Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: Terrapin Hop Karma Brown IPA

Terrapin Hop Karma Brown IPA
6.0% ABV
Terrapin Beer Co.,Athens, GA
12 oz btl
Served in Duvel tulip glass
Date on bottle: Best by July 2013
Reviewed on 4/17/13

This IPA pours a cola-like brown color with a nice frothy beige head that has decent retention.  Moderate lacing.

Smell consists of hops, malt, chocolate, caramel, brown sugar, mild coffee, some spice, slight alcohol.

Taste consists of hops, malt, caramel, some breadiness, some chocolate, brown sugar, some dark fruit, slight burnt taste, a bit thin.

Mouthfeel is smooth yet somewhat earthy on the palate.  Good balance of flavors.  A slight thinness comes through in the middle.

Overall, as a brown ale that's mixed with an IPA, this comes across as fairly distinctive with some nice qualities of both styles.  The tastes are fairly good, though a certain thinness comes through in the middle that lessens the experience.  Fairly mild on the alcohol, and it feels like a beer that should have a bit more bite.  Still, a decent offering.

My score: 88

Friday, April 26, 2013

Review: Stone Enjoy By 04.01.13 IPA

Stone Enjoy By 04.01.13
9.4% ABV
The Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, San Diego County, CA
22 oz btl
Served in Duvel tulip glass
Reviewed on 3/9/13
Appearance: Pours an almost clear golden color with a slight tint of amber.  Quite lively with carbonation.  Has a slightly off-white head that has good retention.  Good lacing.
Smell: Hops, wood, citrus, some malt, floral, herbal, spices, slight pepper, slight breadiness.
Taste: Strong, dry hops, citrus notes particularly grapefruit and perhaps some orange, floral, herbal notes, some spice, some pepper.
Mouthfeel: Smooth and dry, accented by a touch of bitterness.  Flavors come together quite well.  The hops come off strong at the front, but they recede nicely and don't overwhelm.
Overall: Super hoppy and dry IPA that's quite fresh and tasty.  On the front, strong dry hops with citrus, floral, herbal, and some spice notes coming through.  The strongness, though, recedes nicely and doesn't blast the palate.  Quite distinct, and a quite nice IPA.  If you like hoppy IPAs and happen to catch any version of the "Enjoy By" series, grab it--it won't disappoint.

My score: 96

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: Ipswich Oatmeal Stout

Ipswich Oatmeal Stout
7.0% ABV
Mercury Brewing Company, Ipswich, MA
22 oz btl
Served in St. Bernardus chalice glass
Bottled on 9/28/12
Reviewed on 3/15/13

This stout pours a dark inky color with a bubbly toasty beige head that keeps good form.  Quite good lacing.

Smell has chocolate, oatmeal, coffee, malt, slight hops, slight caramel, mild milk, mild dark fruit.

Taste has bitter dark chocolate, coffee, malt, oatmeal, some hops, hints of raisin and perhaps cherry, mild alcohol.

Mouthfeel is smooth yet with some good bitter bite on the tongue.  Creaminess and even some dryness on the palate.

Overall, this is a quite solid tasting oatmeal stout with a nice bitter dark chocolate flavor and good notes of coffee and oatmeal.  Fairly complex with a touch of alcohol and some good smoothness and creaminess on the palate that's somewhat balanced by the bitterness and some dryness.  The shelf life on this is almost 6 months, but it's still quite good.  A nice discovery at a great price. 

My score: 95

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bell vs. Firestone Walker

The brewery: Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Location: Paso Robles, California
The main men: Adam Firestone and David Walker
Products of theirs you might know: Union Jack, Double Jack, Wookey Jack
What's that on the label: A lion and a bear, each looking like they're ready to fight, along with a couple of barrels on their sides 

What I Like 

The class of the beer industry 
Firestone Walker's branding and packaging are elegant and portray a mark of distinction and class. Sure, you can't judge a book by its cover. Once you crack one of their beers open and taste, you'll realize that their look goes along with what they are offering. These beers, while quite drinkable, make you want to savor them, much like a fine wine. Makes sense, since the owners have roots in the wine industry and the brwery is situated right in California wine country. If you want to blow away your wine-loving friends who are open to trying beer, bring some Firestone Walker to the party. 

Double Jack and Wookey Jack, two of my favorites and world class offerings, are relatively easy to find 
Pretty much all of my local stores that offer a decent craft beer selection carry one or both of these beers. Shelf life is another issue, addressed below as a dislike, but as far as availability goes for these beers, I have no complaints. 

