Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Westvleteren to be Commercialized

In the world of the beer geek, Westvleteren is truly a hallowed name.

Based in the the Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren and founded in 1838, the Westvleteren Brewery (or Brouwerij Westvleteren) is one of the seven Trappist breweries operating today. While they only brew three beers currently, one of their offerings, Westvleteren 12°, is routinely named the best beer in the world. The fabled brew tops both the BeerAdvocate and RateBeer charts and has become a right of passage for many beer lovers.

Up until this point, the monks have only sold their beer on site at the abbey and only sell enough to cover the expenses of the monastery. Demand greatly outpaces supply, but the monks have not budged. As the legend of Westy 12 spread, the monks began to ration the beer, with tighter and tighter limits on how much one could buy. In 2009, the limit became one case per license plate per month for the 12°, with a hard to obtain reservation required. While the quality of the beer is beyond reproach, there is no doubt that all of this scarcity has added to the myth and driven even more demand for the beer.

Last week, a kind Belgian soul that had dutifully been sending bottles of Westy 12 overseas at no profit to himself announced the monks had asked him politely to stop. Rumors began to fly, with some positing that the monks were set to announce commercial sales of their beers. It turns out those rumors were correct, as the monks have announced they will indeed start to sell their beer outside of the abbey for the first time ever.

In an effort to pay for renovations to the abbey, discussions are underway with Belgian warehouse chain Colruyt for the first foray in commercial sales for the brewery. If all goes to plan, Belgian consumers will be able to buy a gift pack containing a mix of Westvleteren Blonde, 8°, and the fabled 12°.

Details are relatively sparse at the moment, with no definite figures on how much beer the monks plan to sell outside the abbey, or how long for. The operator of the brewery has said "we are required to at least temporarily to brew more beer," which gives the impression that the monks aren't planning this as an ongoing venture.

Source: De Morgan (in Dutch)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Samuel Adams Holiday Porter Review

Brewery: Boston Brewing Co. | Beer: Samuel Adams Holiday Porter
Style: English Porter | ABV: 5.8%
| IBUs: 35
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Samuel Adams Holiday PorterShowing up every winter for the last six years in Sam Adams' mixed seasonal pack, Holiday Porter has built a reputation as one of the brewery's best beers. It's what Sam Adams describe as a traditional-style British Porter and was brewed as a tribute to the original beers and those it was named after.

While it's still pretty far from the holiday season, the unseasonably cool weather here in Houston has me in a wintry mood, so I figured it was as good a time as any to post my notes from the 2008 batch.

There's a pretty complicated ingredient list behind the beer. The backbone is built from Two-Row Harrington, Metcalfe, Copeland, Caramel 60, Munich 10, and Carafa malt varieties along with flaked oats to help round everything off. It's hopped with East Kent Goldings, Fuggles, and Spalt Spalter noble nops, with more Goldings added during a bout of dry-hopping. As usual, everything is brought to life with the house ale yeast.

Here's how the describe the finished product:

Robust and full bodied. Deep, rich and roasty malt balanced with traditional English ale hops and a touch of German Noble hops.
It's still not December yet, but let's dig in anyway.

Appearance: A murky, deep dark brown body that blocks most light, except for a few ruby highlights. Up top, two solid fingers of tan-tinged head with good retention and great lacing.

Aroma: Equal proportions of roasted malt, milk chocolate and toffee with some hints of dark fruit and nuttiness thrown into the mix.

Taste: The taste follows the aroma well, but is a little less sweet and adds a mild coffee dimension. This is very much a Porter, but perhaps a little lighter in intensity than usual. The aftertaste is nicely roasty and nutty.

Mouthfeel: A silky body that's perhaps a little fuller than medium accompanied by smooth carbonation. Dries in the finish.

Drinkability: Securely in the middle of the drinkability spectrum.

Verdict: Holiday Porter is certainly a welcome inclusion in the Sam Adams Winter seasonal pack and fits the season well. But, that being said, I can see why they don't offer it year-round - it's just not very compelling.

Grade: B-

Note: While the review above is being posted in October 2010, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in December 2008.

Rogue Santa's Private Reserve Review

Brewery: Rogue Ales Brewery | Beer: Santa's Private Reserve
Style: American Red Ale | ABV: 6.0%
| IBUs: 44
Serving Method: 22 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Rogue Santa's Private ReserveThink about winter seasonals, and what comes to mind is a parade of rich, dark, and warming beers. While that makes sense, it can get a little old. That's why I love when brewers release lighter winter seasonals that buck the trend.

Rogue apparently shares my opinion, as their Santa's Private Reserve is an American Red Ale. While it may not yet be winter, it's cold enough outside that I decided to post up my review of 2008's batch.

A double-hopped variation on the old Saint Rogue Red, Santa's Private Reserve is a big Red Ale with ABV and IBU ratings to match. The backbone is built from Carastan, Crystal, Rogue Micro Barley Farm Dare, and Risk malts varieties. It's hopped with Chinook, Rogue Farm Revolution, and Freedom Hops. As always, everything is brought to life with the house Pacman yeast.

Rogue is a brief in their description, noting on that it is "reddish in color, with a roasty, malty flavor and a hoppy spruce finish." Let's pretend it's December and dig in!

Appearance: A crystal-clear, rich reg-orange body with brilliant orange highlights. Up top, two creamy fingers of off-white head that hang around a long time, leaving great lacing.

Aroma: Citrusy and somewhat piney hops over a caramel malt base. Basically a Red Ale with the hops cranked up.

