Subscribe via Email and get post sent straight to your inbox!

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012- The Year in Beer

Happy News Years Eve!

As we close out 2012, I want to raise a glass to toast and thank all of you who have taken the time to read and comment on this humble little blog this year. This year was a tough one, personally, and it helps to have a fun little outlet like this to be able to share something I enjoy with friends, family, and total strangers. Thanks for reading!

And now a look back at my favorite beers of 2012...

1) Pretty Things "Meadowlark IPA"-As I said back in August, this is without question the best IPA I've ever had. Perfectly balanced, yet still awesomely hoppy, this is a must try if you like IPA. This beer strikes the absolute perfect balance between a traditional English IPA, which is only very slightly hoppy, and the American West Coast nuclear hop bombs we love here in the US.

2) Long Trail "Traditional IPA"- Long Trial has long brewed an IPA, but only recently have they decided to brew and bottle their original, unfiltered IPA. And if I may say, God Bless them for doing so! Deliciously hoppy but not bitter, this IPA is an absolute delight.

3) Clown Shoes "Bleacorn Unidragon" Stout- Moving on to the Best Stouts of 2012, this is a tremendous Americanized version of a Russian Imperial Stout. I love stouts that pack a thick, oily, smokey malt wallop, but still succeed in bringing hops to the table as well, and this beer does this amazingly well. An aggressive, assertive take on the style. At 12% ABV, this beer will keep you warm on a cold winters night.

4) Jack's Abby "Copper Legend" Octoberfest- I love Octoberfest beers. They are the most drinkable, refreshing brews on the beer spectrum, if you ask me. Jacks Abby in Framingham, MA makes one of the best you'll find. This is what beer should be.

5) Wormtown Brewery "Pro-Am Porter"- There aren't nearly enough brewer's who take on the challenge of a porter. Props to Wormtown for this awesome take on the style. Shame this is only a one time brew. Maybe they'll change their mind and brew it again? PLEASE? Notes of earthy roasted coffee, chocolate malt, and a warming alcohol presence are followed by a subtle chaser of hops that are not at all bitter and cut through the heaviness of the malts with perfection

There were many other fine brews that I enjoyed in 2012 but simply didn't have the time (or energy) to write about. Here are few more great beers worthy of your attention.

  • Harpoon's outstanding White IPA, brewed as part of their "100 Barrel Series", I'd buy this by the case given the opportunity. 
  • Sam Adams amazing "White Christmas" Ale- sheer genius combining the beauty and drinkability of a wheat beer with seasonal holiday spices.
  • Notch "Saison"- Big Beer taste with low ABV. Quickly becoming a favorite of mine. 
  • Jack's Abby- "Fire in the Ham". Smoked lager excellence. Then again, I love most of Jacks brews. 
  • Ipswich Brewing- "5 Mile Rye Saison"- Take a good saison, add some spicy local rye. Loved this beer.

Looking ahead to 2013, I hope to make some content changes and improvements to this blog. I intend to expand the content to more than just beer reviews and start focusing some on the breweries and brewers themselves. I also hope to get into a much more consistent publishing schedule. Not sure what that will be just yet, but I am aiming for twice a week. 

Have a great and safe News Years everyone! 

Cheers!


Bill aka Man Drinks Beer






Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Lost Beers (continued)...Man Drinks Beer Firsts- Westmalle Dubbel- Trappist Ale

hexagonal logo of authentic trappist productI recently experienced a beer first- my first "Trappist Ale".

Just what is a Trappist Ale? These are beers made by actual monks, at actual monasteries. Pretty cool, eh? Monk made beer!

The proceeds from the sale of the beer supports the abbey- covering living expenses- and also goes toward their charitable work. All Trappist Ales must be certified as such by the International Trappist Association.


Out of all the beers in the world, only seven of them can use the name ‘Trappist’: Achel, Chimay, La Trappe, Orval, Rochefort, Westvleteren and Westmalle. You can recognize them by looking for the “Authentic Trappist Product” logo.

According to the International Trappist Association web site-

A Trappist beer is only given this name if it satisfies a number of strict criteria:
  1. The beer is brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey, by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
  2. The brewery must be controlled by the monastery and have a business culture compatible with the monastic project.
  3. The purpose of the brewery is not to make a profit. The income takes care of the livelihood of the monks and the upkeep of the abbey site. What is left over is used for charitable purposes, social work and people in need.
My first Trappist was brewed by the monks at Westmalle, Belgium

Westmalle Dubble (Trappist Ale)
Antwerp, Belgium
7% ABV

The first thing that grabs my attention on the bottle is the cool "Authentic Trappist Product" logo. The second thing is the apparently handwritten note that the beer was bottled on 9/30/10. Not something you see everyday on a bottle of beer.

I eagerly pop the cork and pour it into a wide-mouth, stemmed glass as suggested by the abbey web site.

The beer pours a very dark and hazy reddish brown, with a huge, brown, puffy head. Head retention is short lived, collapsing quickly into a thin sheen of white on the surface. A few swirls of the glass easily brings back a healthy head.

Smell is floral and woody, maybe mildly boozy, and almost sweet. It is, appropriately, intoxicating.

Mouthfeel is moderate and soft, with little activity.

Initial taste is a bit....I'll say alcoholy, but only mildly, and then transitions into a bready malt profile, with mild but noticeable tartness, which is complemented nicely by notes of wood. Finish is floral and dry and very pleasing.

I found this to be an extremely interesting (and satisfying) beer and style. Its a substantial beer, full of flavor and body. Very complex and challenging to explain, to be honest. The flavors are great, but subtle, yet numerous. I highly recommend this beer.

Whats your favorite Trappist Ale? Let me know, leave a comment, or hit me up on Twitter @mandrinksbeer.

Cheers!

Bill
ManDrinksBeer


Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Lost Beers...Confessions of a Lazy Beer Blogger

You've probably noticed that I haven't posted to this space in a long time. There is no particular reason other than life simply getting too busy.

This extended time off has created a back log of beer reviews- written in longhand, in a notebook- but not posted. Why you ask? Well, while writing a review is fairly easy- buy beer, open beer, pour beer into glass, write down observations, drink, write down more observations- posting it to this space requires a tad more effort. I like to include info on the brewery, links to their web site, and other relevant facts and figures about the beer in the glass in hopes of pleasing the beer enthusiast reading this humble blog. Just regurgitating notes about how it tastes isn't quite enough.

Accordingly, for the next few weeks I'll be catching you up on all the great brews I've drank- yet not reported back on- in the past few months. Sound good? Great, lets begin!

