Sunday, May 8, 2011

Winter and then some

Hey everyone! Ok, enough of that, let's get drunk!

Saranac Season's Best Nut Brown Lager
5.30% ABV
The Matt Brewing Company
Vienna Lager

The name alone is a mouthful, but what about the beer? This is a nice dark brown/amber beer from one of my favorite lines, Saranac, brought to us by the Matt Brewing Company. The clean and crisp aroma on this bad boy is joined by some darker smells, mostly coffee and maybe a bit of sweetness (caramel?). The taste is a bit deceiving though... when I think of "nut brown" beers, I think of Leinenkugel's Nut Brown (probably my favorite winter beer...) and this beer, while a good try on Saranac's part, just doesn't cut it. It's a little bit nutty, but overall the malts do it in- far too malty for my taste which is a problem Saranac brand beers often have. The sweetness (caramel) and toastiness (coffee) are there, but the "nut" flavor is not.

While I'm a bit disappointed with this one, don't get me wrong- it's an excellent winter beer. Nice and dark in color with great carbonation, head, roasted flavor and aroma, this is an all around good brew.

Alpine Black IPA
6.00% ABV
Otter Creek Brewing Company/Wolaver's
American Black Ale

This is advertised (at least in name) as an Indian Pale Ale, but from the dark brown to boarder-line black color, this beer is anything but pale (and the asshole that works in the Title Department should get fired). The aroma (if you can make it through the head, anyways- tons of head on this one with good carbonation to boot) is a great mix between roasted malts and citrusy (grapefruit) hops, with a little bit of sweetness mixed in. The roasted smell transfers over to the taste, which is joined with some chocolate and coffee. The hops add to the sweetness of this all around good, creamy beer.

This one took me by surprise. I didn't know what to expect when I saw "Black" and "IPA" but now that I've given it a taste, I think it's a great combination. Drinking this brew is like drinking a chocolatey IPA- an excellent winter beer in my book.

Lagunitas IPA

6.20% ABV
Lagunitas Brewing Company
American IPA

For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the first Lagunitas beer I had, but ever since that first sip I've been hooked. I want to say it was raspberry or honey or something strange like that (I know it had a purple label - help me out in the comments if you know what I'm talking about), but I thought the beer, let alone the label, was unique and, more importantly, really fucking good.

Today I got my hands on the IPA- I've had the amazing Pale Ale, so I'm pretty excited for this beer. Light copper in color, this beer comes with a lot of head and even more hops. It has a sweet grapefruit/citrus/caramel smell with a strong malt aroma, stronger than most IPAs I've tried- the maltyness gives it a heavy, but sugary smell. Honestly, when I first got a whiff of this beer, my first thought was "Oh, it smells like Pop Rocks." The sweet taste is almost all hops/grapefruit with a very bitter back to it. This beer has a sweet smell and a sweet-to-bitter taste that I really enjoyed.

Old Scratch Amber Lager
5.50% ABV
Flying Dog Brewery
American Red/Amber Lager

This is the first beer I've tried from a brewery that I've heard a lot about. Located in Maryland, the Flying Dog Brewery is kind of like the hipster in the beer world (well, maybe that title goes to PBR, but FDB is a close second). From labels that grab your attention to funky names, this is a beer that everyone sees and goes "what the fuck? What is that?" I had to try it.

Being an American Amber Lager, the color on this brew is just what you would expect- neon green. The head doesn't stick around long, but the carbonation and flavor do. I couldn't get much of a smell out of this thing, some malt with maybe a bit of a metallic-nuttiness thrown in- bitter but also nutty, I guess. It has a strange bitterness to it, almost like the hops and malt work against each other. Not too sure how I feel about this one- it was good, but nothing really stood out for me. The after-taste is bready, which is different and I really enjoy the color. I'd have to say the best part of this beer (besides the 5.05% ABV) is the label...

I'm looking forward to trying more of these because this did not live up to the sweet label. Lame...

Winter Beers Galore

I'm not completely sure what my favorite part of drinking winter beer is, but the bump in the alcohol content probably has something to do with it. Today, I'll be reviewing four brews with a higher than usual alcohol content. I know, I live a hard life...

Blueberry Oatmeal Stout
7.5% ABV
Buffalo Bill's Brewery
American Double/Imperial Stout

This seems like one of the most appealing beers of all time. Of ALL. TIME. BLUEBERRY OATMEAL STOUT!? And it's 7.5% alcohol? Good Lord, who would make such a beer?

That's where Buffalo Bill's Brewery steps in.

BBB made one of, if not the best Pumpkin Ales that has ever been made (and not just that I've tasted... the beer was that good) and I couldn't wait to get my hands on another one of its craft beers. I saw this brew and couldn't resist- it just sounded too good. Unfortunately, I was a bit let down :(

It pours a really dark brown to almost black color, while the nose of this beer is almost all blueberry- it's funny really, there's not much else to the aroma but fruit and maybe a bit of malty roasted chocolate on the end. The taste, however, is pretty different from what I expected. Yes, this is an Imperial Stout and No, I didn't think it was going to taste like blueberry a whole bunch, but there was almost no blueberry taste at all. What a mindfuck, huh? It has an excellent maltyness to it and the chocolate from the nose is still there, but the blueberry is so timid it's almost not detectable.

Good carbonation, great smell (artificial but still appealing), great look, but average taste that was maybe even a bit flat. I thought for an Imperial it would be a bit heavier, and even more so because it's an OATMEAL STOUT. I wasn't completely let down with the beer in general, but after drinking something as good as BBB's Pumpkin Ale, I might think twice before buying another of their brews.

Christmas Ale
7.5% ABV
Great Lakes Brewing Company
Winter Warmer

I go by the belief that Great Lakes can do no wrong. They've never let me down with a beer... EVER, and I honestly mean that. From Lake Erie Monster to Nosferatu to Burning River Pale Ale, GL does beer right. It's one of my favorite breweries, if not my favorite, and its Christmas Ale is something I look forward to each winter. I'll explain why...

