Brewery: Boston Brewing Co. | Beer: Samuel Adams LongShot Double IPA
Style: American Double India Pale Ale | ABV: 9.0% | IBUs: ~100
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass
One of the releases I look forward to most each year is the Samuel Adams Longshot pack. The pack is composed of two winning beers from the American Homebrew Contest and one beer from the Boston Beer Company employee's competition. I absolutely love that Samuel Adams has such a commitment to homebrewing, and I love the fact that some of the best homebrewer's beers make it to my local liquor store even more.
Unfortunately, due to the hop shortage last year, Mike McDole’s 2007 champion Double IPA was unable to make it to production. Mike brewed the beer as a Pliny the Elder clone that clocks in at about 100 IBUs, so you know there were a hell of a lot of hops involved. It wasn't a case of the hops simply being too expensive, some of the seven varieties in the recipe were just unavailable at any price at the time. Well, the wait (and hopefully the hop shortage) is over, and the beer is finally here. Lets see if it was worth the wait.
Appearance: A deeply hazy, dark orange body capped by a generous mountain of off-white head that sticks around a long time and leaves great curtains of lace behind. Top marks.
Aroma: Intense and pungent citrusy Cascade-like hop oil absolutely explodes from the glass. Underneath it all, there's a solid caramel malt base accompanied by a nice dose of booze.
Taste: Up front, a brilliant flourish of bitter, herbal, grapefruity, piney, and resiny hops. After the initial hop blast, there's a solid caramel malt backbone to keep the hops somewhat in check. The alcohol is masked well enough and there's plenty of bitterness in the finish. This is no slouch, but a proper West Coast style Double IPA.
Mouthfeel: A creamy, slightly fuller than medium body with good carbonation. A dry finish.
Drinkability: Just what you'd expect from a full-bodied, full-hopped, and fully-potent Double IPA.
Verdict: I've waited quite a while to try this beer, and it didn't disappoint. Congratulations Mike, you've brewed up a great beer here! I'd love to see Sam Adams base a year-round Double IPA on this recipe as the newest addition to the Imperial Series.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Brewery: Boston Brewing Co. | Beer: Samuel Adams LongShot Double IPA
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Brewery: Young & Co's Brewery PLC | Beer: Young's Double Chocolate Stout
Style: Milk/Sweet Stout | ABV: 5.2% | IBUs: ~25
Serving Method: 14.9 oz. nitro-can poured into pint glass
Back when I started PintLog, one of the first beers I reviewed was bottled Young's Double Chocolate Stout (you can check out that review here). Since then, it has consistently been the most popular review here on the website, so I thought that I should finally get around to reviewing the other version available on American beer shelves.
Like many popular British beers, Young's Double Chocolate Stout is also available in tall, nitrogenated cans. Compared to carbonated beers, beers that utilize nitrogen have a much smoother mouthfeel with a thicker and creamier head. So, let's pull the tab and see how the widget changes this beer.
Appearance: A deep brown, almost black, body with brown highlights. On top a caramel-tinged, beautifully creamy, and dense nitro-assisted head that leaves brilliant curtains of lacing. Gorgeous presentation.
Aroma: Tons of milk chocolate and roasted malt. Not much else comes though, but that's okay.
Taste: Sweet, roasty malt with plenty of big notes of British milk-chocolate. Notes of toffee and coffee are also present, though in much lower amounts. There's a little hop bitterness towards the end to offer a bit of additional depth. Not thin, but not amazingly intense either. The aftertaste is sweet and roasty.
Mouthfeel: A body that's perhaps a little fuller than medium with smooth, light "carbonation." The "carbonation" level seems to be a little below the already low levels typical to beers served from a nitro-can, making it just a little flat. Coats the mouth a bit.
Drinkability: With moderate alcohol content, a relatively mild flavor profile, and a smooth mouthfeel this makes for a very sessionable brew.