The first beer in the "lost beers" series is called Wheelmans Wheat, and its brewed by a local Massachusetts brew pub, The Peoples Pint. It was given to me by a co-worker of my wife. Her name is Nichole.

Thanks Nichole!

First, a little bit about the Peoples Pint. In their own words, from their web site:

"We brew our own beers at our brewery on Hope Street; we invest in delicious desserts from Ellen Durabi; and our bar and kitchen menu has a variety of meals and appetizers that we hope will satisfy you. Whenever possible, we serve organic foods supplied by local growers and producers. For example, our veggie burger is made by Lightlife in Turners Falls and our certified organic sprouts are raised at The Gill Greenery. Our dishes are oriented around seasonal New England fruits and vegetables supplied by local farmers. Diemand Farm in Wendell raises our eggs and our black beans, red beans, and rice are certified organic.


Our priority is not only to provide you with fresh drinks and tasty food but to do it with as little waste as possible. You might notice that no disposable plastic and a minimum of paper items will appear on your table. Also, you may be pleased to know that all kitchen and dining room food scraps are composted and all plastic, cardboard, paper, glass and metal is recycled. Our brewery grain is composted. As a result, even on our busiest night, we have not disposed of more than one barrel of trash. We hope that the knowledge of your participation in this ongoing act of environmental goodwill enhances the time you spend at The People's Pint"

So, when you think "Peoples Pint", think locally produced food and beer, and socially and environmentally responsible practices. And they don't take debit or credit cards- so bring cash or personal checks.

Wheelman's Wheat
The Peoples PintGreenfield, MA
4.5% ABV

Wheelman's Wheat pours a dark straw yellow, with a thin, loose, white head. The head collapses almost immediately, leaving a thin ring on the glass and trace amounts of foam on the surface. Looking deeper into the glass, I note that there appears to be a lot of carbonation- lots of bubble activity.

At first sniff it presents surprisingly boozy. The alcohol in the nose is surprising, especially considering that its only 4.5% abv, and that I let this breath for about 10 minutes before sniffing. Aside from the alcohol, there is a sugary sweetness that compliments and balances it nicely. I detect notes of tropical fruit- pineapple, or perhaps apricot. Very fruity.

Mouthfeel is stagnant and soft. The bubbles present in the pour have calmed dramatically, yet it doesn't feel flat at all.

Taste is in stark contrast to the smell- very mild biscuit like notes at first, which transition to a more malty taste, followed by a very, very mild tang of wheat, and wet, slightly sour finish.


Not what I expected in a wheat beer- no banana or clove- but not bad at all. Very refreshing and very drinkable, and isn't that all that matters?

I highly recommend this beer. Anyone up for a trip to Greenfield? First round on me!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Great Debate- Pumpkin vs Octoberfest

You didn't think I meant that other debate that happened the other night, did you?

No, here at MDB we concern ourselves with far more important issues, like "which fall beer style style do you prefer- Octoberfest or Pumpkin?"

Clearly there is no wrong answer, but there are definitely opinions worth discussing.

For this discussion I've chosen two local Massachusetts beers that are about as similar as you get when comparing the two styles.

For our Octoberfest, I've chosen Jacks Abby "Copper Legend" Octoberfest Lager.


 For our Pumpkin Ale, I've chosen Cambridge Brewing Company's "the Great Pumpkin Ale".

For some background on the styles we are discussing here, I consulted the totally awesome Oxford Companion to Beer, edited by Garret Oliver. If you are reading this blog, you need to own this book. The information in the next two paragraphs was adapted from the Oxford Companion to Beer.

Octoberfest beer has traditionally run the gamut from Vienna style Lagers, to Bavarian Dunkels, to reddish brown Marzens. There isn't a strict style definition. In Germany, the only rule for a beer to be served at Octoberfest is that it must be produced within the city limits of Munich, by one of the largest brewers in the city (Spaten, Paulaner, Lowenbrau, Hofbrau, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustinerbrau Munchen) . Today, most run between 5.8 %and 6.3 % abv, and as they are mostly "lagers"- made with bottom fermenting yeast that works at lower temps over a longer time period, requiring more condition time- they produce a crisp, clean tasting beer, with more moderate, malty, bready flavoring.

Pumpkin Ales are far more diverse. The style originated in America, which may partly explain their popularity here. I've seem Pumpkin in both Ale and Stout style, and in both Imperial (10%+) and "small beer (4-5%)" ABV levels. How they are brewed also varies greatly. Some brewers use pumpkin puree, some use roasted pumpkins, some use yet a different preparation. The point at which the pumpkin is introduced into the actual brewing process differs as well- some brewers add it to the mash, some to the kettle. Some also add spices, going for a more "pumpkin pie" flavor. The variations are immense compared to Octoberfest style beer. In this case, we have an "ale" pumpkin style, which simply means it was brewed with top fermenting yeast, that works at warmer temps and works faster, requiring less condition time. Ales also tend to produce beers with stronger, more identifiable flavor profiles.

Both of these beers are comparable in ABV- Jacks Abby Copper Legend checking in at 5.9% ABV, and Cambridge Brewing Great Pumpkin at 4.4%.

How do these beers compare head to head? Lets find out.

First, the Copper Legend.

Pours a clear honey brown, with a large, puffy, off-white head. Good head retention and lacing on the glass- lots of puffy white foam on the surface.

Smell is bready, maybe a touch a citrus, but very mild and nice.

Mouthfeel is soft and light, with a perfect amount of carbonation.

Taste is very mildly bready up front, like a warm toast almost. This segues to a fresh, biscuity flavor, which is when you notice a subtle touch of maltiness. Finish is clean and crisp, with absolutely no aftertaste.

Overall, the flavors here are great, but very mild and unobtrusive. This beer is happy just being a great beer, it doesn't want to do anything but be enjoyed, and I love it.

And now, the Great Pumpkin Ale.

Also pours a honey brown color, but duller and very slightly darker.
A low head of tight, white foam assembles on the surface, but receded after a minute, leaving a nice Bavarian ring on the glass, but not much on the surface.

Smell is sweet, and you immediately notice the pumpkin spice- nutmeg maybe? I'm not getting much else, and its very nice.

Mouthfeel is also soft and light, with maybe an eyelash heavier weight than the octoberfest.

Taste is pumpkin sweet at first, mild but obvious. Spices are very muted, but bring in a nice sweetness to balance off the stronger malty, bread notes. There is an underlying, rich, sweetness in the finish that I cannot identify, buy I love it.

This is a great pumpkin ale. Its got wonderful pumpkin flavor, but doesn't overwhelm you with spices. Its clearly a beer with pumpkin, not vice versa. 

