Monday, September 29, 2008

Flying Dog Dogtoberfest Review

Brewery: Flying Dog Brewery | Beer: Dogtoberfest
Style: Märzen/Oktoberfest
| ABV: 5.3%
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Flying Dog DogtoberfestContinuing in the vein of autumnal beers from brewers with the word dog in their name, this time we turn to Flying Dog's Dogtoberfest. Flying Dog was started as a brewpub in 1990 in Aspen by two ranchers, George Stranahan and Richard McIntyre. The brewery is quite proud of its connections to gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Each of their labels is illustrated by none other than the good doctor's legendary illustrator, Ralph Steadman, and marketing materials prominently feature Thompson quotes. Some of their beers are even dedicated to and inspired by the man. As a huge HST fan, I think I might love this brewery already.

Dogtoberfest is a Märzen, or Oktoberfest, style beer. In the days before refrigeration, beer was not brewed during the summer. The last batch, brewed in March (German for March is Märzen), was allowed to slowly ferment over the summer months until late September. Oktoberfest (calling it Septemberfest would have been too obvious) marks the end of the off-season and is fueled by the now ready Märzen. Typically, these beers are malty, copper in color, and have a medium alcohol content.

Appearance: Light copper body with amazing orange highlights and great clarity. The head pours about one and a half fingers high and is a brilliant creamy off-white. Eventually the head settles into a ring around the edge of the glass that leaves only soapy lacing that quickly recedes back onto the surface.

Aroma: Caramel sweetness with a toasted malt body and a slight hint of hops. Somewhat thinner than I would have imagined.

Taste: Balance of sweet toasted malt and floral hop bitterness with the caramel sweetness and some nuttiness in the back. Like the nose, the taste is a lot thinner than I was anticipating. The flavors themselves are nice, although perhaps a little too bitter at times, but the problem is I'm just not getting enough of them.

Mouthfeel: Somewhat watery body with a good amount of carbonation. The aftertaste is pleasantly dry and bitter and certainly more intense than the rest of the beer would lead you to expect.

Drinkability: With the thin body, this beer is quite drinkable, though perhaps a bit boring.

Verdict: While the fundamentals of this beer seem strong (I got this line from John McCain), it's just too thin to really inspire me. If they really cranked up the malt on this beer, closer to what you'd expect in a Märzen, I think this beer would be a real winner. However, with the body as thin as it is this beer is simply an average Oktoberfest offering.

Grade: C

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale Review

Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery | Beer: Punkin Ale
Style: Pumpkin Ale | ABV: 7.0%
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Dogfish Head Punkin AleFall is upon us once again, so I thought it was appropriate to review some seasonal offerings here on PintLog. Instead of starting with one of the cornucopia of Oktoberfest themed beers, I figured I'd start with something a little different. Dogfish Head is one my absolute favorite breweries, they put out some of the most interesting beers on the market. Known for what founder Sam Calagione calls "extreme beer," Dogfish puts out a portfolio of decidedly non-traditional, high alcohol content, high quality brews.

The Fall Dogfish Head seasonal in Punkin Ale, the company's take on (believe it or not) Pumpkin Ale. In true Dogfish Head style, the description/ingredient list on the bottle is nothing if not intriguing: "A full bodied brown ale brewed with real pumpkin, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon & nutmeg." Based on my experiences with other Dogfish Head offerings, I have some pretty high hopes for this beer. The bottle blurb has me practically drooling, so without further adieu (what exactly is adieu, anyway?) let's pour a bottle.

Appearance: Crystal-clear with a brilliant copper orange hue. A somewhat fizzy finger-width head that fades into decent lacing.

Aroma: Just like a freshly baked pumpkin pie - spicy, lots of pumpkin (obviously), and big doses of sweet brown sugar. It smells exactly how you might imagine while reading over the ingredients. Quite appetizing.