Verdict: Young's Double Chocolate Stout is popular for good reason - it's a solid, sessionable Stout with a nice focus on chocolate flavors. As for whether it's better carbonated in a bottle or nitrogenated in a can, it's a tough call for me. While I certainly appreciate the smooth mouthfeel here, and feel that it compliments the flavor profile well, it just seems a little too flat to really top the carbonated version. It's pretty much a toss-up - but if forced to choose, I think I'd go with the carbonated bottle. I certainly didn't expect that!
Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery | Beer: Raison D'Etre
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale | ABV: 8.0% | IBUs: 25
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass
Way back when I was a tenderfoot first starting my journey into the world of craft beer, I logged many an hour standing in the beer aisle staring blankly at six-pack after six-pack after six-pack. Knowing hardly anything about beer at the time, all I had to go on was packaging and descriptions.
One of the first beers to pique my interest enough to bring it home with me was Dogfish Head's Raison D'Etre. The bottle reads: "A deep mahogany ale brewed with Belgian beet sugars, green raisins, and a sense of purpose." How could I resist that? It was quite a shock to my innocent palate when I got it home, but I knew that I liked it.
Here's how the great Michael Jackson described the beer:
I could not resist the pun in a beer called Raison d'Etre, based on a brown ale. This contains green raisins and dark candy sugar, and has a primary fermentation with an English ale yeast and a secondary with a Belgian culture. It starts winey, with suggestions of sweet oloroso sherry, developing spicy grain notes in the middle, then finishes with a soft, almondy dryness.So now that countless new beers have passed over my palate, how will Raison stack up?
Appearance: The body is a rich dark brown, very nearly black outside of direct light, with reddish-brown highlights. On top, a two-finger caramel head that leaves decent lacing. This is a beautiful presentation.
Aroma: Slightly sweet and smoky deep-roasted malt dominates. It's accompanied by whiffs of dark fruit and a nice kick of booze in the back.
Taste: Roasty, smoky, and nutty malt with dark fruit and dark chocolate notes throughout. It's balanced with a good helping of bitterness in the end. Assertive alcohol compliments everything. The aftertaste is intense and roasty.
Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied with moderately-low carbonation. You can certainly feel the alcohol in your throat a bit. A nice dry finish.
Drinkability: With a good dose of alcohol and a complex profile, this is in the fast part of sipper territory.
Verdict: Another solid and unique offering from Dogfish Head, Raison D'Etre has a complex flavor profile with a hell of a lot going on in just one glass. This is a great beer to sip in the evening and ponder over.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. | Beer: Wheat Beer
Style: American Pale Wheat Ale | ABV: 4.4% IBUs: 27
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Weizen glass
With two new year-round releases from Sierra Nevada this year (Torpedo and Kellerweis), it came as no surprise that one of their existing beers was going to have to bow out in order to make room. And with the incoming Kellerweis also being a Wheat beer, the choice to discontinue the relatively poor selling Wheat Beer only made sense.
Having never actually tried Sierra Nevada Wheat Beer, I decided that I had to try it before it was too late when I heard it was getting the axe. While there wasn't much stock left on the shelves here in Houston, I was able to find a couple of six-packs to sample.
Sierra Nevada's lightest Ale in the lineup, Wheat Beer has been a popular Summer beer for the Chico faithful. The malt backbone is built from Two-Row Pale and Wheat varieties, Perle hops are utilized for bittering, and Spalt hops are used for finishing. Here's how Sierra Nevada described Wheat Beer:
Pale, smooth, and light-bodied, Sierra Nevada Wheat Beer is brewed from premium malted wheat and light barley malts, utilizing our traditional ale yeast. This unfiltered ale is finished with the characteristically spicy Strissel Spalt hops from the Alsace region of France.Sounds like good stuff. Though it may be a bit of a moot point now, let's pop a cap and see what made Wheat Beer tick.
Appearance: The body is crystal-clear and pale straw in color. But the star of the show is a monstrous, luxuriant head that leaves awesome curtains of doily-like lace and endures until the bottom of the glass. Beautiful.
Aroma: A pale wheat base with decent hops and some hints of citrus. It's pretty thin overall.
Taste: It's much the same story in the flavor profile. A pale, somewhat bready wheat body with a nice citrus kick and decently bitter hops. Quite mellow, but much more intense than the nose.
Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with average carbonation. Just short of dry in the finish.
Drinkability: Absolutely top-notch; perfect for grilling on summer's day.
Verdict: Sierra Nevada is a solid, tasty Wheat beer, and I'm sad to see it go. Sure, it may not be the most exciting beer in the lineup, but it will be missed. Godspeed.
Note: While this review is being published in June, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh this past April.
Brewery: Oskar Blues Brewery | Beer: Gordon
Style: American Double India Pale Ale | ABV: 8.7% | IBUs: 85
Serving Method: 12 oz. can poured into tulip glass
With one of the highest average scores of any brewery here on PintLog, Oskar Blues has been a very welcome addition here in the Houston market. With Ten Fidy, their Russian Imperial Stout, garnering a perfect A+ a few weeks ago, I figured it was time to look to the hoppier part of the style spectrum and give their beer named simply Gordon a look.
Initially brewed as Oskar Blues' Winter seasonal, Gordon is now brewed throughout the year as one of the company's five canned offerings. While I have listed it as a Double IPA, Oskar Blues describe it as a hybrid "somewhere between an Imperial Red and a Double IPA," so keep that in mind. Gordon is named after the late Gordon Knight, a Colorado craft-brew pioneer that passed away in 2002 fighting a wild fire.
Oskar Blues describe Gordon as "an assertive yet exceptionally smooth version of strong beer" featuring "a gooey, resiny aroma and a luscious mouthfeel." The malt backbone is built with six varieties, including Chocolate. Three hops varieties are used during brewing, and then a "mutha lode" of Amarillo hops are used for dry-hopping. It certainly sounds like another winner, so let's go ahead and pop the top.
Appearance: A rich, dark red-orange body with a two-finger tall, off-white head. Brilliant lacing.
Aroma: Tons of Cascadey hops over a solid, sweet caramel malt base. This is absolutely excellent.
Taste: An excellent wave of citrusy hops up front with plenty of sweet caramel malt underneath. This is one of the most balanced Double IPAs I've had the pleasure to try. The alcohol is hidden excellently.
Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied with adequate carbonation.
Drinkability: Above average for the style, but you're still going to have to pace yourself with the 8.7% alcohol.
Verdict: Balanced with a big caramel backbone, Gordon has a unique flavor profile for a Double IPA. While it's certainly somewhat less hop-centric and more drinkable than most Double IPAs, don't be fooled into thinking it's somehow weak. With another beer receiving a review in the "A" range, Oskar Blues is now poised to really dominate the PintLog ratings.
Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. | Beer: Stout
Style: American Stout | ABV: 5.8% | IBUs: 60
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass
Thanks to great beers like Celebration, Pale Ale, the Harvest series, and now Torpedo, the name Sierra Nevada is deeply associated with hops in my mind. But, Sierra Nevada also brews up a couple of beers from the maltier side of the style spectrum, both a Porter and a Stout. With as much as I have enjoyed the hoppy beers I've tried from Chico so far, I decided it was time to check out some of the darker Sierras.
Like the other four original Sierra Nevada's year-round beers, their Stout has the simplest, least pretentious name possible: Stout. But don't be fooled by the name, this is a complex and well constructed beer. The backbone is built with Two-row Pale, Munich, Caramel, and Black malt varieties. As for hops, the beer is bittered with Magnum hops and finished with both Cascade and Willamette varieties. Here's how Sierra Nevada themselves describe their Stout:
"Creamy, malty, and full-bodied, the Sierra Nevada Stout is satisfyingly rich. Caramel and Black malts give the Stout its deep, dark color and pronounced roasted flavor."It certainly sounds like a solid Stout, but let's crack the bottle to be sure.
Appearance: A dark, imposing body that only allows a handful of dull ruby light to pass through. A big, sticky, toffee-colored head endures until the bottom of the glass, leaving terrific lacing on the way.
Aroma: As you'd expect, lots of roasted malt with the usual chocolate and freshly ground coffee notes associated with a good stout. Hops make an appearance, unlike most Stouts.