Both of these beers are fabulous, and I strongly recommend you to seek them out and try them for yourself.

But for my money, I am an Octoberfest guy. I love the simple, refreshing taste of a well made lager. Keep it simple and to the point. On a cool fall day, nothing hits the spot for me like an Octoberfest beer.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Vacation at Long Trail Brewing

So, I had intended to do many more IPA reviews during the month of August.  They were going to be more in depth, more insightful, and put into better context by contrasting them with other IPAs. That was my intention anyway, but you know what they say about good intentions. Real life sometimes intrudes on the beer blogging.

At the end of August I went on vacation to Vermont, as my cousin had graciously offered her amazing house to my family to abuse for a week. And it just happens to be right down the street from the Long Tail Brewery...

This was my view. Everyday.

You can see why sitting at a computer would pale in comparison to this, right?

The beer in the glass is the new Long Trail Traditional IPA.  Brewed in the style of the original British IPAs, this beer is unfiltered, and at only 42 IBUs, much more in line with the original IPA style. At only 5.4% ABV, its amazingly drinkable, especially when you have this view to complement it! This is an excellent IPA, and I was wowed by it. It had a perfect balance of hoppy citrus aroma, light body, and clean, crisp, balanced taste that a bigger beer just can't deliver. Its the super session IPA.

Long Trail shows their brewing talent by creating such a fantastic tasting, low abv brew. It goes against the "big beer (high alcohol content)" trend, but skill in brewing a low alcohol  beer is the true measure of brewing excellence.

The whole family had dinner one night at the brewery. We all loved it. We learned that our 10 month old likes the french fries, our three year old loved the chicken fingers, and my wife and I enjoyed several great beers, but the most noteworthy, in my mind, was the Goodnight Irene Ale. This ale was brewed in the wake of Hurricane Irene, which ripped through Vermont in August 2011 and devastated the region. Proceeds from Good Night Irene Ale go to local charities that will help the recovery efforts. A hybrid combination of their signature Long Trail Ale and their Brown Ale, I found this beer to be fantastic. Dark brown in color, it had a slightly nutty scent,  moderate body, and rich deep nutty and malty taste.  Great beer for a great cause.

Coming up in the next week or so, I hope to post some of the lost reviews I have written the past few months. Look for a few more great IPAs that were supposed to close out the IPA month theme- one from Worcester, one from Nantucket- and be on the look out for our first Trappist Ale review.

Cheers!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What Happens When A German Hefe-Weisse Meets an American IPA

One of my favorite things about craft beer is the experimentation that brewers do. Brewing style guidelines are fine, but why limit yourself? To a craft brewer, nothing is off limits, and it often creates some interesting hybrid style beers.

Some of these experiments are hits and spawn un-godly, prolonged trends, like the current, and hopefully done with, Black IPA trend.

Others miss the mark, like say, bacon flavored beer.

Today's IPA month beer is just this type of experiment, and its a hit.

Big time.

Weiss Principal Ale
Peak Organic Brewing Company, 
Portland, ME
8.6% ABV

This beer is so new its not even listed on the brewers web site. Luckily, I subscribe to their emails, so I got the inside tip that it was coming. Here is what the email annoncement said about this brew:

  "It’s the international love child of a Hefe-Weiss and an American Double IPA.  This 8.7% unfiltered wheat beer employs a traditional German Weiss yeast, providing engaging banana and clove notes.  A stern dry–hopping of pungent American hops provide pronounced citrus, pine and fruit notes.  It’s so tasty, it may be punishable"

(Unbeknownst to me, the use of the word "punishable" was a hint as to what was about to happen to my taste buds.)

This beer pours a light orange yellow, hazy, with only a thin lacing of head on the surface. Be careful when pouring, as this is an unfiltered wheat style, and sediment can end up in the glass. (this is really harmless and tasteless, but it looks bad)

Smell is intense- alcohol, cloves, bananas, hops. The aroma presents like a wheat beer on steroids. Its absolutely pungent.

Mouthfeel is light and airy, which is a huge surprise given the punch in the face the aroma presents. Its texturally very light, but active, with lots of bubbles.

Taste is as intense as the smell, but even more complex. Initially a wash of pure alcohol drowns the taste buds, and is followed by spice, cloves, then an intense, super bitter, resinous piney hop flavor overtakes everything. Finish is dry, with a super subtle fruit taste.

This is one assertive, intense, bad-ass brew. The intense flavor and smell are impressive. A very unique take on the IPA style. I don't know if the two styles- German Heffe-Weiss and American IPA- compliment or fight each other, but the result is a potent, flavorful brew.

Recommended, but be warned- this is one aggressive, assertive brew. Anything that is 8.6% abv, yet actually taste higher, should be consumed in moderation.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Continuing IPA Month With the Best IPA I've Ever Had.....

Today's IPA month entry is simply the best IPA I've ever had in my life.

It's a local Massachusetts product- Meadowlark IPA from the Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project.

We've discussed Pretty Things in this space in the past, and I've had an additional beer or two from these talented brewers that I didn't write about because, well, beer stops being fun if you write about every beer you drink. So while I had high expectations for this IPA, what I got was so, so much more...let me try to put it into words...

Meadowlark IPA
The Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project
Somerville, MA
7% ABV, 60 IBUs

Meadowlark pours a beautiful clear golden with a huge head of tight white foam. It collapses just a bit, but retains a several inches.

You can identify this as an American IPA immediately by the wonderful smell- citrus bright and hoppy, with subtle notes of biscuits and fresh bread.

Mouthfeel is moderate and wet. Absolutely perfect body and weight.

Taste is....WOW....how to put this into words? Citrusy hops up front, but not overwhelming like many American IPAs. The Galaxy and Citra hops greet the nose and the taste buds very politely but assertively, but with minimal bitterness. Notes of orange and grapefruit peel are complimented and balanced very nicely by a healthy malt profile.

Finish is wet and refreshing, with just a touch of bitter to remind you that this is an American IPA.

A superb beer. This is what an IPA should be- tasty, hoppy, with some bitter, but not an absurd amount. Incredibly tasty and thirst quenching. Whats more, this beer is absolutely sessionable, something I would not normally say about a 7% ABV brew. Highly recommended. An awesome beer.

I am beginning to form the opinion that Dann and Martha Paquette, the brewers behind Pretty Things, are to beer what Bill Belichick is to football. Seriously, neither can do any wrong in their field.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Clown Shoes "Tramp Stamp" Belgian-style IPA

We last visited with the talented brewers at Clown Shoes back in the winter, when I reviewed their excellent Russian Imperial Stout, Blaecorn Unidragon.

For IPA month, I decided to see how these fine brewers approached the IPA.