Taste: Brown sugar sweetness and pumpkin up front with a nice spicy nutmeg and cinnamon finish. The beer underneath these flavors is somewhat bitter with sweet and bready malt. You can definitely detect that seven percent booze from time to time, but it's certainly not overpowering. Usually, I'm not a big pumpkin fan, but I really love it in this application. It doesn't really taste like a Brown Ale underneath, more like a malty Pale Ale.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and velvety with a good amount of carbonation. It finishes nicely with the slick feeling you get with higher ABV beers.

Drinkability: Despite the somewhat nontraditional flavor combination and moderately high alcohol content, I'd be more than happy to sit and throw back a four-pack of this over a Fall evening. One of the more sessionable Dogfish Head creations I've tried (for example, it would take quite long night for me to finish a pack of Raison D'Etre).

Verdict: While Pumpkin Ales are nothing new, I knew when I saw the neon orange pack adorned with the shark icon sitting on the shelf, I'd be in for something special. Punkin did not disappoint. Without a doubt, this is the best Pumpkin themed beer I've ever tasted. As I've come to expect from Dogfish, this beer is lavish, complex, and above all, unique. These are the kinds of beers that leave such an indelible impression on me that I can almost summon their taste just by thinking about them. Brilliant.

Grade: A

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mississippi Mud Black & Tan Review

Brewery: Mississippi Brewing Co. | Beer: Mississippi Mud Black & Tan
Style: Black & Tan | ABV: 5.0%
Serving Method: 32 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Mississippi Mud Black and TanTypically, when one thinks of a Black & Tan, visions of menacing Dry Irish Stout floating atop golden English Pale Ale come to mind. However, according to the bottle, this brew is a mix of "a robust English Porter with a fine Continental Pilsner." Still, the idea of being able to enjoy a good Black & Tan at home without all of the bent spoons and alchemy is attractive to those that either haven't learned the art or just can't be bothered. (Tip: buy one of those "turtles" they sell at good liquor stores, it couldn't be easier . I'm pretty sure even my English Bulldog could make a decent B&T using one, and she's nearly blind in one eye).

The first thing I think most people notice about this beer is it's signature bottle, featuring a particularly wicked looking gator. Designed to look like an old-timey jug (one you could imagine in, say, Mississippi perhaps), it sure stands out on the shelf. I've always been a big fan of traditional Black & Tans, so I approach this beer with healthy skepticism tempered with a good amount of optimism. By the way, Mississippi Mud is brewed by Mississippi Brewing Brewing Company, of... New York. Uh-oh.

Appearance: Mahogany with ruby highlights and a clear body, this beer doesn't really look much like mud. Pours a pleasant off-white creamy head that slowly settles into a creamy skin and then mild lacing.

Aroma: Medium malt with some of the coffee and chocolate notes you'd expect from something that's half Porter combined with hints of sweet, slightly hoppy lager - not much more here.

Taste: Watered down medium roasted malt body with a bit of dark fruit and the tang of cheap hops. It finishes with hints of weird metallic tones (think Shiner Bock). This doesn't resemble the real deal at all, it's closer to a shitty, watery macro attempt at a Stout, Porter or Dark Lager.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is certainly nowhere near mud - fizzy, thin and watery.

Drinkability: Easy enough to drink I suppose, but really, what's the point? I don't even really want to drink the rest of this glass, let alone the two 32 ouncers in the fridge I secured for testing purposes. (Fear not, dear reader, I eventually did finish all 96 oz. for you).

Verdict: Watery and thin, with the lackluster taste to match, the brewery has some stones to call this "Mississippi Mud," it's closer to St. Louis runoff. I'm assuming that the "Continental Lager" mentioned on the bottle is clever code for a typical American macro-lager. And it certainly does taste like a middle-of-the-road, bland, Porter mixed with swill and given a fancy name. While I certainly did not expect this to be as good as a real B&T, I had at least hoped it would be a somewhat decent analog. But alas, this beer lets down it's awesome bottle, name and premise. All marketing, no beer.

Grade: D