Firstly, like most of Great Lake's seasonals, this is a limited beer. It's available from the middle of November until the end of December and that's it. Not quite as limited as the Nosferatu (which is like two weeks at the most), but this is a brew that is tough to get your hands on. Next, this beer is full of flavor. The taste is an insane combination between chocolate (that's what I get, at least), honey, cinnamon, allspice and ginger. You can taste all of those ingredients in each sip, along with some great roasted malts and some hops (it's GL after all). Don't get me wrong though- this isn't necessarily a sweet beer. It has just enough sweetness and malt to it to be a successful winter warmer.

There's a lot of the honey and brown sugar along with some chocolatey malt in the nose, with a little bit more sweetness added in. The color of this brew is a clear brownish amber with a white head that doesn't stick around very long. This is a beer that I could drink over and over, which is why I got two six-packs instead of just one. If you have the chance, get this beer. If not, you're really missing out- get out there and find it you asshole!

Anchor Christmas Ale (2010)
5.50% ABV
Anchor Brewing Company
Winter Warmer

Anchor Brewing Company does a pretty neat thing every winter. Instead of coming out with the same old beer, they revamp their recipe and create an entire new festive brew. This years was great, definitely better than last years which I remember dumping down the drain for the most part... yuck.

At first, this beer is dark brown in color, but if held to the light, you can see that this beer has a reddish hue to it- pretty festive, eh? It's almost like if someone put a bit of red food coloring in a glass of Coca-cola. The smell and taste are neck and neck- heavy malt, cloves, nutmeg, borderline fruit (berries?) and cinnamon greet you with every sip- a great combination in my book. It has a bit of a bitter finish, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. After the sweet smell and initial taste, the bitterness is almost wanted. This is a very drinkable beer.

Would I buy this beer again? Yes. Do I have hope for a great 2011 edition of the Christmas Ale? Absolutely.

Dundee Festive Ale
6.20% ABV
Genesee Brewing Company
Winter Warmer

I love Dundee beers (Irish Red Lager is their best by far), so I was pretty excited to grab a six pack of this and go to town

This beer pours kind of a murky orange with not much head to it. The aroma is pretty good, caramel with toffee, but there's none of the spice from the other Winter Warmers I've tried- kind of strange. The flavor is just like the aroma; this is a sweet beer with a bumped up alcohol content and you can really taste that on the back end. Some spice shows up, but it's not very much.

Over all, I wasn't very impressed with this beer. I did try it on tap at a local bar, and I must say it was much better than the bottle (it always is, isn't it?). This is a beer I would suggest to people who are trying to get into drinking Winter Warmers, as it's pretty mild for the style.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

All I Got for Christmas is Beer

Instead of milk and cookies, I left a few of these beers out for Santa and I'm sure I'll be on the "Nice" list for the rest of my life.

Winter Witte
5.8% ABV

Ellicottville Brewing Company
Witbier w/ Coriander & Orange

EBC is one of my favorite breweries because they make some good (and sometimes weird) beers. The Blueberry Wheat and Nut Brown are fine and dandy, but the Black Jack Oatmeal Stout and the cleverly named Pantius Droppus (Imperial Pale Ale) are incredible. Don't get me started on the Chocolate Cherry Bomb...

This particular beer, the Winter Witte, I've never tried before so as you can imagine, I'm pretty excited. Here we go!

An almost headless, hazy golden beer when poured out, this baby is brewed with coriander and orange peel, and LORD can you tell. The aroma is full of hops and orange peel, but the taste is like no other beer I've ever tried before- winter or otherwise. The hops and orange are still present in the first sip, but the coriander completely takes over. I don't know if it's a mix between the orange/hops/coriander, but this beer takes on almost a vanilla flavor, creamy and smooth and out-of-this-world. I was a bit taken aback when I first drank it (the taste wasn't overpowering, but it was very unexpected), but now I love it and it's a the top of my holiday favorites list.

It has a good balance of wheat malts and citrusy hops, but the way the beer feels in your mouth is pretty strange. It has a kick to it, almost like some of that zestiness from the orange and coriander came over into the carbonation. It's another interesting aspect to an extraordinary brew.

Old Man Winter Ale
7.2% ABV
Southern Tier Brewing Company
Old Ale

Southern Tier is in the same boat as EBC in my opinion. Great beers that never disappoint, ST has brought us gems like Hop Sun (Summer Wheat), Raspberry Wheat a great IPA and, my personal favorite, Phin and Matt's.

But today, we have the breweries take on a winter ale, and it sounds promising. Southern Tier describes this beer as a "Liquid Winter Wonderland" and they're right on the mark. They go on to say:

With the onset of winter, the brewer’s mind turns to providing warmth. For our winter seasonal, we offer a rich and complex amalgam of hops and barley that will put the feeling back in your toes and lift your spirits above the snow. OMW throws a deep and inviting hue with a thickness that clings to the glass and the warmth of an open flame. Because of its high alcohol content, Old Man is a heady brew that encourages sipping and pondering its essential richness. Drink it fresh now, or cellar a few bottles to see how this old man becomes wiser with age.

A light brown/amber/gold in color, this 7.2% ABV (Yeah, I can't believe it either) old ale is perfect for winter. It has a nice toasted malt aroma with a little bit of sweetness (toffee/caramel). The toasty malts jump over into the taste, making this a pretty heavy, dark beer. I like the hops that show up at the end, mixing with the sweetness of the malt- the flavor really sticks around in your mouth. It has a little bit of fruitiness to it (the hop/malt mix would be my guess), kind of like a raisin meeting an orange(?). I'm not sure exactly what spices went into this brew, but it's got a bit of that as well- cinnamon for sure. If you're snowed in like I am right now, it's a great beer to have on hand.

You might be asking, where is that 7.2% alcohol I've been hearing so much about. The answer: all on the back end. Wow. I almost need a chaser for this bad boy. If there were only two words to describe this beer, they would be "malt" and "alcohol".

Prima Pils
5.3% ABV
Victory Brewing Company
German Pilsener

Victory and I have a long running history with each other- and not a good one. When I first turned 21 and could drink legally, a local bar had a contest of sorts. They gave out punch-cards with 20 different beers on them- if you get all the holes punched, you get a free shirt and a $20 bar tab. Naturally, my friends and I wanted to be in on this. So the weeks passed and the holes started adding up until we only had three beers left to drink. Two were Samuel Smiths and one was Victory. All were horrible (this was when I first started drinking actual beers, not just Keystone). The last one I drank was the Victory ESB which, if you haven't had it, is an extremely intense and bitter brew (ESB- Extra Special/Strong Bitter). It was horrible... but I got that fuckin shirt.