"Tramp Stamp" 
Belgian-style India Pale Ale
Clown Shoes, Mercury Brewing, Ipswich MA
7% ABV

First, I gotta say I love the bottle art. Clown Shoes took some heat last year for the depictions of woman on the labels.

 I'm not going to rehash that here. I think their bottle art is great, and tastefully done. After all, its a beer bottle, not a NY Times Op-ed piece. Lets all relax.

As for the beer in that bottle here is what the Clown Shoes web site says about it:

"Like a stamp on a tramp, this beer is about not so subtle seduction.  Soft but complex malts, Chambly yeast, sweet orange peel, Columbus, Amarillo, and Centennial hops have merged to create a bodacious Belgian IPA."

Pouring a nice cloudy, deep, dark orange with two fingers of foam, this beer looks beautiful in the glass. The off white head refuses to collapse. Ever. Tremendous head retention. 

The nose presents mildly yeasty, and there's not much else. A few swirls of the glass to try to free some more scent from that thick head doesn't release any.

Mouthfeel is thick and full. Heavy for an IPA, a stagnant and ominous presence on the pallette.

Taste presents with citrus notes and grapefruit like bitterness up front, but only mildly. As it moves down the tongue, there there is a slight spike in bitterness before a dry, almost sour, yeasty finish.

Not a bad beer to be sure, but also not overly exciting. I expected bolder flavors here. I didn't register the spices used at all, and that was disappointing. Belgian styles usually have a nice marriage of spices and citrusy brightness, and that distinctive Belgian yeast brings a nice finish. For me, that was all lacking in this brew.

Accordingly,  I don't recommend this brew, not because its bad, but because I feel there are better IPA's available.

Diasgree with my opinion? Let me hear about it! Leave a comment.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Yellow Snow IPA- Rogue Brewing

Our celebration of IPAs continues with a beer that was sent to me in the same package as the infamous Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale.

Todays IPA- Yellow Snow IPA, from Rogue Ales- was sent courtesy of Allison O'Neil, who also happens to be the wife of my buddy Brendan, who sent me the above mentioned alcoholic bacon brew.

Now, the idea of drinking a beer called "Yellow Snow", knowing it was sent to me by the same dude who sent me bacon beer, made me a bit wary, to say the least. So I researched this "Yellow Snow" beer thoroughly before I dared to take a sip.

Turns out this Yellow Snow has some serious beer stats:

2011 World Beer Championships - Gold
2010 Australian International Beer Awards—Silver
2010 Northwest Conference (Thirsty Beagle)—3rd
2010 World Beer Championships—Gold (Best of 2010)
2009 World Beer Championships—Gold (Best of 2009)
2008 New Zealand Intl. Beer Awards —Silver

So it doesn't have quite as many gold medals as Michael Phelps, but three golds at the World Beer Championships is pretty darn impressive. 

Yellow Snow IPA
Rogue Brewing, Newport, OR
70 IBU's, 7% ABV

7 Ingredients:
Cara Foam, Melanoiden & Great Western 2-Row Malts; Amarillo & Perle Hops, Free Range Coastal Water & Pacman Yeast.


This beer pours a clear, bright yellow orange, with a tight two fingers of slightly off white head that collapses to a solid and consistent half inch dense foam.


Smell is piney hops, strong, but not overwhelming.

Mouthfeel is full and active, almost chewy.

Taste is super, mouthpuckering bitter hops. How bitter? Bitter like "let me tell you about my ex-girlfriend from 10 years ago" bitter. The immense Grapefruit peel bite then gives way to a more piney hop taste that also punishes the palette. Finish is very dry, and- surprise!- bitter.

Overall, a very good IPA. The initial nice strong hoppy aroma doesn't at all give any hint of the abuse that your taste buds are about receive, but I didn't mind. The bitterness presents overwhelmingly clean, a real celebration of  hops.  Not sessionable by any means, as 70 IBU's are insane.

Recommended to those who really love IPAs.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Celebrating IPA Day With Green Flash Brewing's West Coast IPA

Hoppy IPA Day all!

IPA Month here at MDB continues with an excellent west coast style IPA from Green Flash Brewing in San Diego.

I've been trying to think up ways to frame IPA Month that better presents the many different variations and interpretations of the India Pale Ale Style. An IPA, after all, is fairly simple to define:

(from about.com) IPA Definition: A hoppier version of pale ale. Originally brewed in England with extra hops to survive the journey to British troops stationed in India.

When someone says "IPA", we tend to think of pale ales that are yellow in color and bitter in taste, but they are so much more! IPA's can be black and thick, like a stout or porter (Black IPAs are a huge trend right now). They can be conditioned longer to create an India Pale Lager (Yes, I 'm talking about you, Jacks Abby) . They can be spiced with Jalapeno peppers (thanks Boston Beer Works). They can be hopped continually for two hours, creating a super high ABV hop orgy that drinks more like a fine liquor than a beer (I'm  talking 'bout you Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA).

The style lends itself to many, many interpretations, and one of my absolute favorite things in beer is seeing how different brewers interpret the style. For this years IPA month, I'm leaning towards an East Coast/West Coast comparison. Yesterday I gave you a superb east coast style IPA- Lunch, from the Maine Beer Company. Today we're heading west....

West Coast Style IPA
Green Flash Brewing, San Diego CA
7.3% ABV, 95 IBUs

I had heard of this Green Flash IPA before, specifically when it won the 2009 National IPA Challenge. Only recently have I seen it for sale locally.

The Green Flash web site has this to say about the beer:

A menagerie of hops is layered throughout the brewing process: Simcoe for unique fruitiness and grapefruit zest, Columbus for strong hop pungency, Centennial for pine and citrus notes and Cascade for floral aroma. A multi-dimensional hop experience.
 
This beer pours a hazy orange with two fingers of thick, creamy,  foamy tan head that has serious staying power. It eventually collapses a bit, but still leaves a healthy, bubbly lacing on the surface and glass.

Smell is pungent, "in your face", piney hops (and I love it!).

Mouthfeel is creamy, velvety, luscious. Excellent body.

Taste is, at first, an absolute assault of citrusy, super bitter, super strong grapefruit on the palette. Luckily the initial assault retreats substantially, although it never quite leaves. The lingering grapefruit bitterness carries over to a very dry finish.

This is a rock solid IPA. I wouldn't have guessed it was west coast though, as I feel it was missing a bit of the brightness that I tend to associate with west coast style IPAs. But maybe I have not had enough of them yet?

I recommend this beer to hop heads and anyone planning a BBQ. Not sessionable (in my opinion anyway) due to the IBUs and ABV.