Nice pricing in my area 
Twenty-two ounce bottles of Double Jack and Wookey Jack can be had for $6.99 or $7.99, and Walker's Reserve Porter can be had for $5.99. This bottle format can generally be pricey, for some reason, relative to standard four and six packs. For these three beers, relative to what other breweries are offering in terms of product and price in this format, the price is right.

More positives: Every beer of theirs I've tried I've really enjoyed. Nice glassware. 

What I Dislike 
Not enough variety of their products in my area 
On a regular basis, it's pretty much Union Jack, Double Jack, Wookey Jack, and Walker's Reserve Porter, with some irregulars such as §ucaba, Double DBA, and 16th Anniversary showing up recently. With the four regulars, that's a pretty good lineup, sure, but I'd like to see regulars DBA and Pale 31 and seasonals Solace and Velvet Merlin on the shelves. 

Parabola, their highly regarded Russian Imperial Stout, is impossible to find where I live 
I can appreciate a well regarded beer that's a limited release and disappears quickly, but it drives me to distraction that all efforts to find this beer at retailers have come to naught. Local retailers will post on Facebook that they have some available on a first come first serve basis, and a short time later their supply will be gone

Bottles that have been sitting on the shelf way too long 
Ok, this is likely not their fault, but it seems to be a consistent problem with beers from this brewery so I thought I'd bring it up. I've found Double Jack that was three and four months old and Wookey Jack that was almost six months old. These are two of my favorite beers--unfortunately, in these instances, their shelf life had me looking for alternatives. Also, Double DBA recently popped up at a local store, but the date on the bottle made it close to nine months old (probably ok for this beer, since it's ABV is high and it's packaged in a cardboard, but I'm still reticent to purchase beer known to have been around that long).

More negatives: More on available variety--where's a regular stout?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: 21st Amendment Marooned on Hog Island Oyster Stout

21st Amendment Marooned on Hog Island Oyster Stout
7.9% ABV
21st Amendment Brewing Co., San Francisco, CA
12 oz can
Served in Duvel tulip glass 
Date on can: 11/19/12
Reviewed on 3/29/13

This stout pours a dark brown color with a decent toasty beige head that has decent retention.  Decent lacing as well.

Smell consists of malt, milk chocolate, coffee, caramel, mild hops, cream, mild sugar.

Taste consists of coffee, chocolate, malt, caramel, mild salt, mild hops, some oatmeal.

Mouthfeel has good strands of dryness and bitterness on the palate.  Creamy and fairly smooth.

Overall, this is a nice tasting oyster stout that has good notes of coffee and chocolate and decently balanced in dryness and bitterness.  It has some notes of oyster and some saltiness to it, and some hints of oatmeal as well.  This one was purchased at a great discount, and for the taste it's a steal.  My first stab at a 21st Amendment beer.  So far, so good.

My score: 90

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review: Maine Beer Company Zoe

Maine Beer Company Zoe
7.2% ABV
Maine Beer Company, Portland, ME
16.9oz btl
Served in Duvel tulip glass
Date on bottle: 2/28/13
Reviewed on 3/30/13

This ale pours a dark amber color with a good bubbly light beige head.  Good lacing.  Decent carbonation evident.

Smell consists of hops, malt, brown sugar, caramel, biscuit, slight yeast, rye, floral notes, some spice, some pepper.

Taste consists of hops, rye, caramel, malt, bread, some yeast, spice, pepper, floral and herbal notes, mild dark fruit.

Mouthfeel is earthy and textured on the palate.  Well balanced with decent but not overwhelming strands of dryness and bitterness.

Overall, this is a nice tasting amber ale that has qualities of a rye and some of an IPA.  Quite hoppy with good mixes of brown sugar, biscuit, rye, and spices.  It sort of breaks the style or crosses the style--however you may look at it--which is a good thing to do as it provides a distinct flavor.  Maine Beer Company is new to my area and, judging by this beer, is a bit on the pricey side, which might be the main reason not to have this one regularly.  Good deep tastes come through after drinking more and it coming up to temperature (it becomes more and more like an IPA as this happens--fascinating!). 

My score: 94

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: Great Divide Orabelle

Great Divide Orabelle 
8.3% ABV
Great Divide Brewing Co., Denver, CO
12 oz btl
Served in Duvel tulip glass
Bottled on 12/12/12
Reviewed on 3/16/13

This ale pours a cloudy golden color with the slightest amber tint and a thin white head that quickly dissipates.  Mild lacing.

Smell consists of hops, wheat, some malt, some citrus, touch of spice, some herbal notes, some yeast, a touch sour.