I've grown to like Victory beers though, and this one I was excited to try because I really like V's HopDevil Ale and I figured this one would be pretty similar.

A light-golden in color (it's a pilsener) with a quickly vanishing head, this brew has the aroma of mild hops and malt, which is maybe just a bit too strong (again, it's a pilsener). The smell transfers over to the taste just like I expected it to, nice and malty with strong hops on the back end. It's a perfect example of a pilsener: clean and refreshing hops with malt cut into it. Not much else to say about this guy, other than I'd drink it again.

Fire Rock
5.80% ABV
Kona Brewing Company
American Pale Ale

In my last post, I drank a beer from the Kona Brewing Company that had passion fruit in it, and while it wasn't that great, I wanted to see what else this brewery has to offer. Well son of a bitch, I found another one and from what I hear, it's fucking awesome.

A nice amber/copper color with a pretty minimal head, this beer smells like straight up citrus hops and caramel malt. The taste is pretty unique, and I can see why people rave about this particular beer. It's sweet, hoppy, a little bitter (maybe even metallic) from the malts, but there's something on the backend that I can't really describe- kind of like caramel and toasted malt but that's not it and I still can't quite figure out what it is (I could drink 100 of these and not figure it out, I imagine). A great beer, I would drink this again and again.

I think the name of this beer had me a bit confused. I understand that the brewery is in Hawaii and fire rock/lava/hawaii ha-ha, but where does the fire come in on this beer? It has a bit of fire in the roasted malt flavor I guess, but I was expecting something different I suppose. I'm not saying this is a bad beer, but the name is nothing like the taste. I need to try more beers from this brewery.

5.8% seems pretty high for a pale ale, maybe that's the fire?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Winter Beers: A Look So Far

I took a bit of a hiatus from this blog to focus on other stuff (namely, finding a fucking decent job and putting in some work with the movie blog I write), but now I'm back and promise to update at least once a week.

I want to make something perfectly clear: I DIDN'T STOP DRINKING. I just stopped WRITING ABOUT DRINKING. A new season is upon us, with a ton of excellent beers, and I'll be sure to share as many as I can with you. I'm also trying a new format so I can write less. Writing less = drinking more. Let's begin!

Wailau Wheat
5.40% ABV
Kona Brewing Co.
Passion Fruit Wheat Ale

Passion fruit would be a good idea for a fruit smoothie or flavored vodka, but is it really something you want to add to a beer? Let's find out!

This is a limited release wheat ale, brewed by the Kona Brewing Company, and it's described as:

Wailua is Hawaiian for two fresh water streams mingling. This was just the inspiration we needed for our limited release wheat ale brewed with tropical passion fruit. A refreshing, citrusy, sun-colored ale with the cool taste of Hawaii.

First of all, when I think of the "taste of Hawaii" the first thing that comes to mind is lava, quickly followed by pineapple. But passion fruit? This brew, while not quite "sun-colored" is a clear, light gold in color (it legit looks just like apple juice to be honest with you). The smell is just what you would think a beer with passion fruit brewed into it would smell like: passion fruit. The initial smell is also joined by some hops, but the fruitiness is what holds most of the aroma- I think the hop/passion fruit mix gave it a nice grapefruit smell as well... pretty pleasant. The taste is extremely fruity and sweet, maybe too much for my liking, although I did find that the more I drank the less "fruity" tasting it became.

The two main things I found wrong with this beer was the intense fruit taste right up front, and the almost complete lack of carbonation- this was a very watery beer. It was an enjoyable brew and a nice change of pace, but I'm not sure I would drink it again as I'm not really looking for a sweet, fruit taste when I drink a brew.

I would recommend this beer to anyone looking to try something really different, or someone who wants a beer but isn't a huge beer drinker- a mixed drink person, if you will. I'd really like to try other beers from this particular brewery, so I'll keep my eyes peeled.

5.5% ABV

Hardcore Cider Company (Boston Beer Company - Sam Adams)
Hard Cider

This is basically Sam Adams' take on the alcoholic beverage that we all know and love: hard cider. I'm a big hard cider fan- from Woodchuck to Hornsby's to Strongbow, I love boozy ciders!

Light-pale to golden in color, it looks like carbonated apple juice. The smell is fantastic, apples with a little bit of malt added in. The taste is just what I expected from the smell- very sweet, like apple juice, with a malt kick to it. Great carbonation in this cider, it's not very watery like other hard cider's I've had in the past. There's a slight alcohol kick to it, but it's pretty much undetectable after the first drink- at 5.5%, this could be a very dangerous drink.

Alta Gracia Coffee Porter
Otter Creek Brewing Co/Wolaver's
American Porter with Coffee (!!?)

First off, I don't like to drink straight coffee. I have no idea why I drank this beer- it was probably because I wanted to see what the hell a coffee beer tasted like. Turns out... not bad, actually.

Wolaver's is a branch of the Otter Creek Brewing Company (the Copper Ale and Pale Ale are great), except instead of normal beer, Wolaver's is usually certified organic. I've had quite a few organic/gluten free (Red Bridge) beers, and to me there really isn't much of a difference in taste. Wolaver's has a great Oatmeal Stout and an even better Pale Ale- definitely worth trying if you ever get the chance.

Anyways, on to the Coffee Porter.

The color on this thing makes Guinness look like a pale ale; this is one dark beer. Black in color with maybe a bit of chocolate dark brown and red thrown into the mix when held to the light, it has brownish head to it. The smell is amazing- pure roasted coffee with not much else, maybe a bit of hops and mocha to it. I'm not sure if the roasted aroma is from malt or the coffee beans, but it is heavy. The taste is... wow. This is beer? Almost no alcohol taste to it, just pure, sweet coffee. Nice toastiness to it with the rich taste of coffee, just like the aroma. I taste a bit of toffee in it as well

Besides the whole coffee flavor gimmick, I really enjoyed what Wolaver's did with this brew. Great carbonation, great color and smell, even better taste... this is hands down one of the best beers I've had this winter. The coffee, while a bit overpowering, is great and makes this beer stand out. I don't think I would want to have many of these in one sitting, as the flavor would get a bit stale- this is one of those beers to have over dinner or in front of the fire. A great winter porter.