Taste: Up front, a properly bitter splash of hops with citrus, tropical fruit and piney character. Underneath, a toasty, biscuity, and caramel-like malt backbone keeps everything balanced well. Bitterness continues throughout the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: A creamy medium body with smooth carbonation and a dry finish.

Drinkability: A great session beer if you're into hops.

Verdict: I'm always happy to find great Winter seasonals besides the typical Stouts, Barleywines, etc. and Santa's Private Reserve fits the bill well. If you're looking for a Winter seasonal heavy on the hops, but perhaps not as heavy as Celebration, this is a great option.

Grade: A

Note: While the review above is being posted in October 2010, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in December 2008.

Flying Dog Kerberos Tripel Review

Brewery: Flying Dog Brewery | Beer: Kerberos Tripel
Style: Tripel | ABV: 8.5% | IBUs: 27
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Flying Dog Kerberos TripelWhile there have been a few different Flying Dog beers here on Pintlog, I have yet to review one from their Canis Major series of big beers. We're starting the series off today with Kerberos, a Tripel with a mean bite.

Believe it or not, but this is actually the first Tripel that's made it on top PintLog, meaning we have to stop for a quick description of the style. One of the traditional Trappist style, the Tripel is stronger than Enkel (now generally known as "Blond") and Dubbel, but a little weaker than the Quadrupel.

Tripels are a little darker than a Strong Golden Ale with a fuller and maltier body to match. They typically have lots of peppery phenols, citrusy esters, sweet malt, and spicy hops. They're strong in alcohol content, but usually have a sneaky masked punch you have to watch out for.

This particular Tripel is named for the hound that guards the gates of Hades in Greek mythology and seems to slot right into the middle of the IBU and ABV range for Tripels. As for ingredients, the backbone is built from Pilsener and Aromatic malts and it's hopped with Golding and Saaz hops. It's bottle conditioned for authenticity, so this dog is still kicking when you bring it home.

Flying Dog are brief with their notes, noting only that it has a "dark golden color and a sweet flavor with a dry and spicy finish." Let's see if the beer speaks for itself.

Appearance: A slightly hazy golden-amber body with less than a finger of off-white head that burns out rapidly and leaves no lacing.

Aroma: A nicely complex combination of fruit (most notably orange), spices (clove and coriander), yeast, and some bare whiffs of alcohol. It certainly smells like a Tripel, that's for sure.

Taste: A mix similar to the nose: apple, orange, pepper, and yeast all over a mild malt backbone. Alcohol is more noticeable than in the nose, but still far from brash. The finish is peppery and citrusy.

Mouthfeel: A medium body with moderate carbonation and a drying finish. At times you can detect some slickness and mild burn from the alcohol.

Drinkability: Rather easily drinkable, but the alcohol content will slow you down eventually.

Verdict: Kerberos is a tasty brew, but falls short of brilliant. Certainly not a bad showing for an American brewery without a tradition of brewing Belgian style beers.

Grade: B

Belhaven Scottish Ale Review (Nitro-Can)

Brewery: Belhaven Brewery Company Ltd. | Beer: Scottish Ale
Style: Scottish Ale | ABV: 5.2% | IBUs: ~30
Serving Method: 14.9 oz. nitro-can poured into pint glass

Belhaven Scottish AleSituated in Belhaven, Scotland, the Belhaven Brewing Company has been brewing beer since back in 1719. They held out as an independent company all the way until 2005, at which point they were acquired by Greene King.

Until that takeover, they were the oldest and largest independent brewery in Scotland. While it's sad they had to sell, 286 years was a pretty damn good run.

Their flagship beer and the beer they've been brewing the longest is the somewhat unimaginatively named Scottish Ale. It's available in both bottles and nitro-cans, and I'm a sucker for the widget so that's where we're starting

There's not much information out there about ingredients, process or specs, so we'll have to deal with a simple description from the brewery:

Malty and hoppy. [...] Delivering a sweet, smooth and creamy finish, Scottish Ale has a stunning ruby colour in the glass. Magic.
It's certainly not a magical description, but it's what's insides the can that counts. Let's activate the widget and jump in.

Appearance: A crystal-clear, orange-brown body capped by two amazingly solid fingers of creamy head that endure until the bottom of the glass and leave great lacing all the way down.

Aroma: Spicy, earthy hops and assorted fruit over toasty malt with some mineral notes. It's all muted a little by the dense head.

Taste: Essentially what's promised in the nose, but with the intensity ratcheted up a notch. Earthy hops and fruit (banana and apricot) over a backbone of sweet, lightly toasted malt. There's some nuttiness and a hint of smokiness added in, giving it a little more character. The aftertaste is fruity with toasty malt.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and highly creamy with typically smooth nitro bubbles. Dries in the finish.

Drinkability: An easy-drinking brew that makes for a great session choice.

Verdict: Straightforward, yet tasty, and nicely sessionable, Belhaven is a great example of the lower-alcohol style of Scottish Ale. If you're a fan of nitro creaminess and you're looking for a new quaffable new brew, this is a great choice.

Grade: B

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Deschutes Cinder Cone Red Review

Brewery: Deschutes Brewery | Beer: Cinder Cone Red
Style: American Red Ale | ABV: 5.4% | IBUs: 55
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Deschutes Cinder Cone RedHere we have another case of a review that is way too late for its own good. I was checking out the Deschutes site looking for information on this beer and it turns out it was retired earlier this year. D'oh!

Anyway, Cinder Cone Red was brewed from 2003 through 2010 as Deschutes' spring seasonal. A Red Ale, it was named after northern slope of Mt. Bachelor turns red as the snow starts to melt in the spring. Very clever.