Taste consists of hops, bread, malt, citrus, some yeast, orange and grapefruit, biscuit, hint of nutmeg, spices.  The taste is much more defined and pleasing than the smell.

Mouthfeel is fairly smooth on the palate.  Some dryness on the palate as well.

Overall, this is a mostly decent tasting Belgian style ale with some decent hops, bread/biscuit, and citrus notes (to be expected from this style of beer). The taste comes together much better than the initial smell, which has a touch of sourness to it that you wouldn't expect.  A decent beer, though there are better examples of the style. 

My score: 85

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review: Heavy Seas Below Decks Barleywine Style Ale

Heavy Seas Below Decks Barleywine Style Ale (2012)
10.0% ABV
Clipper City Brewing Co., Baltimore, MD
22 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Date notched on on bottle: March 2013
Reviewed on 2/9/13

This barleywine pours a dark brownish amber color, looking a bit like apple cider.  Has a light beige thin bubbly head that dissipates somewhat quickly.  Moderate lacing.

Smell consists of malt, sugar, nutmeg, some citrus, some cherry, cloves, mild hops, slight alcohol, slight apple cider.

Taste consists of malt, sugar, honey, nutmeg, alcohol, cherry, cough syrup, raisins, mild hops, slight burnt taste, hint of caramel.

Mouthfeel is earthy, uneven, not much carbonation, good dryness at the end.  Some alcohol harshness come through.

Overall, this is an interesting tasting barleywine that's a bit uneven.  Malty, sugary with dark fruit and a sometimes harsh alcohol taste, but accented with fall flavors such as nutmeg and cloves.  It would be interesting to see where this would go with some age.  Right now, it's interesting, not overwhelming.

My score: 86

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review: Smuttynose Robust Porter

Smuttynose Robust Porter
6.2% ABV
Smuttynose Brewing Co., Portsmouth, NH
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Reviewed on 8/31/12

This porter pours a thick, hearty cola-like brown with a thin beige head that quickly dissipates.  Good carbonation and lacing.

On the nose, aromas of coffee, malt, licorice, dark chocolate, toastiness, caramel. Taste has chocolate, malt, coffee, licorice, caramel, smokiness, toastiness, spices

Mouthfeel is smooth, creamy, spicy, with some bitterness and some dryness. A great balance of flavors come through on the palate.

Overall, this is a bold tasting, well balanced porter, worthy of being called "robust."  Smooth, full of flavor, with good but not overwhelming bitterness and dryness.  One of the better porters out there, particularly for the price.

Score: 92

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: Heavy Seas Winter Storm Category 5 Ale

Heavy Seas Winter Storm Category 5 Ale
7.5% ABV
Clipper City Brewing Co., Baltimore, MD
12 oz bottle
Served in Dogfish Head Signature Glass
Date notched on on bottle: March 2013
Reviewed on 12/4/12

This ESB pours a deep amber color with a good bubbly ivory-colored head.  Good carbonation evident. Quite good lacing.

Smell consists of malt, hops, some berry-like fruitiness, some sugariness, some spiciness.

Taste has malt, hops, some good, dry, almost wine-like fruity flavor, mild floral notes, deep biscuity taste.

Mouthfeel is earthy, dry, and bitter with a decent balance of flavors.  Nice chewy texture that gives it some substantialness.

Overall, this is a solid tasting ESB with a good earthy profile of flavors and nice kicks of dryness and bitterness.  Malty and hoppy, with a good dry chewy texture that goes directly for the palate.  A nice hearty brew for the winter season.

My score: 92

Monday, April 1, 2013

Review: Uinta Wyld Extra Pale Ale

Uinta Wyld Extra Pale Ale
4.0% ABV
Uinta Brewing Co., Salt Lake City, UT
12 oz btl 
Served in Duvel tulip glass
Date on bottle: Best before 4/14/13
Reviewed on 3/9/13

This pale ale pours a hazy golden color with a nice bubbly white head.  Good lacing.

Smell consists of hops, malt,wheat, some breadiness, some floral/herbal note, touch of citrus.

Taste consists of hops, malt, wheat, spiciness, some citrus, floral and herbal notes, slight burnt taste.

Mouthfeel is somewhat dry and bitter.  Fairly smooth with decent liveliness on the palate.

Overall, this is a decent tasting pale ale even if it's fairly mild.  Quite good taste for a beer that's relatively low in ABV.  Hops, malt, and wheat flavors work well together with some nice floral/herbal and citrus accents.  Sessionable. 

My score: 86