Dundee Festive Ale
6.20% ABV
Dundee Brewing Company
Winter Warmer

Dundee Brewing Company is pretty awesome. The Stout and Irish Red Lager are probably its best two beers, but the Summer Wheat and India Pale Ale are right up there with them. I feel like Dundee is one of those breweries that isn't given credit for making a great product and people maybe tend to pass over it, which is a shame.

Anyways, on to the beer!

The color on this is how a winter beer should be- a brownish, dark copper with a white head to it. It has a malty smell, but is surprisingly sweet. A little bit of cinnamon adds to the aroma and caramel blends in as well. The taste is similar to the smell, but a lot more malty and full of carbonation. A blend of spices mix with a slight hint of orange and maybe some clove. A roasted... I don't know, maybe wood (?) flavor is on the back end along with some bread and dark fruit hints (this has to be the hops). In the end, this beer is dominated by the hops, but the spice makes a nice cut to that.

This beer is all over the place with flavor, which is in no way a bad thing. A nice winter beer for sure, I would drink more than a few of these if given the opportunity.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Even MORE Oktoberfest!

I have a few more Oktoberfest/Fall brews in store for you guys, all of which were pretty good, but above all else, were very different from any other beer I've reviewed so far.

To start off, I poured out a glass of Hofbrau Oktoberfest brew from the Hofbrau Munchen brewery. It's a 6.3% ABV Marzen/Oktoberfest style lager and is pretty damn tasty. I've never had any of this particular brew houses beer, except for the fantastic 5.5% Hofbrau Dunkel. The Dunkel has a sweet caramel-apple taste with a bit of bitterness on the back; just great.

The Oktoberfest is a very light, golden colored beer with a good, strong smell. It has the aroma of grain and sweetness, with is probably from the hops (a hint of cornbeard as well?), and a distinct skunkyness. The second I smelled this, I thought to myself  "St. Paulie Girl" and the taste only confirmed that: this shit tastes just like a St. Paulie Girl. And not that that's a bad thing, I happen to enjoy that beer.

The taste on this beer is kind of a sweet pilsner- certainly nothing like any Oktoberfest I've ever had before (I wouldn't qualify it as an Oktoberfest at all). It's sweet, with some bready notes and a decent amount of hops- just like a St. Paulie Girl but a decent bit less skunky and more... boozy? There's a decent taste of alcohol on the end, which, at 6.3% ABV, isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Moving on, this next beer comes from one of my favorite breweries, the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company. From the Sunset Wheat (4.9% ABV and it tastes like fucking Trix cereal) to 1888 Bock (5.1% ABV Bock beer) this is one beer company that knows what they're doing.

Today I'll be trying their Oktoberfest brew, another great Marzen style beverage. The color on this is just like most of the other Oktoberfest brews I've had, medium dark with a nice chestnut color, even slightly red. It has a great aroma, a roasted-nut scent with some sweetness added in. The taste is more of the nuttiness, with some caramel and malt mixed in. It has a mild taste but the malts a nice and strong. This stands out from other autumn/marzen/oktoberfest beers in the nut taste- it reminds me of another great Leinenkugel brew, the Fireside Nut Brown.

Next is the Steven's Point Octoberfest. Steven's Point, a brewery out of, offers up some fantastic beers. From the Horizon Wheat (Excellent wheat brew comparable to Shock Top) to the Belgian White (Think Blue Moon, but better), I would recommend them all... which is pretty convenient because they offer beer drinkers a 12 pack featuring six of their most well known brews.

I first tried this beer on draft at a local bar and didn't much care for it. However, as I've previously discovered, sometimes beer doesn't taste as good on draft as it does in the bottle, and vice-versa- I figured I'd give the bottled kind a shot.

This beer, coming in a 5.15% ABV, is a pale orange/brown in color with a great smell. As soon as I opened the bottle, I was hit with the strong aroma of malt. There's also a bit more to the scent, caramel and some slight hops, but more than anything is the malt. The taste of this beer is similar to the nose, but has a lot more in store. Obviously it's pretty damn malty, but there is some nuttiness to it (two beers in one review that a nutty, but none prior? strange), especially on the back. You also get some decent hops on the end, but the malt is what this beer is all about- caramel malt with roasted malt. The one thing I don't like about this one is the dryness- it's really fucking dry, to the point where I could have drank all six of these and still been thirsty...

The last beer I'll be reviewing today is the Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale. Whew** that was a long name, huh? I bought this 22 oz bad boy about a week ago and had been saving it- not for a special occasion or anything, but because I wasn't really in the mood for a super hoppy beer. Let me tell ya... "super hoppy" doesn't even begin to describe this ale.

As you may already know by now, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company likes its hops. A LOT. So when I saw this beer, advertised as a "fresh hop ale" all I could think was "oh shit, here we go." The smell on this thing is incredible- just straight hops. American IPA by nature, it has the aroma of floral hops and even more floral hops. The color is very appealing, a cloudy copper with a bit of orange thrown into the mix.

The taste was pretty amazing. It reminded me of some of my favorite beers, Saranac IPA, Great Lakes Burning River and, of course, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Floral hops with grapefruit, some sweet caramel (not all that malty but I won't say the taste isn't there) some pine. A lot of reviews on say it's not very hoppy and they wish for a more dynamic beer, but in my opinion this is superb.

At 6.7% ABV, this is one beer you must try, hop fan or not.

So there you have it. Some pretty good beers today, none too awesome, but I wouldn't turn a single one of these down. Stay tuned for some more Oktoberfest/Autumn beers, but don't forget... winter is right around the corner.