I think this beer lends it self extremely well to a comparison with Maine Beer Companies "Lunch" IPA. Both are the same ABV, 7%, and both pour almost the exact same color and clarity (hazy). But they could not be more different in taste.

Here is my first East Coast/West Coast IPA comparison-

Smell:
Lunch smells very sweet, with overtones of tropical fruits in the nose.
West Coast is all hops in the nose, Piney hops to be exact. there is no sweetness at all.

Taste:
Lunch also starts bitter, but not as extreme, and then it transitions to an almost sweet, juicy profile.
West Coast is all business, and its business is to bring the bitter hops, which is does exceptionally well.

Finish:
Both finish dry, but Lunch has almost no bitterness in the finish. Sessionable due to the smoothness.
West Coast has a definite bitter after taste. Not sessionable due to the super bitter 95 IBUs.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

IPA Month Begins With "Lunch"...

Its August again, and I've decided to once again dedicate this month to my favorite beer style- the IPA!

This year we are kicking off IPA month in style, as I finally got my hands on a few bottles of Maine Beer Company's legendary "Lunch" IPA.

This beer is constantly mentioned among the ranks of the best IPAs in the country, often compared to Russian Rivers' "Pliny the Elder" and The Alchemists "Heady Topper".

At 7% ABV, this beer blurs the line between IPA and Double/Imperial IPA. I'm tempted to classify it more closely to more a regular IPA due to its incredible drinkability, unusual with an IPA as the hop bitterness tends to preclude sessionability. However, this is not a standard beer by any measure..

Here's my Lunch experience-

Lunch India Pale Ale
Maine Beer Company
Portland, ME
7% abv

Malt – American 2-Row, CaraPils, Caramel 40L, Munich 10L, Red Wheat

Hops – Warrior, Amarillo, Centennial, Simcoe

This beer pours a hazy red orange, with a thick, luscious slightly off white head that remains throughout the drink, leaving lots of beautiful lacing on the sides of the glass.

Smell is Amazing- at first, sweet, with hints of tropical fruit. A second sniff reveals the treasure trove of citrusy hops underneath. Notes of orange and grapefruit begin to permeate the nose.

Mouthfeel is similarly amazing- soft and luxurious. Velvety smooth on the tongue, embracing the palette as it washes over.

Taste is hoppy greatest, but not over stated like you might expect. Grapefruit bitterness envelopes and plays on the tongue, but just to tease before it transitions into more a juicy, red grapefruit like sweetness and wipes out the introductory hop bitterness. Finish is dry and a touch spicy.

This is quite possibly the most perfectly balanced IPA that I've ever had.

A superb IPA. Superior smell, mouthfeel and drinkability make this a "must buy" brew.  Taste is excellent, although I'd personally like a bit more hop bitter kick. A more drinkable IPA I've not had in my life.

Highly recommended. A must buy if you can find it. Distribution is limited to NE currently, as I understand it.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Swedish Beer.

Continuing the friends and family theme for July with one of  two beers brought over from Sweden by my friend Karin.

Karin acquired these beers while she was in Stockholm to run the Stockholm marathon (this was her 8th marathon, I think?). She is a close friend who has the annoying ability to both out-write  (her blog, which she recently retired, had a large following and was picked up by Boston.com more than once. Even her emails are exceptionally well written) and out run me. (Except for that one time during the Harpoon 5 Miler when she didn't see me coming down the final stretch and I was able to run by her in the chute for a 1 second moral victory. Sure, I probably broke several rules of running etiquette, but a win is a win, right?) Since I moved to the burbs a few years ago, I've really missed our evening runs through Southie, which were usually followed up by great conversations over dinner and drinks.

Oppigards Golden Ale
Oppigards Brewing,  Sweden
5.2%ABV

Reviewing a beer brewed in Sweden, when the brewers web site is in Swedish and you don't happen to speak Swedish, or know anyone who speaks Swedish, is a bit of a challenge, I will admit. After much digging, I found a great web site called Great Brewers, who had this information about Oppigards:

(The following quoted info is copied directly from Great Brewers.com)

"Oppigårds Brewery sits on the 250-year-old Falkeström family farm, in a tiny wooden building. Constructed in 1696, the space was once used for flax-dressing, and great-grandfather Falkeström also housed a farm smithy there. Today, while the farm is no longer operational, the building is still put to good use. Now, Bjorn Falkeström uses it for brewing. With the addition of a malt crushing room out back, all Oppigårds beers are brewed in the old place. The brewery allows the Falkeströms to make their livelihood on the farm, as they have since the mid-1700s.

Bjorn Falkeström founded Oppigårds in order to revive not only the family farm, but also traditional Swedish farmhouse ales, which were the norm in the 1800s until a wave of generic, modernized, breweries took over. With their efficient labor practices, refrigeration, and yeast cultures, the large breweries made farmhouse brewing unprofitable, and it all but died completely.

Today, Oppigårds Bryggeri uses recipes from these small farm breweries. This doesn't mean Bjorn is against advances that help craft a good beer. His brewery is based on modern technology and quality, combined with old recipes and traditions. He brews a variety of deep, colorful ales and is excited to be an independent Swedish craft brewer."

This beer pours a bright golden, clear, with lots of bubbles and a thick, airy, white head that never recedes. Great head retention on this brew.

Smell is almost non-existent- Some faint yeasty esters is all you get.

Mouthfeel is soft, light and smooth.

Taste is mild- some hoppy bitterness nicely balanced out with malt, with a dry finish that lingers a bit bitter. If I've translated the brewers web site correctly, they used Golding and Cascade hops and Carapils and light caramel malt.

I'm going to assume this a craft beer by Swedish and American standards. Anything being brewed in a 250 year old wooded farmhouse couldn't be anything but craft, right? I enjoyed this beer.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale...(no, thats not a typo)

Yes, you read the headline right. This post is about a beer brewed to taste like bacon- maple smoked bacon, to be exact.

Lucky me.

This post is dedicated to my long lost buddy, former co-worker, and former room mate- Brendan O'Neil.

(OK, He isn't really lost. He moved from the big city of Boston to the woods of western North Carolina a few years ago. I'm still trying to lure him back.).

BO, as I call him, is a former US Marine. His unit was one of the first through the mine fields in the original desert storm. When he finished serving his country, he came home to Boston and took a job with the security company I was working for at the time. We met at Au Bon Pan at Harvard Business School for coffee on his first day. We hit it off immediately. Brendan is a friend that I respect, admire, and look up to immensely. He sent me this beer, (and another from his wife which I'll write about later) because, as he says, when he saw the description, it reminded him too much of Homer Simpson to not send it (BO knows I am a fanatical Simpsons fan).

Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale
Rogue Ale, Newport, Oregon
ABV est 7%

This beer is made in collaboration with what I believe is a local doughnut shop in Rogues home town of Newport, Oregon- Voodoo Doughnut.

To create a beer that tastes like a maple smoked bacon, you need a lot of ingredients-

13 Ingredients, to be exact:
 
Malts: Briess Cherrywood Smoked Malt, Weyermann Beechwood Smoked Malt, House-smoked Hickory Malt, Great Western 2 Row, Munich, C15, C75 Malts
Speciality: Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Pure Maple Flavoring
Hops: Perle, Sterling
Yeast & Water: Pacman Yeast, Free Range Coastal Water

This ingredient list oughta tell you that this is no normal beer.

This beer pours a hazy, murky dark orange, with a fluffy cream head that dissipates quickly, leaving light lacing on the surface and glass.

Smell in insanely, powerfully smokey- intense hickory and applewood evoke the essence of bacon almost immediately. Its downright frightening, to be totally honest. There is a subtle hint of underlying sweetness that is revealed by swirling the glass a bit.

Mouthfeel is equally insane- I know I just put liquid in my mouth, but my senses tell me I just did a massive bong hit off a hickory and applewood flavored stash. My mouth is literally texting me "WTF".

Taste is...holy smoke! Its freakin' bacon folks! Hickory smoke, applewood smoke, and hints of maple tell the brain that yes, you did just drink alcoholic liquid bacon. That subtle, underlying sweetness that presents in the nose during the pour? Its dead, gone, probably died of smoke inhalation.

Finish is smokey bitter.

I don't know what to say about this brew except that it is totally freaking insane. Recommended only as a novelty for those who want to say they drank bacon beer. Rogue makes many other excellent beers that still push the envelope, so I'd suggest seeking out those.

Monday, July 9, 2012

From NY, Southern Tier Brewings Cuvee Series One

Friends and Family month on MDB continues with a beer and brewery introduced to me by.....

... my mother-in-law, Marian!

The typical mom-in-law she is not. Aside from giving birth to the love of my life, she's an amazing "Geema" to our two daughters, a great cook, and  has been known, on occasion, to bring cases of hand selected craft beer singles when she visits.

No joke. Some of the breweries she has introduced me to are Mikkeller (Denmark), Williams Bros of Scotland, and the subject of today's rave- Southern Tier Brewing of NY.

On one of her recent trips Marian brought several selections from Southern Tier- Creme Brulee Stout, Pumking Ale, Chokolat Mocha Stout, Back Burner Barely Wine- all of which are outstanding, by the way. Southern Tier is very big on BIG, BOLD, flavors-Creme Brulee stout tastes like creme brulee.

 She also brought one beer that came in its own special box...

Oak Aged Ale Cuvee Series/Series ONE
Southern Tier Brewing, Lakewood, NY
11% ABV

There is depressingly little info out there about this "Cuvee Series". The brewery's own webs site has NOTHING about it.

What I can tell about the series is that it features strong ales aged on different types of Oak. My bottle was "series one", which was French Oak. Was it aged in a wine cask? I don't know, but a Google search for "Cuvee" leads me to believe yes.

This beer pours a hazy orange brown, with a thin head that quickly disappears, leaving only light, tan lacing on the glass. 

Smell is alcoholy and malty. Dried fruit sweetness presents at first sniff, followed by spicy wood notes.

Mouthfeel is thick and heavy, with little carbonation.

Taste is strong and bold- warming alcohol greets you with a slap, followed by pungent dried fruits (raisins, dates, prunes?) which bring both sour and sharpness to play, followed by a slightly more modest, spicy wood  accent. Finish is surprisingly mild and dry (or maybe the other flavors and alcohol just killed my pallete?).

This is a substantial, exceptionally well crafted, serious beer with complex flavors and sensations. Not to be taken lightly.

Recommended more as an after dinner drink or after work cocktail, as I think it packs too much punch to be paired with a meal.

 I will buy series 2, 3 and 4 if I see them.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

July is Friends and Family (with beer) Month here at MDB

Its July second. My last post in this space was in May.

So, where the hell have I been?

Dealing with life, that is all. Very Glad to be back on the blog.

This time off has given me some much needed perspective on life. It has also instilled a greater appreciation for the friends and family who are always there when it counts. Whether it be reading this silly blog, or going to a wake (or two) for someone you didn't even know, these people just keep showing up because they care, and damn it, that's a pretty cool thing.

Accordingly,  I've decided that July is "Friends and Family" month here at MDB. It'll feature great beers and the even greater people that brought them to my attention in the first place.

Our first honoree this month is....

My long time (we met in 4th grade) buddy Chris Dauphinee!

He brought me this beer (ok, he's brought me many beers over the years, but this one is super intriguing): 

Winter Ion "biere blanc au chocolat"
Element Brewing Company
Miller Falls , MA
ABV 8.6%, 14 IBU;s

You know him as "Daupha", from previous reviews too many to mention. He also happens to be the person responsible for my introduction to craft beer, no small thing that be!

Daupha is the kind of friend who is always there if you need something. And if he happens to find something he thinks you'd like and you're not there, he just gets it for you and brings it to you. 

He wanted to give me this brew as a Christmas gift, but of course I got busy with the family and didn't see him until about 4 months later.


I had never heard of Element Brewing. Here is what their web site had to say:

"Winter Ion is the fusion of a Belgian White with the rich flavors of chocolate. Over 3 pounds of chocolate are boiled with fresh coriander seed. With a hefty malt and low bitterness the chocolate and subtle spice make a balanced brew perfect to share with friends this winter"

This beer pours hazy orange, with a low hanging yet airy and substantial head that refuses to leave.

Smell is intriguing- sweet, with hints of dried fruit and chocolate, malt notes, and alcohol.

Mouthfeel is heavy. Much more substantial than it appears. Chewy almost.

Taste is complex- alcoholy and chocolaty up front, spicy peppery follow through and finish. 

A very complex beer. Belgian White Beer spices, mixed with (what I am guessing are) darker roasted malts and chocolate to create a very aggressive, assertive taste.  Recommended for those seeking an aggressively flavored Americanized Belgian White. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Thanks Daupha!

Friday, May 11, 2012

High & Mighty Beer Company "Pas De Dieux"

Summer is coming folks. And just as the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano, the farmhouse ales and summer brews will return to the shelves of your favorite packie (or, if you're not from the Boston area, your favorite liquor store).