As for ingredients, the backbone was built with Northwest Two-Row Pale, Caramel, Dextrin Black Barley malts and it was hopped with a mix of Cascade, Amarillo, Simco, and Tettnanger hops varieties. It was an interesting mix of hops and malt, one which Deschutes claimed to "captivate thirsty palates with its toffee-like flavor, intense citrus aroma and defined bitterness"

Let's hop in the Delorean and take a taste, shall we?

Appearance: Pours an ever-so-slightly hazy, rich orange-brown body with a solid two fingers of off-white head. Great retention and lacing.

Aroma: Citrusy and floral hops over a sweet caramel malt base. This smells great.

Taste: Lots of hops right off the bat. They're citrusy, juicy, a little spicy, and decently bitter for the style. The Amarillo and Tettnang combination is just brilliant here. Underneath, plenty of lightly-roasted caramel malt in the backbone. This is certainly a well-hopped Red, but it's still well-balanced. The aftertaste is nicely bitter.

Mouthfeel: The body is a little fuller than medium and the carbonation is nice and smooth. Dry finish.

Drinkability: Tasty with a mild alcohol content, this makes for a brilliant session brew.

Verdict: Cinder Cone Red was a real hit. I loved the combination of hops, and the rest of the beer wasn't too shabby either. It seems odd to me that a beer this tasty and sessionable was a seasonal, it seems like the kind of beer that would have flown off the shelves year-round. I'll really miss this one.

Grade: A

Note: While the review above is being posted in October 2010, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in May 2009.

Samuel Adams Blackberry Witbier Review

Brewery: Boston Brewing Co. | Beer: Samuel Adams Blackberry Witbier
Style: Witbier | ABV: 5.5%
| IBUs: ~15
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Samuel Adams Blackberry WitbierWhile my review of Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat didn't go so well, I'm back to give the other the other year-round Sam Adams fruity wheat beer a shot.

Unlike Cherry Wheat, which is just sort of a general wheat beer with added fruit, Blackberry Witbier is brewed with a specific style in mind (guess which one!). According to the marketing, it was brewed as the companies own version of the Witbier, with all of the the classic flavors along with some subtle sweetness and tartness from blackberries.

It was first brewed as part of the Beer Lover's Choice promotion in 2008. In that contest it defeated a coffee-themed Stout by a margin of 60-40 and became part of the regular year-round lineup.

These guys are always generous with the ingredient details, and this particular beer has an interesting roster. Its backbone is built from Two-row Harrington, Metcalfe, and Copeland pale malts along with malted wheat and it's hopped exclusively with Hallertau Mittelfrueh noble hops. In addition, there are Oregon Marion blackberries and the orange peel and coriander traditional to the style. Everything is brought to life with the house ale yeast.

Here's how the describe the finished product:

The blackberries are brought together with a hint of traditional orange and coriander to complement the malt character and give a smooth finish that’s both sweet and tart.
Sounds good to me. Let's dig in!

Appearance: A nicely hazy golden-honey body with lots of particles in suspension. Certainly a little darker than the average Witbier. On top, one finger of creamy, off-white head that features good retention and lacing.

Aroma: Lots of juicy blackberry over a bit of pale-ish malt and some subtle spiciness. The blackberries are more sweet than tart and somewhat grapey.

Taste: Not quite as berry-like in the flavor profile, but still rather grapey, spicy, and now somewhat sour. Underneath, there's a solid bready malt backbone to keep everything grounded. The aftertaste is grainy and slightly juicy.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and dry with sharp carbonation.

Drinkability: I'd call it about average for a Wit; nicely refreshing.

Verdict: While it's probably more of a Fruit Beer than a true Witbier, the end result is not particularly exciting regardless of style. Compared with Cherry Wheat, this is a much more pleasing proposition.

Grade: B

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Avery Sixteen Review

BreweryAvery Brewing Co. Beer: Sixteen
Style: Saison | ABV: 7.7% | IBUs: 14
Serving Method: 22 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass


Avery Sixteenth Anniversary SaisonOkay, so as I've already tried their 17th Anniversary brew, I get a major late pass on posting this review. But, better late than never, eh?

Anyway, like most breweries, Avery brews up a special one-off beer each year to celebrate their birthday. Last year for their sixteenth anniversary, they created a special Saison to celebrate.

It used Sterling hops exclusively and had a backbone built from Pale Two-Row barley and Pale malted Wheat. Stepping out of the box a little, the brewers also threw in some peaches, jasmine, and honey.

Here's how Avery described the finished product:
A harmonious combination of jasmine, peaches and honey fermented with an unmistakable Belgian yeast strain, all weaving a marvelously spicy and fruity, massively estery and dry, saison ale
Sounds good; let's pretend it's still 2009 and dive in.

Appearance: A lemony-golden, and ever so slightly hazy body capped by two fingers of bright white and bubbly head that fizzes out quickly and leaves minimal lacing.

Aroma: Golden fruit, citrus, mild spice, and some yeasty funkiness over a pale wheat base.

Taste: Similar to the aroma, the flavor profile is a mix of golden fruit, light earthy bitterness, mild honey, floral spiciness, Belgian yeast, and a nice touch of tartness all over a smooth wheat backbone. Easily identifiable as a Belgian-inspired beer. The aftertaste is cereal grains and apples and lingers nicely.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied with sharp carbonation and a dry finish.

Drinkability: A nicely quaffable brew, though you need to watch out for the deceptive alcohol content.

Verdict: Avery's sixteenth anniversary brew is tasty and interesting enough, though I probably won't be losing much sleep over the fact that this is a one-off brew. Worth a try for sure, this is a solid American Saison.