Hofbrau 6.5/10
Leinenkugel 7/10
Steven's Point 6/10
Sierra Nevada 7.5/10

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


A recent night out (filled with Mexican food and margaritas), along with a trip to Consumer Beverages, resulted in some glorious adult beverage finds. I stumbled across one beer that I've been dying to try for some time now and another that... all I can say is "WOW"

First, I've got a beer that 1.) I've never heard of before, and 2.) I almost shit myself when I saw the bottle. From the Shmaltz Brewing Company, we've got the Coney Island Freaktoberfest. When I first spied this gem, I thought to myself "Wow, that looks like if the video game CarnEvil was a beer." The bottle label has this ridiculous circus freakshow style gentleman, zombied out and surrounded by strange colors; It was a must buy, especially at 6.66% ABV. The label, among other things, says:

This is not an Oktoberfest... This is Freaktoberfest. Arise and take possession of this bewitching offering of the season. Crafted to lure your spirit's deepest rapture. Conjured to exorcise the grim horrors of the armies of the soulless drafts everywhere.

When I poured this beer out, I nearly lost my fucking mind. It was almost funny- this beer is red? THIS. BEER. IS. RED. What the hell? The last thing I expected from the pour was a different color than the normal deep brown/amber that I'm used to with previous Oktoberfest beers. Amazing. Even the head has a red tinge to it, a reddish/pink foam sits on top of this red- it's red!- beer. It has a mild aroma, nice and fruity with some deep malt mixed with ever so slight hops. It has a nice carbonation to it with a strong lager taste- fruity and dry, nice hops on the back with something... grapefruit with some (eventually) strong wheat flavor on the end? To be totally honest, it kind of has a taste of those red wax lip candies you got at Halloween time, you know the ones I mean.

Extremely freaky, this unique beer is an Oktoberfest at heart and was everything I dreamed it could be and more. I would warn you, though- it's a bit on the boozy side. Simply incredible, but rather gimmicky... which I'm totally fine with!

The next beer, the one I've been interested in since I heard of it a few months back, comes from the Erie Brewing Company and, if you've been following the-booze-blog (doubtful), you'll know just what beer I'm talking about. The Derailed Black Cherry Ale, at 5.5% ABV, is the Sam Adams Cherry Wheat done right.

The look of this beer doesn't really give much a way in terms of taste. A lighter brown/amber color, the aroma and taste are what really make this thing special. The smell is nothing but cherries, really. Not fresh cherries, certainly a cherry extract of some kind (cherry pie filling), but very appealing.

If there is one word to describe this beer, it's this: super fucking good. You immediately taste the cherry, with some slight hops on the back. It's not overly sweet like the Sam's Cherry Wheat- it's the perfect amount of sweet and hoppy. My friend Sean said it best "It's a beer that somehow gets sweeter with each drink."

In my opinion, this is the type of beer that I would give to someone who doesn't like beer- more of a "mixed drink" person, if you will. It's nice and sweet, tastes good, and doesn't really taste much like beer at all. This is one of the best craft beers I've ever tasted, and certainly the best cherry flavored drink (not just beer) I've had to date.

Next I gave the Octoberfest from Harpoon Brewery a try. Harpoon, a nice craft beer brewery that offers beers like the Harpoon IPA (5.9% ABV hoppy India Pale Ale) and delicious Harpoon Belgian Pale Ale (5.8% ABV Pale Ale with notes of fruit). Harpoon is also responsible for the line of UFO Beers, which are gaurnteed to give you a raging boner... really, that good. Harpoon describes the Octoberfest as:

Harpoon Octoberfest features a malty, full-bodied taste and deep garnet-red color. We brew this Marzen-style beer with festivals in mind. Celebrate with us. Prosit!

At 5.5% ABV, I don't really see the "deep garnet-red color," it's really more of a medium brown (maybe some orange?) with good clarity to it. It has a real nice smell, honey with wheat and a decent amount of malt- the taste was just as much. It's a pretty average beer, almost watery and dry on the end. It certainly wasn't my favorite Octoberfest brew to date.

Last but not least, I spied this unique looking autumn beer with on a drunken food run a few nights back and absolutely had to buy it. Shipyard Brewing Company, with one of the coolest label designs I've seen on a beer, brings us the monumentally tasty Pumpkinhead Ale.

Shipyard Brewing Co. offers up some pretty good brews, Export Ale being one of the best.

At 4.5% ABV, this pumpkin ale is extremely good. Medium-golden in color, it has a great sweet, crisp smell with hints of cinnamon and spice. The taste is very similar, but the back-end is full of cinnamon and apple. Wheat is present in both taste and smell, but isn't overpowering- that is where the sweetness comes in. A bit dry on the back, the overall feel of this beer is: cinnamon and pumpkin.

I have to admit, this is one of my favorite Pumpkin flavored beers- top 5 for sure. I like the cinnamon and nutmeg flavors and the nice hint of apple on the back. A bit watery, but otherwise a great beer.

Freaktoberfest 8/10
Derailed Black Cherry Ale 8/10
Harpoon Octoberfest 5/10
Pumpkinhead Ale 7/10

Friday, September 24, 2010

Random Bar Night!

I went out for wings and beer a few nights ago and tried some pretty good brews while I was out and about.

We hit up our usual spot, Dwyer's Irish Pub, for some 25cent wings and any random cheap-ass draft specials they might have had. I went with 15 of the epic Zesty Garlic wings and paired it with an Ithica Beer Company Apricot Wheat- what a terrific combination that was.

Almost a perfect yellow in color, the smell on this brew was amazing. Certainly apricot right up front, you could smell a bit of hops and... well, just great sweetness. Ithica describes the beer as:

Our easy-drinking wheat beer is light in color and body... perfect for those looking for a lighter taste. The combination of wheat and barley gives Apricot What a different malt character than our other ales. The hint of apricot gives this beer a pleasant nose and fruity finish.

The taste on this bad boy was exactly like the smell, extremely sweet with a bit of hops on the back. The apricot was very flavorful, right up front instead of on the tail end like a Magic Hat #9. At 4.9% ABV, this is one beer anyone can enjoy.

Ithica is responsible for a few really great brews, Nut Brown, Pale Ale and Ground Break among the best. I first encountered the Ground Break at a local beer store. I bought a growler of it and it was empty in a few short hours- that good. It's usually a spring seasonal, hoppy and extremely sweet and crisp.