 Summer ales are always a sight for sore eyes. They mean winter is gone, the weather is warmer, and the Red Sox have a chance at another title (ok, not so much this year..). It means its time to set up the grill and lawn chairs. Time to sit on the deck and throw back a few cold ones, and when you do that, you don't want some high abv brew that's going to kick your ass after only two or three.

As I perused the shelves of my favorite packie recently, I stumbled upon a selection of brews from High & Mighty Beer Company, of Holyoke, MA. There was a wide variety of brews from High and Mighty from which to choose. I scanned the labels, carefully read the description of the contents, and grabbed a bottle of..

Pas De Dieux
High & Mighty Beer Company, Holyoke, MA
 4.5%ABV

I had to look up the translation for "Pas De Dieux" for this posting.According to freedictionary.com, it means:

1. A dance for two, especially a dance in ballet consisting of an entrée and adagio, a variation for each dancer, and a coda.
2. A close relationship between two people or things, as during an activity.

So, I'm guessing the play on words here refers to the close relationship of the brewer to his craft, or of the drinker to the beer, or perhaps of the ingredients in the beer to each other? I really don't know. But it does sounds like some skill and intensity is involved in the dynamic with this phrase, and that certainly is apparent in this beer.

According to the High & Mighty web site, this beer is made with an imported French yeast, and is their interpretation of a French farmhouse style ale.

It pours a golden yellow, lots of carbonation and bubbles, with a thick, puffy white head.

Smell is fruity and yeasty, with notes of bright citrus.

Mouthfeel is lively and active. Lots of carbonation, it tickles the tongue, but is very light overall.

Taste is yeasty and fruity at first, with notes of citrus- orange peel, lemon, banana, and cloves. This is followed by a nice fresh bready taste. Finish brings in a nice, mildly hoppy bitterness to balance off the bright citrus fruit notes.

I found this beer to be supremely refreshing. It has outstanding flavors that are crisp, bright, and in outstanding balance with each other (perhaps this is "the dance", or "close relationship" implied by the name? Just a guess). Nothing overwhelms anything else, and at only 4.5% alcohol by volume you can enjoy several with no guilt or worry.

I highly recommend this beer for summer drinking on the patio with friends, around the grill, at the beach, or wherever.


Monday, April 30, 2012

A Year of Beer- Man Drinks Beer at One Year

One year ago last Thursday, April 26th,  I created this blog and posted my first ever entry.

It was a review of Harpoon Brewery's Leviathan Imperial IPA.

In the year since that first brief post, the pages of this modest little blog have been viewed more than 7,000 times by more than 250 people.

It's been viewed in the USA, United Kingdom, India, Italy, Russia, to name only a few of the places that have graced us with a quick look.

I've been invited to drink with a master brewer from England to sample and write about his latest, delicious brew.

We have 7 official "followers", for which I an extremely grateful. If I could buy each of you beer, I would, but some of you are kinda far away. Maybe us Boston locals can get together...

The format and layout have changed, and we've officially purchased the domain name- www.mandrinksbeer.com

And of course I've drank and written about a lot of beer- most of it very good stuff (including the Worcester brewed beer I chose to celebrate the one year birthday of this blog with- Wormtown Brewery's Pro Am Porter- check out the review below).

I offer up the info and stats above not to brag, but to say thank you. I would have been thrilled if 2 or 3 people had read this blog. The fact that so many have taken the time to read it really blows my mind, and fills me with appreciation and gratitude for the friends and acquaintances that have read my beer induced ramblings and passed them along to others.

Thanks for reading and indulging this aspiring beer geek in his pursuit of good beer.

Cheers!

Bill
aka Man Drinks Beer

Pro-Am Porter
Wormtown Brewery, Worcester, MA
6.8% ABV, 25 IBU's

The label describes this beer as "a collaboration with local home brewer Keith Antul. Inspired by the Great American Beer Festival’s Pro-Am competition we chose Keith’s American Homebrewers Association competition medaling robust porter recipe and scaled it up and brewed a batch with him at Wormtown."

This beer pours dark as night black, thick and oily, with a thin tan head that retreats quickly, leaving a nice Bavarian ring on the glass. Reddish hues are noticeable if you hold the glass up to light.


Smell has hints of fresh roasted coffee, chocolate, dark dried fruits, with just a dash of hoppy citrusy brightness to balance it off. 


Mouthfeel is medium bodied and active, good carbonation, yet very smooth.


Taste follows the smell-notes of earthy roasted coffee, chocolate malt, and a warming alcohol presence are followed by a subtle chaser of hops that are not at all bitter and cut through the heaviness of the malts with perfection. Awesomely balanced finished. 

This is a great porter- superbly drinkable, perfectly balanced, it's a shame this is a one time brew. I may have to stage an "Occupy Wormtown" protest to get this beer brewed year round. 

I enthusiastically recommend this beer to all.  

Support local beer!





Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lovely Saint Winefride Brown Larger- Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project

If you enjoy great beer, do yourself a favor and look up The Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project.

These folks brew some of the best beers around.  Always unique and always original, a beer brewed by Pretty Things is a work of art that you drink and enjoy and become one with.

And if they should also put an image of a decapitated woman holding her own head on the bottle, well whats wrong with that?


Lovely Saint Winefride Brown Larger
Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, Somerville, MA
7% Abv

This beer pours a dark brown, clear, with a dense, thick, puffy tan head that simply refuses to retreat.

The smell is subdued at first- lightly yeasty, and a little malty. As the beer warms, a more nutty aroma emerges.

Mouthfeel is thick and rich- velvety smooth, almost heavy (but not quite).

Taste is nutty, with notes of light smoke in the malt, and an earthiness that really ties it all together. Simple flavors that really work together beautifully in the glass. Finish is....I'll say smokey.

Overall, a very nice beer.  I love the smokiness here, likely in the malts, and its preceded by that fresh nutty taste...feels so much like a spring ale.

Recommended for all beer lovers. Feels like a good session beer, although at 7% ABV,  I'd be careful. It tastes much lower in ABV.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Hop Ale- Mayflower Brewing

Seems like forever since I managed to drink a beer and actually write an entry in this blog. So, what the hell have I been doing you ask?

Well, for one, I've formally purchased the domain for this blog. You can still access my beer ramblings via the blogspot address (for now, at least), but you can now also access it via the more traditional www.mandrinksbeer.com URL.

Along with the domain name, I also got a snazzy new email- Bill@mandrinksbeer.com. (don't worry, I am still using my g-mail address as well)

Secondly, I've been sick. I blame the children and day care. The whole house was sick. I now have two inhalers for myself after going 38 years without needing one. Its awesome.

But now I'm all healed up, as is everyone in the house (although I surely just jinxed that..), and I have time and beer! So without further ado, lets get to why we're all here- the beer!

