottles (generally 22 oz vs. Dogfish Head's 25.4 oz) of as good as or better beer at more reasonable prices. 

No year-round stout available
Perhaps this point is moot considering that Palo Santo Marron, considered a brown ale, is an acceptable alternative, but a regularly available stout would be nice.  Sure, this could be a knock on many other breweries as well.  Perhaps a somewhat regular four-pack of an imperial stout would satisfy my desire.

More negatives: Thank goodness I don't have a gluten allergy since Tweason'ale might make me a teetotaler.  120 Minute IPA on tap is a far superior product to the bottled version.  All the other "minute" IPAs are available in four and six packs--why not 75 Minute?  Unlike the Rehoboth brewpub, the three Dogfish Head Alehouses in Maryland and Virginia are not owned and operated by Dogfish Head but rather DFH licenses out the use of its name; the one in Maryland has become much too pricey relative to the Rehoboth brewpub. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: Twin Lakes Greenville Pale Ale

Twin Lakes Greenville Pale Ale
 5.5% ABV
Twin Lakes Brewing Co., Greenville, DE
12 oz can
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
No date on can
Reviewed on 2/23/13

This pale ale pours a hazy golden amber color with a bubbly white head that dissipates quickly.  Mild lacing.

Smell consists of hops, malt, bread, yeast, some citrus, floral and herbal notes.

Taste has hops, malt, some citrus, herbal and floral notes, bread/biscuit, slight berry, hint of smokiness.

Mouthfeel is smooth, mild on the palate, somewhat dry.

Overall, this is a decent if mild tasting pale ale with some nice citrus and herbal and floral notes coming together.  Some good hoppiness comes through as it comes up to room temperature.  Some decent lemony tastes come through as well.  Not a bad pale ale.  Almost sessionable.

My score: 87

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
7.5% ABV
Guinness & Co., St. James Gate, Dublin, Ireland
11.2 oz btl
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Reviewed on 8/5/12 

This stout pours a dark color with a good thick toasted brown head with decent retention.  Quite good lacing.  Decent evident carbonation.

Smell has coffee, dark chocolate, malt, toastiness, hints of licorice, slight berry.

Taste is much like its smell.  Coffee, dark chocolate, malt, smokiness/toastiness, slight licorice, berry, and caramel.

Mouthfeel is smooth, creamy, with great definition and balance of flavors.  Slight dryness and bitterness at the end.

Overall, this version of Guinness makes it time to revisit the classic brand.  A tasty, smooth, well balanced stout that stacks up well with other craft versions.  Much bolder and full of flavor than a classic Guinness.  Surprising.  If you're going to drink a Guinness on St. Patrick's Day, this is the one to go for. 

My score: 91

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review: Oskar Blues Ten FIDY Imperial Stout

Oskar Blues Ten FIDY Imperial Stout
10.5% ABV
Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, CO
12 oz can
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Date on can: Canned on 9/28/12
Reviewed on 10/19/12 

This stout pours a thick inky black with a toasty brown head that keeps consistency.  Great lacing.  Good carbonation.

Smell has chocolate, coffee, malt, hops, licorice, caramel, slight oak, oatmeal, alcohol.

Taste has bold flavors of chocolate, malt, licorice, coffee, some raisin, some vanilla, some oats, alcohol.

Mouthfeel is dry with good, smooth creaminess on the palate.  Good balance of flavors.  A touch harsh on the back of the mouth.

Overall, this is a bold, flavorful stout with good persistent dryness and a bit of a hot kick.  Great tasting now, and probably quite interesting with some age.  It has a nice fresh appearance to boot.  Don't let the can fool you--this is powerhouse craft.

[Postscript: After working through a four-pack the last few months, Ten FIDY has become one of my favorite stouts.  It's even one of my favorite overall beers, as it's now #8 on my top ten list.] 