Next on the list, I grabbed a cheapy bottle of the Anchor Summer Ale (with the arrival of the fall season, bars are dropping their summer beer for real cheap... and I'm there to pick it all up!). The Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco was given us a great line of beers, from the constantly changing Christmas Ale to the Liberty Ale (6% ABV American Pale Ale that is crisp and hoppy).

The 4.6% ABV Summer Ale was pretty tasty, if not a bit on the hoppy side. It had a unique maltyness to it- clearly a light beer but the texture and taste were heavy and deep. It has an almost sour note on the end, maybe something with the wheat- I enjoyed it though, very different. It has a nice hoppy aroma with a bit of lemon to it, which transferred nicely over to the taste. Brewed as an American Pale Wheat Ale, it's truly a beer worthy of a "summer" title- thirst quenching and crisp in taste, I could drink these all day long.

Anchor has kind of a cult following, like hipsters have with Pabst Blue Ribbon, and I can see why. Some people drink this beer not because they like it, but because of the cost and the status factor. That shit is just dumb. Drink beer because it's good, not because you'll look trendy doing it...

Marking the first day of fall on Wednesday, I just had to drink a fall style brew... and what better beer to drink than a Pumking Pumpkin Ale from our friends at the Southern Tier Brewing Company. At a hefty 9% ABV, this is a serious autumn pumpkin ale.

I've only seen this particular beer three ways: on tap at a local pub, in 22oz bottles, or straight from the brewery in a half gallon growler. Light orange in color, this looks like one delicious beer. The smell is pretty much all pumpkin and spice (nutmeg and a bit of sweet cinnamon) with slight notes of hops. The taste is exactly like the smell, hoppy and spicy with sweet pumpkin and cinnamon. Not overly sweet or hoppy, my main problem with it is the strong boozy taste at the end... it is 9% but still.

The way I first had this brew was on tap at a random bar a few years back. It was served in a regular pint glass, but the bartender coated the rim with ground cinnamon and sugar. It was a very neat concept and the same way I drank it last night. The cinnamon rim adds to the sweetness and, in my opinion, makes the beer that much more special (and fun to drink).

Quite a range of beers for a night out, I definitely enjoyed everything that I drank... maybe a little too much. I'm off to nurse this hangover. So long and keep up the good drinking.

Ithica Apricot Wheat 8/10
Anchor Summer Ale 7/10
ST Pumking 8.5/10

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sam Adams!

I'm not a fan of Samuel Adams. They have a few beers that I enjoy (Noble Pils, Cherry Wheat, Imperial Stout), but other than that...

I decided to go against my better judgment and scoop up the Samuel Adams Harvest Collection, the breweries fall variety 12 pack with six, yes SIX, different beers in it. I have to admit, I'm impressed that they would offer a 12 pack of beer with six beers in it- it's a great sampler and a great way to try out what the Boston brew house has to offer.

The two beers that I'm really looking forward to trying side-by-side is the Octoberfest and the Harvest Pumpkin Ale, a Harvest Collection exclusive. That's right, friends... you can only get this bad boy if you by the variety pack. Note: this was a major deciding factor in the purchase of this 12er; I just had to try it, and if I have to buy a ton of beers I don't want, then so be it, dammit!

Ok, so I've already tried the Octoberfest (it rated 2/10 in my book) but I've decided to give it another shot... you know, in case I had a bad batch or something. My real interest is in the Harvest Pumpkin Ale, and right off the bat I'd say it looks pretty good.

Lined up next to each other, you can definitely see the difference in the two brews. The Pumpkin Ale is a very dark amber (ruby almost), while the Octoberfest has a hue leaning to the orange side- still dark, but the ale wins. While each has a great color, the obvious winner in aroma is the Pumpkin Ale- light, sweet pumpkin/spice while Octoberfest has a hard, malty sweetness to it. In taste, the Pumpkin is very sweet and spiced, with a distinct maltyness to it with some slight hops on the end. In my opinion, it's a better version of a Sam's Octoberfest- malty with a large addition of spice to it. I would have to say it's a very drinkable beer, I wouldn't mind bothering my local bartender for a few of these on a given night.

The Pumpkin Ale, at 5.7% ABV, is the clear winner here over the 5.3% Octoberfest. Sweeter and better drink-ability is what makes this Harvest Collection exclusive brew worth buying the fucking Harvest Collection in the first place.

After the two autumn brews, I poured up another good seasonal, the Irish Red. With color similar to the Octoberfest, this 5.5% ABV ale has a clear, deep red color to it- dark but not overly so. It has a roasted malt smell to it, on the sweet side but the sweetness is pretty subtle (molasses?). It tastes very similar to how it smells, but exceptionally better. I have to admit, I was surprised at how good this brew tasted. The carbonation was pretty strong, but the flavors you get from the beer are delicious: sweet with some bitterness, a nice roasted caramel flavor with that brown sugar/molasses, finishing up with some hops.
While the hops are not a prominent part in the taste of this beer, I feel that they really make it in the end, a good cut to the roasted sweetness. This is a beer I would seriously consider buying in bulk, it's that tasty. The only downside is the strange aftertaste, although I have a theory that you get this with ALL Sam's beers... must be the Bean-town water or something?

Next we have a beer that belongs in the "why the fuck is this in here?" category: the Black Lager. Schwarzbier in style, this 4.9% ABV lager is, well, pretty fucking black. Not quite Guinness black, but pretty dark. Holding it up to the light, you can get a nice purple/red/brown hue, but only if you get the light right on the damn glass. It has a great smell to it, roasted coffee and sweet toasted malt- not a bad smell in the least.

The taste is (again) surprisingly great. Very malty, with a nice roasted chocolate sweetness to it. The hops on the end give it a nice finish, but I can't help but think that this is a dry tasting beer- not necessarily a bad thing, but it kind of leaves me wanting more from it. It's a very creamy, smoky, drinkable beer and I must say that I quite enjoyed this Sam's. I'll add it to my list of beers that don't suck.

Up next was the breweries staple, the Boston Lager. I've never been a fan of this particular beer, and today is no different. A 4.75% ABV Vienna style lager (Dos Equis is also a Vienna lager), Boston Lager is light copper in color with the aroma of (noble) hops and a bit of sweetness (caramel?). Good smell and look... but that's where the goodness ends for me. I don't like the taste whatsoever- the bitterness, while not overpowering, is still there and considerably noticeable. The hops are nice, but I just can't get away from the bitterness.