Spring Hop Ale
Mayflower Brewing, Plymouth MA
ABV is not given, but estimating 5-6% 
(seasonal beer, only available in April)


The bottle describes this beer as celebrating the renewal of Spring with " a beer that is all about the aroma. Four varieties of American aroma hops create a flavorful and citrusy brew that will reawaken your senses. Taste the history".

Talk about hype..."taste the history?" Lets find out what that means.

This beer pours a deep red, clear, with a half inch of tight, off-white head which quickly collapses, leaving thin lacing, a nice sheen on the surface, and a modest Bavarian Ring on the glass

Smell is modestly hoppy and bright, with citrus notes and hints of malt.

Mouthfeel is moderate- this is definitely a medium bodied brew. Active alcohol and carbonation play on the tongue, but don't overwhelm.

Taste is definitely hoppy, with a citrus presence, but less pronounced than in the smell. Roasted malt notes give a nice, subtle earthiness, and balance out the grapefruit peel like citrus bitterness nicely. Finish is bitter and dry, but not overly so.

Overall, I feel this is a perfect beer to make the transition from the hearty stouts and porters of winter to the light summer wheat's and ales. Its got the perfect balance of bright summery citrus taste to complement a sunny spring afternoon, with enough malt and alcohol to keep you warm on a cold spring night watching the Sox fall to 1-5. I highly recommend this beer.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Another Stout from the Great State of Maine...

I love the state of Maine. The fact that its become a hot bed of craft brewing brings great joy to my heart! So here's another review of a Maine brewed beer.

Mean Old Tom- Stout Aged On Natural Vanilla Beans
Maine Beer Company, Portland, ME

This beer pours a dark brownish red, with a creamy brown head.


Smell is STRONG coffee and roasted malt.

Mouthfeel is surprisingly light and wet. Its "unstout"-like in my mind. Very thin on the pallete.

Taste is smokey coffee, deep and earthy. There is a surprising hop taste and bitterness as well. Finish is super light and wet and smooth. But where are the natural vanilla beans?

I found this to be an odd beer- great aroma and taste, but the mouthfeel is very, very light. It's so light and thin that I don't consider this this a stout at all. I'm not sure what to call it. There is no velvety smoothness on the tongue, no thick, substantial body to wash over and envelope the palette. I found it texturally disappointing.

And where were these natural vanilla beans I was told about on the label? They too appear to be MIA.

What we have here is a beer with great smell and taste, yet, to this drinker, it didn't taste at all like the beer advertised on the label.

So, should it be recommended?

Well.... I'll leave you with this- it did taste great, but I don't feel it's actually a stout, and that was what I was expecting. It's more of an India Pale Porter, with coffee.

Draw your own conclusions. Try it, let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Peak Organic Brewing Company-Oak Aged Mocha Stout

I've been on a bit of a "stout binge" of late. It's gotta be the cold weather, it makes me crave thicker, more substantial beers. When I saw this one on the shelf and read the label, it seemed an obvious must buy- a beer that is brewed with both coffee and chocolate? And its organic? Gotta give this beer a taste drive. Brewed with chocolate from Taza, and coffee from Coffee by Design, this beer has all the high quality/local ingredients you'd expect from Peak Organic Brewing.

Oak Aged Mocha Stout
Peak Organic Brewing Company, Portland, Maine
8.2 % ABV, 22 IBU's

This beer pours beautifully- jet black, with a a good half inch of dense brown head that leaves a substantial ring on the glass. It has an almost Guinness like cascade as the beer settles into the glass.

Nose is rather malty, with a subtle notes of bitter chocolate and wisps of wood.

Mouthfeel is smooth and rich, and it creates a tingling sensation on the tongue that I often notice with oak aged beers.

Taste is pronounced wood up front, obviously a product of the oak aging. Vanilla and smoke follow, rounded out by a bitter/sour finish that leaves you with notes of bitter chocolate and bitter coffee, and not much more.

I found this beer to be a tad too bitter for my taste (yes, I am aware its only 22 IBU's, but it tastes like a lot more). I prefer a smooth finish on my stouts, and I really didn't get any "mocha" flavor from this beer. It was much more smokey malts and wood flavors, as the coffee and chocolate just got overwhelmed and lost. I'm not sure if it's from the wood aging mellowing and thereby muddying the fine flavors of the specific high quality ingredients, but this beer just didn't work for me. I think it's a case of too much great stuff in one bottle all competing for your taste buds attention.

This beer is not recommended, but Peak Organic makes many other excellent brews, so give them a try.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Clown Shoes Brewing- "Blaecorn Unidragon" Russian Imperial Stout

We finally have some snow on the ground, and when the weather gets cold, I think stouts. STRONG stouts. Ones that can keep you warm on a cold winters night.

 Russian Imperial Stouts, to be exact.

This one is local to MA. I'd be lying if I said I knew much about Clown Shoes beer. Their beer appears to be brewed by Mercury Brewing in Ipswich, but its not an Ipswich Beer.

Clown Shoes "Blaecorn Unidragon" photo by Bill
Blaecorn Unidragon- Russian Imperial Stout
Clown Shoes Beer (brewed by Mercury Brewing, Ipswich, MA)
12.5% ABV

The bottle describes the beer, and the name, thusly-

"What should we call our Russian Imperial Stout? Black Unicorn? Soul Dragon? Nahhh. Let's combine them and create the ultimate mythical creature: Blaecorn Unidragon!

Imbued with a monstrous amount of dark malt and aggressive hops, Blaecorn Unidragon is a powerful and complex brew designed to improve with age"

My particular bottle was not aged, as I am not that patient. It was bottled on 10/11 and consumed on 1/19.

This beer pours black and oily, with a quarter inch of dark tan head that is vibrant and sustained. Great head retention on this brew.

Smell is intense- equal parts alcohol, hops, and dark roasted malt, it's a blend of smokey earthiness and alcohol.

Mouth feel is thick and creamy, velvety smooth, with just a touch of carbonation.

Taste is surprisingly hop forward- bitter hops greets the tongue, followed by an wash of alcohol, then the intense roasted malts on the follow through. I get a touch of licorice and smokiness, maybe bitter chocolate, but its subtle. Finish is slightly bitter and smokey.

I found this to be an ultra aggressive take on the style. The prominence of the hops give it a more East India Porter taste (much like Pretty Things EIP) , but with the mouth feel and lesser carbonation of a stout. The alcohol almost overpowers the smokey goodness of the dark roasted malts.

I enjoyed it, however, and would cautiously recommend this brew to Russian Imperial Stout lovers who have a designated driver or are enjoying it at home.