Grade: B+

Note: While the review above is being posted in 2010, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in 2009.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout Finally Coming to America

In a move that will surely have Guinness fans across the country rejoicing, Guinness has announced that they are finally bringing their Guinness Foreign Extra Stout to U.S. shelves.

Foreign Extra Stout makes up almost half of Guinness' global sales and typically garners the best reviews of the Guinness family, so it's pretty surprising it took this long. Better late than never, though.

Much closer to Guinness Extra Stout than the classic Guinness Draught, Foreign Extra Stout is relatively bitter, carbonated instead of nitrogenated, and has a stout alcohol content.

Clocking in at 7.5%, it's actually the second-strongest Guinness variation and nearly twice as potent as the classic Guinness Draught. The only variation stronger is Guinness Special Export Stout, a Belgian special originally commissioned by John Martin in 1912.

I've only had the Foreign Extra Stout once (pictured above), at a pub in Jamaica on my honeymoon. I don't have full tasting notes to check, but I do remember being quite impressed. I'm looking forward to getting a second crack at it soon.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout should start hitting American shelves this Friday, October 1st.

Looking for more about Guinness? Check these links out:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Anchor Old Foghorn Ale Review

Brewery: Anchor Brewing Co. | Beer: Old Foghorn Ale
Style: American Barleywine | ABV: ~9.0% | IBUs: ~65
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Anchor Old Foghorn AleHere we have an American Barleywine that was first brewed in 1975 (predating Bigfoot by almost a decade). That blows me away, especially considering the dire state of the American brewing scene in the dark days of the mid-70s. It's a rare thing to find an American beer that's been available for 35 years, even more so a good one.

While Old Foghorn is truly a founding father of the American scene, it was inspired by a trip Fritz took to England in 1975. He was so taken by the traditional brewing processes he saw used and the Barleywine style he discovered that he got right to work on Old Foghorn as soon as he got back.

Anchor is a known for their vagaries, and plenty swirl around Old Foghorn. They list the alcohol content at 8-10%, leading me to believe the recipe shifts a little each year. I know for sure that the recipe for their Christmas Ale changes each year, but I have yet to find a solid answer for Old Foghorn. With that in mind, I've decided to put up just one review for this beer, instead of yearly installations. To be safe though, I want to mention that the notes below were taken from a six-pack bought in early 2009.

As for ingredients, Anchor only reveal that Two-Row barley makes up the backbone and that Cascades are the only hops employed (this was actually one of the first commercial uses of Cascades). The beer is dry hopped for nine to eighteen months with additional Cascades after brewing for an extra splash of hops. Only the first run of the mash is used for Old Foghorn, so it actually takes three mashes to get enough wort for just one batch. The beer also undergoes bunging (stop laughing!) to give it what Anchor describe as "champagne-like bubbles."

Another question up for debate is American Barleywine vs. English Barleywine. I've seen this described as an English-style, probably due to the the facts that this is such an early attempt that the American style had not evolved yet and that Anchor themselves describe it is as being "based on traditional English barley wines". However, based on the facts that this is the beer that kicked off the American Barleywine and that it is hopped exclusively with Cascades, I'm going with American. Let me know if you disagree.

Here's how Anchor describe the flavor profile:

Because of the high original gravity, the yeast is unable to ferment all of the sugars. As a result, [Old Foghorn] is high in alcohol, and is slightly sweet, due to the residual sugars. Old Foghorn also has a pleasant hop bitterness, due to the large quantity of hops used during brewing, and a unique hop aroma due to the dry-hopping and aging.
Alright, that's enough rambling (I can't help it when we're talking about Anchor!)let's get tasting.

Appearance: A deep red-brown body with two fingers of off-white head that leaves patchy lacing.

Aroma: Rich, toffee malt with lots of banana notes (more like actual banana than artificial). Once the head breaks, the banana-pudding fades a bit and the booze really shines.

Taste: Dark fruit over an assertively solid toffee malt backbone. This is reminiscent of a rich desert. There are some definite hop notes in here. While the alcohol profile is pretty big, it compliments everything perfectly. In the end, a boozy, fruity aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full and silky-smooth with moderate carbonation. You can really feel the booze in your throat.

Drinkability: Very tasty, but the alcohol will slow you down eventually.

Verdict: Old Foghorn is truly a great beer, and it's clear why it has been brewed for over thirty years. Like a boozy, rich desert, this is a perfect beer for after-dinner contemplation. If you're looking for a starting point for exploring the world of Barleywines, this would be an excellent choice.

Grade
: A

Note: While the review above is being posted in 2010, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in 2009.

Sierra Nevada Porter Review

Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. | Beer: Porter
Style: American Porter | ABV: 5.6% | IBUs: 32
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Sierra Nevada PorterWhile Sierra Nevada has been busy reinventing their once-staid package lineup, most of their core beers have made it through the process (RIP Wheat Beer). One of the "original" Sierra Nevada products is their Porter. The label may have changed from blue to brown since I wrote the tasting notes below last year, but this is still the classic beer we've seen on shelves for years.

It has a pretty simple recipe. The backbone is built from Two-Row Pale, Munich, Chocolate and Caramel malts. Golding hops are used for bittering and Willamette hops are used for finishing. According to Sierra Nevada, the result is:

Dark and rich, Sierra Nevada Porter is a delicious, medium-bodied ale with a creamy head. The Porter’s smooth flavor (malty with hints of caramel) comes from a blend of deep-roasted barley malts.
Sounds good to me. Let's pop the top and get a history lesson.

Appearance: A thick, rich mahogany body with ruby highlights and a solid finger of cream-colored head that leaves great lacing.