Last but not least, we come to the Dunkelweizen (Dogfish Head Grau Dunkel is one of my favorite dunkelweizen style beers, or overall beers for that matter. Try it!). Dunkelweizen are pretty much just a darker version of a Hefeweizen (high malt, low bitterness), but the smell and taste is drastically different- a lot have aromas of clove and fruit, the main fruit smell being banana! This is a pretty attractive looking beer (can't wait to drink it)- it's a cloudy brown/amber with the aroma of, you guessed it, spice and banana. There's also a little bit of citrus in the smell and something I can only describe as bubblegum- very sweet and sugary smell. The taste is actually pretty incredible- leaning towards the sweet side, the citrus and banana are right up front. It's a bit malty with some caramel on the back, a bit "thin" from other dunkelweizen's I've tried in the past. Still, very good in my book.

So the beers I tried today, while not coming from my favorite brewery, were actually pretty good. My main problem with Sam Adams is the fact that they are a large scale, mass producing brewery... but claim to be a craft brewery. This simply isn't the case. While they do have a couple of beers I enjoy, and, more importantly, would actually buy at a bar, the majority of their stuff just isn't that good. If you're a Sam's fan, I recommend buying this 12 pack. If you're not, I'd still recommend it because you get to try and nice smorgasbord of beers, some of which are actually pretty damn good.

Pumpkin Ale 7/10
Octoberfest 4/10 (changed my mind a bit on this one, it's not a 2, but not a 5 either)
Irish Red 7.5/10
Black Lager 6.5/10
Boston Lager 4/10
Dunkelweizen 7/10

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pennsylvania Invasion!

Today I'll be trying beers from the Erie (PA) Brewing Company, Troegs Brewing Company, Great Lakes Brewing Co., and... well, this last one is a surprise! ...and not a very good surprise.

Starting things off, we've got a brew from the Erie Brewing Company, out of Erie, Pennsylvania. They offer up a great 6.8% ABV malty brew called Railbender Ale, which from the looks of the bottle's label, the beer is brewed on a train. Known for delicious brews like the Derailed Black Cherry Ale (5% ABV cream ale with a cherry back to it) and (I kid you not) the Hard Cock Ale (6.8% ABV American Pale Ale).

This Scottish style ale is has a very sweet taste up front, a nice malt kick in the back and a great dark red/brown color. It has a nice smell to it, kind of sweet and malty- for sure unique to this beer. It's also one of the only brews I've ever seen with virtually no head at all- it was gone seconds after the pour. As for flavors, the malt was a bit strong, but you can manage to taste raisins, toffee and a nice smoky bit of caramel. This is a fantastic beer that I could drink all night long.

Let's move on to the OTHER Pennsylvanian brewery on today's menu, Troegs.

Troegs Brewing Company out of Harrisburg offers a variety of brews, from the Rugged Trail Ale (4.4% ABV nut brown ale with chocolate hints!) to the boner inducing Mad Elf Ale, an 11% ABV winter seasonal that combines chocolate, cherry and honey. In all seriousness, Mad Elf Ale is amazing and I can NOT wait to drink it again.

Today, I'll be trying the HopBack Amber Ale from Troegs. Described as the breweries "flagship" beer, this brew has an interesting story behind it.

HopBack Amber Ale derives its name from a vessel in the brewhouse called a hopback. As the "wort" is being transferred from the brewhouse to fermentation it passes through the hopback vessel. Packed full of fresh whole flower hops, the wort (liquid extracted from the mashing process during brewing) slowly circulates through this vessel extracting the essence of the aromatic hops. This vessel adds more time and more hop character that creates a fresh, spicy taste and rich caramel not that defines this signature ale.

A 6% ABV ale, HopBack has a great cloudy amber/red color to it. It's strange, when I first smelled this beer the one word that came to me was "clean". No idea why. Besides the cool color, HopBack has a nice sweet smell, kind of citrusy/hoppy with pine notes. A great malt/hop combo taste, it has some very floral hops when it all comes down to it. A bit creamy with some spice, but not too much- I've never tasted an ale quite like this before. I did notice that it's pretty dry- after my first sip, I needed another one right away, and this time me being a drunk had little to do with it. A very crisp and refreshing beer, but not as hoppy as I had expected.

Moving on, Great Lakes, as usual, has another great beer to try: Holy Moses White Ale. I can never get enough of this breweries beer, so, seeing as I never tried this one before, I was pretty excited. GL describes the beer as:

A handcrafted White Ale with spices and chamomile. Named after Cleveland's founding father Moses Cleaveland, our with ale has a cloudy appearance and a spicy citrus flavor with hints of coriander, orange peel and chamomile.

Witbier in style, this brew offers up an impressive 5.4% ABV. Cloudy yellow in color, I would compare this to the Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse I had a few weeks back. The aroma on this one is interesting, sweet with scents of citrus (orange more than lemon) and spice (clove? or is that the chamomile?). The taste is just like the smell, citrusy with a nice spice kick to it and a distinct tartness upfront. Of course, being a Great Lakes beer, there is a certain hoppyness to it, but not as intense as other GL brews.

If I had to describe this beer in one word, it would be: refreshing. A nice seasonal Belgian style witbier, I would recommend it to the Belgian brew style fans or anyone looking to cool the fuck down on a hot day. Tasty!

And my surprise beer IS... Brava! The beer of the summer!

Ugh. The story behind this regretful purchase is: my old man and I went to some Canadian casinos for his birthday. I ended up winning at some slots (thank you, Alien Vs Predator interactive video slot machine) and on our way to the border, we drove past a Beer Store. Being a drunk, we had to stop and buy something and Brava Premium Lager caught my eye.

Mini rant: the number one beer in Canada is Coors Light (brewed in the US), which is strange because the number one beer in Buffalo, New York is Labatt Blue Light (brewed in Canada)... odd. A 30 pack of Coors in Canada is $38.50, while it's $22 here in the United States. Remember, the Canadian dollar (the loonie) is stronger than the US dollar is... it's a sad time we live in, friends. I must say, when I checked out the prices at the Beer Store, I was glad to be from America.