Taste: As you'd expect in a Stout, the backbone is of sweet, roasty malt. Despite being a plain old American Stout, this puts many Chocolate Stouts to shame in the chocolate department. It's almost like a frothy chocolate malt at times. Somewhat bitter hops are more present than your average Stout, but never really raise their voices all that much. As I've come to expect from Sierra Nevada, this is a well balanced beer.
Mouthfeel: Beautifully creamy medium-full body with moderately-high carbonation.
Drinkability: Average for the Stout style. You're probably not going to be chugging these after you mow the lawn, but you won't have to nurse it for hours on end.
Verdict: Maybe it's because I associate Sierra Nevada mainly with the hoppier styles of beer rather than the malty ones, but I was expecting this to be a solid, but generally unexciting Stout. Boy, was I wrong. This is a chocolaty, complex beer very much worth a look.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
A few years ago while visiting an Amy's Ice Cream parlor in Austin, I came across a truly heavenly concoction. Amongst the list of amazing flavors, there it was: Guinness. This was back in my Guinness phase, before I had really started exploring the world of beer, so I was ecstatic. I stepped up to the counter and placed an order that I had placed a thousand times before: "I'll have a pint of Guinness, please."
The concoction lived up to my greatest expectations, and with no Amy's locations within 150 miles of my apartment, I decided it was finally time to take matters into my own hands in order to furnish a steady supply of the stuff. Since my wife and I received an ice cream maker attachment for our stand mixer at our wedding, there was really no excuse not to give it a try. After some basic research (also known as Googling "Guinness ice cream recipe" and clicking the first result), I found a recipe from The Boston Globe to try out (check it out here).
Here's the ingredient list the recipe calls for:
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2/3 cup Guinness stout
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons molasses
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
The first step was heating the cream, milk, and a dash of the extract to a boil and setting it aside to cool. Next, we whisked together the Guinness and molasses, heated the mixture to a boil and cooked it until it reduced to about a quarter of its original volume, and set it aside along side the cream. While both saucepans cooled, we mixed the sugar and yolks together into a mixing bowl. Then, we slowly whisked the warm cream mixture into the mixing bowl and poured the mix into the saucepan along with the beer mixture. Finally, we heated the mixture for about six minutes, until it was nicely thick, strained it, and placed it in the fridge for two hours. Simple as that.
After waiting for the excruciating two hours, we pulled out the pre-frozen freezing bowl (it takes 15 hours to freeze the bloody thing, so plan ahead) and the stand mixer to get to the exciting part. Before dumping our mix into the bowl, I decided to take a quick sample, and... it tasted horrible. It was savory, salty, and totally wrong - my first thought was the molasses. I was wary of the stuff from the beginning, hence cutting the amount included by over half. I took a whiff of the molasses in the jar just to be sure, and it certainly seemed like the culprit. Who knew molasses was so gross?
So now what? Well, I like to see things through, so I did what anyone would do: I poured a shitload of sugar and coconut extract in the mix and crossed my fingers. It tasted a lot better when I sampled it, but was still rather off. However, we hadn't come this far for nothing, so I dumped it in the freezing bowl, turned it on, and walked away from 25 minutes. It certainly looked the part after it's time in the mixer, and the texture was awesome, but it still tasted terrible. We're talking soy sauce flavored ice cream here - no offense Boston Globe, but that was bullshit.
Okay, okay, okay. That sucked. Badly. Luckily we still had eggs, milk, and cream left in the fridge so we decided to give it another whirl (pun intended). At least we knew that the ice cream maker works like a charm and that most of what we did worked. So, the next day we set out again, but with a few changes.
After researching some different recipes for Guinness ice cream and reflecting on the previous day's events we decided it was best to rule out as many variables as possible to avoid another wasted bowl of ice cream. So instead of the new Guinness 250 Anniversary (which is tasty enough, and I'm sure can be made into a delicious ice cream) we went with regular old Guinness Draught, instead of coconut extract we went back to vanilla, and instead of adding molasses to the mix we threw the jar in the trash. Besides those swaps, everything was exactly the same.