Aroma: All of the normal aromas for a Porter: roasted malt with lots of smoky, bittersweet chocolate and coffee notes.

Taste: Much the same profile as the nose; lots of roasty malt, rich chocolate, and coffee. But, now there's a subtle hoppiness in the end. Bitter, yet balanced. The aftertaste features dark chocolate and a decent dose of hoppiness.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and smooth with good carbonation.

Drinkability: Very drinkable for the style, without ever being too thin.

Verdict: Sierra Nevada Porter is just a solid, drinkable beer. It's uncomplicated, but never simple. Highly drinkable, but never boring. I heard rumors last year that this beer might be taken out of my local market in order to make room for the new year-round Sierra Nevada beers. I'm glad can squeeze everyone in.

Grade: A-

Note: While the label shown above has been been redesigned, the accompanying tasting notes were taken when the beer was fresh in 2009.

Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55 Review

Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery | Beer: Pennant Ale '55
Style: English Pale Ale | ABV: 5.0% | IBUs: ~35
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55Brewed to honor the 1955 championship-winning Brooklyn Dodgers, Pennant Ale '55 is an English-style Pale Ale. Being an traditional English take on the Pale Ale style, it bookends nicely to the company's English-style India Pale Ale, East India Pale Ale. Pennant Ale is one of Brooklyn's core beers, and unlike baseball, it's sold year round.

As for construction, the backbone is built from Scottish Maris Otter, Belgian Aromatic, and British Crystal malt varieties, while the beer is hopped with Hallertauer Perle, Willamette, American Fuggle, and Cascade hops varieties. Put it all together, and Brooklyn describe the result as:

A honey-colored pale ale with a brisk pale malt palate and finely balanced hop character.
The Dodgers are under .500 this year, but hopefully the beer named for them fares a little better.

Appearance: A crystal-clear brownish-copper body capped by two fingers of off-white head holds well, but leaves patchy lacing.

Aroma: Bright, brassy, and herbal hops over a paleish caramel malt base.

Taste: Just what the aroma promised: lightly citrusy and grassy hops over a caramel malt backbone. There's a little bit of soapiness at times, but it's not a major issue. The aftertaste is earthy and biscuity.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with good carbonation and a drying finish.

Drinkability: With the agreeable flavor profile and mild alcohol content, this makes a great session choice.

Verdict: In Pennant Ale '55, dem bums from Brooklyn have brewed up a tasty and highly-drinkable English style Pale Ale that's bang-on for the style. If you're looking for a solid English Pale to session, you won't go wrong here.

Grade: B

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shiner Light Review

Brewery: Spoetzl Brewery | Beer: Shiner Light
Style: Light Lager | ABV: 4.0% | IBUs: 13
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Pilsener glass

Shiner LightLet's be frank, light beer sucks. But there are those out there that for whatever reason prefer or insist upon it and I'm eager to chase down a good one (or, at least, the best one). There's not much out there in the way of craft lights, but the local mass-market craft brewers at Spoetzl brew a popular one called Shiner Light. Perhaps this is what I've been looking for.

The brewery doesn't give away much in the way of ingredients or process, but does mention the backbone is built from Munich malts and that "select" hops are employed. Whewhere I was fearing there were random hops in the bottle!

Here's how they pitch the finished product:

Shiner Light sacrifices none of the taste or satisfaction while reducing calories and carbs. Light just doesn't quite capture the complex character of this handcrafted Shiner beer.
Let's dive in and see if that's all just marketing or if the beer really does rise above the typical light beer.

Appearance: A crystal-clear, golden-amber body with a finger of white head that fizzes out quickly and leaves no lacing. Much darker than the typical American light beer.

Aroma: A thin, grainy malt body with not much in the way of hops. Pretty bland.

Taste: Much the same as the aroma. A thin and watery malt body that's frankly boring as hell. A little more lively than most light beers, but no revelation. The aftertaste is grainy and short lived.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied with good carbonation. Dries a bit in the finish.

Drinkability: All that's holding you back is the general blandness of it all.

Verdict: This is a step, albeit not a massive one, up from Bud/Miller/Coors Light. Despite being pretty bland and boring, I still think this beer still serves it's purpose. Texans used to the normal light beers aren't going to be scared off by this, and hopefully they'll start exploring the rest of the Shiner line and beyond.

Grade: C-

Independence Freestlye Wheat Beer Review

Brewery: Independence Brewing Co. | Beer: Freestyle Wheat Beer
Style: American Pale Wheat Ale | ABV: 4.7%
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Weizen glass

Independence FreestyleInspired by Texas summer days spent at their favorite swimming holes, Independence describe Freestyle as being similar to a "a Pilsner brewed as an ale." This is the brewery's lightest beer and they list it as an American Wheat Beer, noting they feel it could also justifiably be referred to as a Blonde Ale. Freestlye, indeed.

It's brewed with Horizon hops, Two-Row Pale, and American White Wheat malts, and American ale yeast. Independence describe the finished product as:

Crisp, light-bodied, and refreshing [with] dry flavor followed by a slightly sweet malt finish. Freestyle is the taste of summer in Texas.
Well, the temperature outside is certainly right for this beer, I just wish I had a swimming hole to enjoy it with.

Appearance: A somewhat hazy, golden-orange body with a nice, near white head. Great curtains of lace.

Aroma: Sharp citrus and some apple cider notes over a wheat base. Almost reminiscent of an apple pie at times.

Taste: A solid cereal-like wheat backbone is very much in charge here, and is heavy on the cereal-grain flavors. It reminds me of Weetabix, which is certainly not a bad thing. There's a little hop character towards the back, but this is certainty a wheat-forward beer. The aftertaste keeps the cereal flavors going.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with good carbonation. It dries a little in the finish.