Ok so, Brava Premium Lager is brewed by the Lakeport Brewing Company out of New Brunswick, Canada. It has a 5.0% ABV (directly related to my decision to buy this, fyi). This bad boy is yellow in color with a very malty smell and taste. It's refreshing in the sense that if you had nothing else to drink, this would it the spot. The ABV helped because I was drinking this beer for the sole purpose of getting drunk, but I would not drink it over other Canadian brews like Labatt Blue Light or Molson Canadian.

Brava 5/10
Holy Moses 8/10
Railbender Ale 8/10
Troegs 6.5/10

Saturday, September 4, 2010


My friend Dave came home from Germany for a few weeks, so Thursday night, being from Buffalo and all, a group of us decided to go out for some chicken wings and (what turned out to be a ton of) beers.

Despite what you may have heard, the Anchor Bar fucking sucks. The hands down best place for chicken wings in Western New York is Dwyer’s Irish Pub, which just so happens to be the staple hangout for my group of friends. You can get a ridiculous variety of wings there, from chili lime to raspberry barbecue to Jameson. You can’t really beat a $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon pint and 25 cent wings, so if you’re in the Buffalo area, make sure you make a stop at Dwyer’s.

Anyways, when I was ordering my first drink, I noticed a sign with the day’s beer specials and one in particular caught my eye. Southern Tier Brewery, located in Lakewood, New York, has a great selection of brews, some of the best being the Raspberry Wheat Beer (4.6% ABV, golden wheat beer brewed with raspberries) and the Unearthly Imperial IPA (9.8% ABV, amazing hop taste). In the other night’s case, I sampled a pint of a ST brew I’ve never even heard of before- Eurotrash Pilz.

An incredibly tasty 5.3% ABV pilsner, this beer was light on color but heavy on taste. Southern Tier describes the beer:

This beer may have a cheeky name, but don’t be fooled; it is modeled after fine European pilsners to be light and crisp. Aromatic Noble hop varieties, 2-row malted barley and European style pilsner malt contribute to this pale beer’s smooth character.

A summer seasonal from ST, I would compare this to the Samuel Adam’s seasonal take, Noble Pils. It has a clear, crisp taste to it, very hoppy upfront but it isn’t overpowering. A great hoppy/floral smell accompanies this beer and all-in-all I was happy I was able to try it out.

Dave got to pick the next beer, and man was it good. Spending time in Europe, particularly Germany, got him hooked on German beers, so naturally he selected one of the only such brews on tap: Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse.

This great beer, brewed by Spaten-Franziskaner-Brau in Germany, is a 5% ABV hefeweizen that has a fantastic cloudy-golden color and amazing smell and taste. A sweet, citrusy aroma with hints of clove, banana and caramel comes with this hefeweizen, which has a creamy texture and sugary taste to it. It’s not bitter, but it certainly has tartness to it that I personally enjoyed. The taste was exactly like the smell, and I can honestly say that this is one wheat beer I would recommend to any booze hound.

I just want to make a point real quick: this was an all out drinking night; these are not the only beers we drank. In between these great beers, we were chugging Pabst Blue Ribbon and Coors Light. They might not taste all that good, but they sure do the trick.

So after the German brew, I decided (in my drunken mind, that is) to go back to Southern Teir and give their summer wheat beer, Hop Sun, a taste.

ST, whose motto for this particular beer is "summer good, summer better" is actually pretty accurate. This is a great summer-style American wheat ale. A great light golden color fills the glass and the smell is fantastic. A bit hoppy, the sweet malt and citrus (lemon) smell is what overpowers this brew. The taste is great, simply what a summer wheat should taste like- a bit bitter due to the hops, but sweet and zesty overall. Give this light bodied, smooth tasting 4.9% ABV ale a shot if given the chance; you won't be disappointed.

The last pint I tried on Thursday is one of my favorites- Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. While it might have a funny name, this beer is no joke; it very well could be the best tasting IPA I've ever had, although the 90 Minute and 120 Minute are just as good.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, located in the fine state of Delaware, has given us some pretty epic beers. From the 60 Minute IPA to the 120 Minute (18% ABV and HOLY SHIT is it hoppy), to the Aprihop (7% ABV with strong citrus and hop tones) seasonal and the rough Indian Brown Ale (7.2% ABV with coffee, ginger and chocolate tones), this is one brewery that knows what it's doing. Dogfish describes the 60 Minute:
Our 60 Minute IPA is continuously hopped - more than 60 hop additions over a 60 minutes boil (getting a vibe yet of where the name came from?). 60 Minute is a session India Pale Ale brewed with a slew of great NorthWest hops. A powerful, but balanced East Coast I.P.A. with a lot of citrusy hop character. The session beer for hardcore beer enthusiasts!

This 6% ABV IPA is out of this world. A golden amber color, the floral hop smell is mixed with citrus to make one great aroma. The first taste is very sweet, but the hops kick in almost immediately. You're left with a great hoppy aftertaste, kind of like grapefruit meets a lemon. Of course there is bitterness to it, but this is an IPA for fuck sake! I couldn't say enough good things about this brew.

Wrapping things up, what kind of drinking night could it be without some shots? In our case, we were lucky enough to get some free samples of the new Three Olives Purple, the vodka distilleries newest take on grape booze. The purple colored vodka, I must say, is pretty appealing. I'm a fan of Three Olives Grape, so I was excited to try this one out.

The shot we had was actually pretty good. It came in a bomb-shot glass, with the purple colored vodka in the middle glass and lemonade surrounding it in the outer shot. The vodka wenches also gave us some Pop Rocks to complete the deal. The process was: 1.) Pop Rocks on the tongue, 2) Pound the shot, 3.) Enjoy.

It tasted pretty great, grape vodka with lemonade is a fun combination and was very tasty. The booze itself was pretty smooth and I definitely wouldn't mind picking up a bottle one of these days.

Stay tuned for more beer reviews and drinking stories!

Eurotrash 7/10
Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse 8/10
Hop Sun 7.5/10
60 Minute IPA 10/10
Three-O Grape 7/10