This time, we hit paydirt. All of the flavors mesh perfectly together with none of the offending flavors from the first batch present. It's tastes like rich, incredibly creamy vanilla ice cream with subtle Guinness flavors (toasted malt with coffee and chocolate) mixed in (imagine that). The texture is perfectly fluffy and creamy, I'm shocked how perfectly it came out. I think this is just the first batch in a very long line of beer flavored ice creams coming out of our kitchen. Stay tuned for new flavors coming soon and feel free to leave a comment with any suggestions.
So, to anyone thinking about making their own beer flavored ice cream, or any kind of ice cream really, I encourage you to go for it. Just hold the molasses.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Brewery: Oskar Blues Brewery | Beer: Ten Fidy
Style: Russian Imperial Stout | ABV: 10.0% | IBUs: 98
Serving Method: 12 oz. can poured into tulip glass
Believe it or not, after over sixty reviews here on PintLog, I've yet to review one of my absolute favorite styles: the Russian Imperial Stout. Well, that changes today.
The Russian Imperial Stout style dates back to late 1700s, when British brewers started to brew up an incredibly hoppy and potent version of Stout for export to Russia. Fortified to live up to both the journey to Russia and the tastes of it's resident, these were some big beers. They were said to be quite popular with the Russian Imperial court, hence the name. Recently, there's been a big resurgence of the style in the American craft brew scene. Much like Double IPAs, they work well as an no-compromises showcase for a brewer's talents and are one of the beer community's absolute favorite styles.
So, what Russian Imperial Stout to start with? While there are plenty on the market here in Houston, I was extremely excited this past Winter to find cans of Oskar Blues' legendary Ten Fidy on the shelves. With tons of buzz in the beer community and constant mentions on top beer lists, I've been waiting to try this beer for a long time now. Ten Fidy is a full-blown Russian Imperial Stout with ten percent alcohol by volume and almost 100 IBUs. Here's how Oskar Blues describe Ten Fidy:
It's the beer equivalent of decadently rich milkshake made with malted-milk balls and Heaven’s best chocolate ice cream.How can you not like that? Let's pop a can open and see what lies inside.
Appearance: My God, it looks like motor oil as it pours out of the can. Blacker than black and thick as molasses, this is without a doubt the darkest beer I've ever seen. It's like a black hole, absorbing all light it comes in contact with. In the glass, it pours a very minimalistic deep-caramel head with half-decent lacing and retention.
Aroma: If you melted a bar of dark chocolate and mixed it with a few drops of pure hop oil and a shot of ethanol, this is what it would smell like. Powerful is somewhat of an understatement.
Taste: Pounds of dark-roasted, bittersweet chocolate malt condensed down into an aluminum-wrapped twelve ounce serving. But don't be fooled into thinking this is just a one-dimensional beer. Somehow, the maniacal brewers have found space in the can for a big wall of hops. How can a beer as big as this seem somewhat balanced? Madness. As you'd expect for a beer in the double digit ABV realm, the booze likes to raise its voice. As it warms, it kicks your ass more and more.
Mouthfeel: I've compared other beers to milkshakes before, but they all seem like water compared to this. This is simply massive and smooth as all hell. The booze makes itself known in your throat.
Drinkability: You'd have to be some sort of God/lumberjack hybrid to be able to throw this back with ease.
Verdict: Ten Fidy is an experience, to say the least, and the best Russian Imperial I've tried yet. A massive body with a brilliant malt profile and a nice flourish of hops. If you like Russian Imperial Stouts whatsoever and can find this in your area, buy it. If you can't find it in your area, move.
Note: While this review is being published in June, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh last Winter.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Brewery: Abita Brewing Co. | Beer: Strawberry Harvest Lager
Style: Fruit Beer | ABV: 4.2% | IBUs: 13
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Pilsener glass
I love to try local beer, and luckily for me the state of Texas is (despite what one might guess) rather fertile ground for great craft beer. But what about the surrounding states? Is there good beer flowing in the states around Texas as well?
To answer that, I set out to pick up a beer from New Orleans-area based Abita. Years ago, a friend and I worked our way through a mixed Abita twelve-pack. From what I remember we were pretty impressed, but that was before I really knew anything about beer, so I figured it was well past time to try some more Abita.