Drinkability: You really can't fault it here, this is quite quaffable.

Verdict: A unique take on the American Pale Wheat Ale style, Freestyle is a likable beer for me. It has more of a spotlight on the wheat than most beers in this category, which offers up a nice change of pace that I appreciate. Still an easy and refreshing drink, this would be great on a Summer's day here in the Lone Star State.

Grade: B+

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock Review

Brewery: Boston Brewing Co. | Beer: Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock
Style: Bock | ABV: 5.5%
| IBUs: ~25
Serving Method: 750ml bottle poured into Pilsener glass

Samuel Adams Chocolate BockChocolate Bock is one of the occasional rarities from Sam Adams that shows up every few years. Sold in a handsome bottle adorned with a wrapped neck, neck tag, and metallic label, it presents well enough on the store shelf to justify its twelve dollar price. It hasn't been brewed since 2008, and the notes below were taken back then.

As for construction, the backbone is built from Two-Row Harrington, Metcalfe, Copeland, Caramel 60, Munich 10, and Chocolate malt varieties. Hallertau Mittelfrueh and Spalt Spalter hops provide bitterness and the house lager yeast brings it all to life. All of that is brewed, fermented, and krausened on a bed of Felchlin cocoa nibs. As a final touch, a "hint" of vanilla is added to "meld the symphony of flavors together." The ingredient bill seems to reflect the premium price tag.

Here's how the brewery describes the finished project:

Smooth, rich, and dark, with the robust flavor and creamy texture of chocolate. Distinct aroma of chocolate, toffee and malt. Tastes slightly sweet, full bodied with a finish of fine chocolate.
Sounds good to me. Let's crack this pretty bottle open and see if the beer inside can live up.

Appearance: A rich reddish-brown body with laser beams of red highlights. Up top, a little over a finger of tan head that burns out quickly and leaves little lacing.

Aroma: Standard dark fruit and darkish malt Bock aromas with just a hint of milk chocolate.

Taste: Much the same as the aroma. It's essentially a regular Bock with all of the usual nutty, raisiny, and malty notes. The milk chocolate character is more prevalent in the flavor profile but still not as prominent as I'd like. The aftertaste is roasty with a mild hint of alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied with moderate carbonation and a drying finish.

Drinkability: Very sessionable, though you'd quickly run up quite a tab at this price.

Verdict: Unfortunately, Chocolate Bock falls a little short; it's not much more than a middle-of-the-road Bock with some mild chocolate flavors mixed in. While this would work as part of a mixed twelve-pack, this 750ml doesn't quite measure up to the over ten dollar price tag.

Grade: B-

Note: While this review is being posted in 2010, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in late 2008.

Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin Ale Review

Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery | Beer: Post Road Pumpkin Ale
Style: Pumpkin Ale | ABV: 5.0% | IBUs: ~20
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Brooklyn Post Road Pumpkin AleBack in 1998, Brooklyn bought out the Post Road brewing company. Best known for their flagship Pale Ale, Post Road was an early player in the New England craft scene with a stable of beers brewed under contract by the now defunct Catamount.

The only Post Road beer to survive today is Pumpkin Ale, which apparently had enough cachet to make the cut. Each batch is made with hundreds of pounds of pumpkins along with American Two-Row, Belgian Biscuit, and Aromatic malts and Willamette and American Fuggle hops.

The end result is what Brooklyn describes as "a beer with an orange amber color, warm pumpkin aroma, biscuity malt center, and crisp finish."

It might not be fall yet, but I'm always in the mood for a good pumpkin brew. Let's dig in.

Appearance: A crystal-clear, pumpkin-orange body capped by around two fingers of off-white head that sticks around nicely and leaves great lacing.

Aroma: A wonderful blend of pumpkin, spices (nutmeg and cinnamon mainly), and mild caramel malt, creating something strikingly similar to pumpkin pie.

Taste: Much closer to beer than pie in the flavor profile, as the malt body perks up and a citrusy, earthy hop component comes alive. There's still plenty of pumpkin and spice to be found, but it's much more balanced than in the nose. The aftertaste features citrusy hops and some spice.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with good carbonation and a drying finish.

Drinkability: An easy-drinking brew, a few bottles of this would be perfect during a large holiday meal.

Verdict: Akin to a mild English Pale Ale with a pumpkin pie twist, Post Road Pumpkin Ale is a highly drinkable and tasty holiday brew—one of my favorite examples of the Pumpkin Ale style.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Belgium Old Cherry Review

Brewery: New Belgium Brewing | Beer: Old Cherry
Style: Fruit Beer | ABV: 6.5% | IBUs: ~15
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into globe glass

New Belgium Old CherryOld Cherry was originally brewed back in 1995 as one of New Belgium's original beers. It ended up being discontinued in 1998, but demand for another cherry-themed beer was strong enough that a new, lighter beer named Two Cherry was introduced as a fall seasonal. Eventually, that beer too was retired.

However, New Belgium brought back the original Old Cherry for an appearance in "Folly Packs" a few years back. While it has once again fallen into hiatus status, I figured it was about time to get around to posting the notes I took back in early 2009.

Old Cherry is essentially an Amber Ale brewed with the juice of dark Montmorency cherries from Washington state. It has a more potent malt backbone than the Two Cherry version, but is not wildly different. New Belgium describe the finished product as having "a rich cherry aroma and a delicate balance of cherry tartness and barley malt sweetness."

It may be gone (for now), but Old Cherry is not forgotten. Here are my notes.