My score: 96

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Victory Storm King Imperial Stout

Victory Storm King Imperial Stout
9.1% ABV
Victory Brewing Co., Downington, PA
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Date on bottle: Best by 5/7/14
Reviewed on 2/19/12 (yes, 2012)

This stout pours dark and thick with a toasty brown head that quickly dissipates.  Some mild carbonation evident.

Smell consists of hops, slight caramel, malt. chocolate, coffee.

Taste has hops, coffee, hints of chocolate, slight oak, mild spice.

Mouthfeel is quite smooth, with a good thickness coming through.  After repeated tastes, a nice creamy texture develops on the palate.

Overall, this is a nice, tasty, bold imperial stout.  Its smoothness makes for a good easy drinking experience, even with the higher alcohol content.  Taste wise, this may not be as complex as some other stouts, but the tastes it has are bold and well done.

[Victory Storm King Imperial Stout has become one of my go-to stouts.  Inexpensive, tasty, and fairly easy to find, I find it to be one of the best values on the market.]

My score: 92

Monday, March 11, 2013

Review: Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout

Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout 
9.2% ABV
The Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, CA
22 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
No date on bottle
Reviewed on 3/2/13 

This stout pours a dark brown color with a frothy light beige head that has decent retention. Decent lacing.

Smell consists of coffee, chocolate, malt (even before you bring the glass to your nose).  Hints of dark fruit and some spice as well.

Taste consists of strong coffee and chocolate at the outset with a good hit of bitterness. Malt, mild hops, a definite coffee/espresso bean type flavor that sticks with you.  Like the smell, hints of dark fruit and spice.  A touch thinness here and there.

Mouthfeel has the strong coffee/espresso bean flavor that builds and sticks on your palate, almost like you've chewed on some coffee beans (or even some chocolate-coated ones, though the chocolate isn't as strong).  Good bitterness.

Overall, this is a bold tasting stout with strong coffee and chocolate flavors and some nice accompanying bitterness.  The effect on the palate is a bit rough at times, as it's almost like chewing on coffee beans.  Still, it's fairly tasty, even if a touch of thinness comes through here and there.

My score: 88

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Review: Boulevard Dark Truth Stout

Boulevard Dark Truth Stout
9.7% ABV
Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, MO
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Date on bottle: Best by 5/7/14
Reviewed on 10/10/12 

This stout pours a thick dark brown with a good frothy light brown head.  Lots of evident carbonation. Great lacing.

Smell consists of oatmeal, coffee, smoky, chocolate, alcohol, some spiciness, malt, some hops.

Taste has malt, oatmeal, coffee, chocolate, slight alcohol, some hops.

Mouthfeel is thick, dry, some hotness from the alcohol that penetrates.  Decent balance of flavors.  Some creamy texture.

Overall, this is a solid if somewhat hot tasting stout with some good dryness and a nice mix of flavors.  Has a good thickness that gives the feel of drinking something substantial.  Another good offering from Boulevard's Smokestack Series, even as it rates at the bottom of those that I've tried.  

My score: 90

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: Heavy Seas Peg Leg Imperial Stout

Heavy Seas Peg Leg Imperial Stout
8.0% ABV
Clipper City Brewing Co., Baltimore, MD
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Date notched on on bottle: May 2013
Reviewed on 2/28/13

This stout pours a thick dark brown color with a toasty beige head that retains well.  Some carbonation evident.  Decent lacing.

Smell consists of coffee, chocolate, malt, dark fruit, mild hops, slight alcohol.

Taste has coffee, malt, creamy chocolate, hints of dark fruit and maybe some hazelnut, mild hops, mild sugar, slight alcohol.

Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, some good grainy texture on the tongue.  Good strain of bitterness on the palate.

Overall, this is a decent tasting stout with prominent coffee and chocolate tastes.  The alcohol taste comes through at times, as do hints of dark fruit and some mild hops.  Not overly distinctive, but quite solid and tasty.  