Now, usually when I pick up my first beer from a brewery, I like to pick either their flagship beer or their take on one of my favorite styles. This time, however, I decided to switch things up a bit. Despite a very full stable of beers available here in Houston, it was the Strawberry Harvest Lager that first caught my eye. Read into that what you may...
Strawberry Harvest Lager is a Fruit Beer based on what Abita calls a wheat lager base. Here's how they describe the beer on its label:
Ripe, red Louisiana strawberries are harvested at the peak of the season in the early morning chill. The scent of the juicy red Ponchatoula berries fills the air as they're picked and pressed for Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager. The end result us a light, crisp lager with just a hint of strawberry sweetness.It sounds a little storybook to me, but it's what actually ended up in the bottle that really matters.
Appearance: A pale golden, slightly hazy body with a sudsy finger of near-white head that recedes rapidly and leaves little lacing.
Aroma: Quite simply, strawberry shortcake. Much closer to real strawberries than strawberry candy. The malt base is firmly in the pale malt range and seems a little sweet (though that may be the strawberries mixing in). I have to say, this is intriguing and alluring.
Taste: Still lots of fresh strawberries, though more muted than in the nose. The Lager comes through much clearer here than in the nose, but unfortunately it's a little grainy and average. The two flavors just don't mesh that well, I can't help but think that these strawberry flavors could have found a better housemate than a boring Lager. The aftertaste is pretty short, and tastes of strawberries and grain.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied with good carbonation. The finish dries up a bit.
Drinkability: Decent, providing you like strawberries.
Verdict: In all honesty, I have to say I like this. It reminds of me of Sam Adams Cherry Wheat in a way: it's a fruit dominated beer that just seems a little wrong, but you can't help but like it. This is miles ahead of Cherry Wheat, but still not a great beer. Worth a try if you're a strawberry fan, but rather forgettable.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Brewery: Spoetzl Brewery | Beer: Shiner Smokehaus
Style: Rauchbier | ABV: 4.9% | IBUs: 16
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Pilsener glass
A couple of months ago, while searching for a Rauchbier (smoked beers especially popular around Bamberg, Germany) to review here on PintLog, I learned how absolutely impossible it is to find smoked beer here in Texas. Eventually, on a trip to the Southern Star brewery, brewmaster Dave Fougeron tapped a keg of his renowned Rauchbier and I got my first sip of the style. My wife and I were totally blown away with how delicious it was. While Dave jokingly described the beer as "ham in a glass," this was an amazingly well crafted and tasty beer. Unfortunately, that one brilliant pint at the brewery was still my only encounter with smoked beers. Until now.
I was incredibly excited when I heard that the brewers behind the Shiner line of beers announced that they would be producing a smoked Lager for the Summer. Named Smokehaus, the beer is essentially a Helles-style Lager built with malt smoked with local mesquite at the brewery in Shiner. The beer has finally started to show up on shelves here in Houston, just in time for the oppressive Texas heatwave, and I can't wait to give it a try.
Appearance: A crystal-clear golden-amber body with a generous bubbly white head that burns out rather quickly leaving only the barest patches of lacing.
Aroma: A rather typical pale malt Lager body with some definite notes of mesquite smoke. No hops to speak of. I was really hoping for more smoke here...
Taste: The familiar taste of a light Shiner Lager accented with a splash of tasty smokiness in the finish. Unfortunately, the smoke flavor is not very intense and comes off as a bit of an afterthought after the first couple of sips. The aftertaste is composed of a quick flash of smoke and grain that fades quickly.
Mouthfeel: A slightly lighter than medium body with good carbonation.
Drinkability: Built as a very drinkable and refreshing beer, with the smoke flavor light enough to not slow it down whatsoever. A great beer for grilling in the Texas heat.
Verdict: Lots of credit to Shiner for trying something new here, I just wish they had been a bit more bold with the smoke intensity. If you've never tried a smoked beer, this is a nice gentle introduction. I hope this helps pave the way to a new crop of Rauchbiers on the market here in Texas.