Appearance: A hazy orange-red body with a finger and a half of off-white head that leaves chunky lacing.

Aroma: Nicely malty with tart berry and other fruit notes. There's no distinct cherry to speak of.

Taste: Tart and slightly sour with subtle cherry notes in the aftertaste. You really have to look for the cherry flavor here. A lot maltier than I was expecting, but more dry than sweet. Overall, much like a lighter version of their Frambozen.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and somewhat chewy at times. Low carbonation and a dry finish.

Drinkability: Just about average; you can put down a few easily, but probably won't be chugging it all night.

Verdict: A nice enough malt-forward fruit beer. Certainly a much better attempt at a cherry themed beer than Sam Adam's Cherry Wheat, but nothing earth-shaking. If you like New Belgium's Frambozen, you should enjoy this as well.

Grade: B-

Note: While this review is being posted in 2010, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in early 2009.

New Belgium Giddy Up Review

Brewery: New Belgium Brewing | Beer: Giddy Up
Style: American Amber Ale | ABV: 6.0% | IBUs: ~25
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into globe glass

New Belgium Giddy UpToday, we're taking a look back at a short-lived brew from New Belgium that showed up in their mixed folly packs. Apparently it wasn't a hit, as it was retired just a few short months after its debut.

Designed with no particular style in mind and brewed with lemon peel and sustainable espresso from Brazil, Giddy Up was a strange brew. We're going with American Amber Ale, which seems the closest fit.

Here's how New Belgian describe the finished product:

First whiff is full of sweeet caramel, toffee, latte. Then, a hint of lemon scone flavor from the addition of lemon peel. Body is creamy, resonant of espresso, yet the finish is bright, even a bit frisky. An ale to git along with.
I have to say, it's all very intriguing.

Appearance: A clear and deep rust-colored body with a solid finger of eggshell head. Decent chunky lacing.

Aroma: Roasted malt body with lots of medium-roasted coffee. Not much as far as hops or lemon coming through, but the coffee is brilliant. In a blind smell test, there's an outside chance I'd peg this as coffee, not beer.

Taste: It's still very much all about the coffee in the flavor profile as well. The profile is of mildly bitter coffee flavors firmly in the medium-roasted coffee territory, so don't be expecting a dark-roasted espresso. The backbone is somewhat reminiscent of 1554 (although much weaker) and nicely sweet. There might be a splash of citrus in there, but it's hard to pin down.

Mouthfeel: A smooth, medium body with average carbonation.

Drinkability: Moderate drinkability. The coffee might get somewhat tiring after a while.

Verdict: Giddy Up is somewhat one-dimensional beer, but it does what it does perfectly, having the best recreation of coffee flavors I've ever experienced in a beer. If you're looking for medium-roasted coffee flavors in a beer, you can't go wrong here. It works perfectly as part of a mix-pack, but I'm not convinced I'd be picking up a lot of six-packs.

Grade: B-

Note: While this review is being published in 2010, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in early 2009.

Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA Review

Brewery: Deschutes Brewery | Beer: Hop Henge Experimental IPA
Style: American Double India Pale Ale | ABV: 8.8% | IBUs: 95
Serving Method: 22 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPAClocking in at almost 100 IBUs, Hop Henge Experimental IPA is the hoppiest beer in Deschutes' Bond Street series of hop-forward beers. It was first brewed in 2006, but has gone through a significant recipe change since then. As the name implies, this beer is meant to embody Deschutes' more experimental side and their "commitment to innovation."

As usual, Deschutes provide lots of detail on construction. Each barrel is brewed with several pounds of Centennial and Cascade hops, with even more hops employed for dry-hopping. The malt body is built from Crystal, Pale, and Carastan varieties and "creates an overall biscuity characteristic that is dense and muscular, building the alcohol base to support the monstrous hop profile."

All this hop talk has got me mighty thirsty, so let's open it up and hop in.

Appearance: A slightly hazy, burnt-copper body capped with a generous and creamy off-white head that features brilliant staying power and lacing.

Aroma: Sweet, somewhat juicy and citrusy hops and moderate alcohol character over a substantial caramel base.

Taste: Just as you'd expect from a Double IPA, there's a generous flourish of hops up front. They're citrusy, piney, resiny, and nicely bitter. That nearly nine percent alcohol content is hidden rather well with. Underneath all of this, there's a solid enough caramel malt backbone to keep it all together. Lots of resiny, bitter hops and a few wisps of booze in the finish.

Mouthfeel: A fuller than medium body with moderate carbonation and a dry finish.

Drinkability: Perhaps a little above average for the style in this department, despite the high IBU rating. Just watch out for the nearly nine percent alcohol.

Verdict: Hop Henge is a tasty and quite serviceable Double IPA, though I might stop short of calling it "experimental." A definite pickup for the hopheads.

Grade: A-

Note: While this review is being published in August, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh in spring 2009.

Brooklyn Local 1 Review

Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery | Beer: Local 1
Style: Belgian Golden Strong Ale | ABV: 9.0% | IBUs: 32
Serving Method: 750ml bottle poured into tulip glass

Brooklyn Local 1The first in Brooklyn's Big Bottle series, Local 1 is a Belgian Golden Strong Ale (though Garrett has been known to refer to it as a "strong Saison"). It debuted in 2008 and is based on the old draft-only brew Fortitude. Despite being on the shelves for just a couple of years, the beer has already built up a lot of buzz and spawned a second beer in the series.

As for basic construction, the backbone is built from two-row Pilsener malt from Bamberg, Germany, hop character comes from Hallertauer Perle and Styrian Golding varieties, and everything is brought to life with Belgian yeast. The recipe also calls for raw sugar from the tiny island nation of Mauritius. Once fermented, the beer is bottle conditioned for more depth.