My score: 89

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Brewery Tour Review - Baying Hound Aleworks

Brewery Tour Review
Baying Hound Aleworks
1108 Taft St  Rockville, MD 20850
(301) 637-9322
     One of the best ways to sample a brew is to go right for the source. Baying Hound Aleworks is a nano-brewery located in Rockville, Maryland. Walking in the front door, you realize they take their dogs seriously. At first I thought the barking was a type of door alarm to let them know we were there, but the warning, "He's friendly, he doesn't bite.", let me know the barks were real. A few sniffs later and the dog was perfectly at ease with us being there. When you go into the brewery there is a tasting bar where you can sit and drink some samples from their custom taps. They converted a barrel into a very nice tap system. The price is $5.00 for three samples and $8.00 for six. The hostess Jayna is very friendly and knowledgeable. My wife and I were given a tour of their brewery by the founder, Paul Rinehart. We were lucky in the fact that they were brewing a test batch as we were taking the tour. They were brewing a SMASH beer (Single Malt and Single Hop). This one happened to be an all rye beer, and I believe he said Cascade hops (I had just finished my 6 beer sampler please forgive me.) It was cool to see a brewery making a batch about the same size as I would make, 6 gallons. The typical batch they make is 35-40 gallons. Currently they have four 50 gallon fermenters and two 30 gallon(I believe) fermenters. Their beer is available locally at selected stores. Although the brewery is very small, as to be expected from a nano-brewery, the tour was very informative and Paul had no problem answering questions from anyone on the tour. Anyone interested in brewing can attend a homebrew class offered on premises. In two weeks they are having a small music festival at the brewery. They are having 13 bands over the entire weekend, impressive if you ask me. The event link is here. If you enjoy brewery tours, I would add this to your agenda.  It might be a little bit of a drive, but I feel it is well worth it. Tell Paul Mike from CSI homebrewers sent you. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Cleansing the Palate: Odds and Ends

Just cleaning out my notebook, brain, and perhaps even my palate of some miscellaneous items.

--Have you checked out Food Loves Beer magazine? Nice articles, great pictures, and free!

--Green Flash Palate Wrecker is back.  Very exciting!  My latest review of this exquisite beer is here.

--Troegs Nugget Nectar is back as well.  In my area, it runs about $12.99 a six pack (+9% tax, making it $14.16 total).  Two weeks ago, I was in Delaware and picked up a 6-pack for $10.99 + $0.24 total container tax, making it $11.23 total.

--Founders is in negotiations to begin distribution to Maryland (as well as Texas and Florida).  If this comes through, it'll be very exciting to not have to go out of state to purchase some excellent Founders beers.  As I understand it, Founders has been in discussions in previous years to distribute to Maryland and things haven't materialized.  Maybe '13 will be the lucky year. 

--A few quick scores on some previously sampled beers:

Oskar Blues G'Knight Imperial Red
Pint draft at the Frisco Tap House and Brewery, Columbia, MD, 9/1/12
Score: 91

Brewer's Alley Oatmeal Stout
Pint draft at the Brewer's Alley Restaurant and Brewery, Frederick, MD, 8/4/12
Score: 88

Rivertown Hop Bomber
Pint draft at the Brazenhead Irish Pub, Mason, OH, 6/21/12
Score: 88

--A note about scoring.  As you will see, Mike and I have different scoring.  Mike is using the BJCP scoring guidelines for his scores, which allows for a maximum raw score of 50.  So, for instance, his recent review of Crispin Prepare to Die scored a 40, which is 40 out of a possible 50.

As for me, I've always operated on a 1 to 100 scoring system, though it's only recently that I've adapted the BJCP scoring guidelines.  So, I'm adding up to the same raw score of 50, but I'm then multiplying by two.

Did I mention I'm a generous scorer?  I blame it on my love for beer.

--According to the journal I keep, I tried 206 different beers in 2012.