Here's how Brooklyn describe the finished product:

Behind the full golden color you'll find an alluring aroma, a dynamic complex of flavors, Belgian flair, Brooklyn fortitude, and a dusting of our special yeast.
Sounds great, let's pop this cork and get started.

Appearance: Wow, what a gusher! Despite a week of sitting still in the fridge, after carefully removing the cork from the bottle, the beer starting flowing out of the bottle like champagne within seconds. In fact, a few minutes after pouring the first portion, a two inch tower of dense foam snaked out of the bottle and softly floated down to the table. It's alive! Once you finally corral the beer into a glass, a beautifully hazy apricot-orange body is revealed. Up top, a massive cap of off-white head fades slowly and leaves great lacing. Local 1 puts on quite the show, even before you've raised the glass to your nose.

Aroma: Clearly a Belgian-style beer, the nose is a mix of golden fruit, a bouquet of spices, bubblegum-like yeast, earthy hops, and some nice alcohol.

Taste: Much the same as the aroma: leafy and earthy hops, mild bubblegum, golden fruit, cloves, coriander, peppery phenols, and bready yeast all over a pale malt backbone. The alcohol is masked beautifully. Fruity and yeasty in the finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with great carbonation and a drying finish. Just a hint of burn from the alcohol.

Drinkability: This is certainly a beer to be savored, but it's hardly a task to polish off a glass or two.

Verdict: To be perfectly frank, after sampling a few of Brooklyn's more mainstream beers, I was starting to wonder what all the fuss was about. But after a bottle of Local 1, I wonder no more. This is, without a doubt, one the very best Belgian-style American beers I've tried yet.

Grade: A

Monday, August 9, 2010

Harpoon UFO White Review

Brewery: Harpoon Brewery | Beer: UFO White
Style: Witbier | ABV: 4.8% | IBUs: 10
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Harpoon UFO WhiteEarlier today, I reviewed Harpoon's UFO Hefeweizen and mentioned that it was such a hit that it had spawned a whole new brand. Well, only one of the beers in that line has made it to Houston: UFO White. While the Hefeweizen was rather mediocre, I still have high hopes for this brew.

As the name implies, UFO White is a Witbier. Harpoon doesn't provide any specifics on ingredients or process besides the fact that it's brewed with orange peel and "a unique blend" of spices, but here's how they describe the finished product:

Light, crisp, refreshing UFO White follows in the tradition of spiced wheat beers that have been brewed in Belgium for well over 300 years. UFO White is the perfect choice for a summer’s barbecue, a night out with friends or any time you're thirsting for something a little different.
I'm not sure if I'm quite thirsting for something a little different, but let's crack this bad boy open anyway.

Appearance: A beautifully hazy, golden-straw body capped by a finger and a half of creamy, nearly white head that features good retention and lacing.

Aroma: Floral and perfumey citrus over a mild wheat base. I can almost imagine that this is a fancy candle under my nose.

Taste: Perfumey citrus peel, tropical fruit, mild yeast, and spices (clove and coriander mostly) over a bready wheat base that is much more pronounced than in the nose. The aftertaste is citrusy and bready.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and creamy with sharp carbonation. Dries a little in the finish.

Drinkability: A very drinkable proposition, though the perfumey character might get a little old.

Verdict: UFO White is perhaps a more floral take on the Witbier than most, but still a solid enough brew that's perfect for Summer.

Grade: B

Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen Review

Brewery: Harpoon Brewery | Beer: UFO Hefeweizen
Style: Hefeweizen | ABV: 4.8% | IBUs: 19
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Weizen glass

Harpoon UFO HefeweizenDating back to 1998, UFO Hefeweizen has become one of Harpoon's most popular beers. In fact, it's become so popular that UFO has become a sort of spin-off brand for Harpoon, spawning three more beers in the line. Here's how they describe the flagship:

The overall character is a cloudy appearance with a citrus-like aroma, light body, and clean finish.
While Harpoon describe this as a Hefeweizen in the name (though an "American Unfiltered Wheat Beer" on the UFO site), not everyone agrees. You'll see this listed as an American Pale Wheat Ale around the web because it uses a north German yeast instead of one of the traditional Bavarian strains, but I've decided to list this as a Hefe in keeping with both the brewer's intentions and simplicity's sake.

Anyway, style distinctions aside, let's see how it measures up.

Appearance: A brilliantly hazy, orange-tinged golden body with brilliant tendrils of yeast stretching from top to bottom. Up top, a big, fluffy off-white head that leaves patchy lacing.

Aroma: Lemon and some yeast over a sweet, untoasted malt and wheat base. Perhaps a little thin, with traditional Hefeweizen banana and clove aromas are notably absent.

Taste: The focus here is a sweet, bready wheat malt body. Mild bitterness towards the end and perhaps a little spice (but that might be due to the power of suggestion). Overall, it's tasty but just a little thin. The aftertaste is relatively brief, but tastes of wheat.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and smooth with similarly smooth carbonation. It dries a little in the finish.

Drinkability: This goes back quickly and quenches nicely; very sessionable.

Verdict: Ultimately, I find this to be a just a bit boring. Regardless of any issues of fitting into a specific style, UFO just never really gets my attention. It's tasty enough but I could do with a little more intensity and interest.

Grade: C+

Rahr Winter Warmer Review

Brewery: Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. | Beer: Winter Warmer
Style: Winter Warmer | ABV: 9.0% | IBUs: 43
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into
pint glass

Rahr Winter WarmerWhat better time than the middle of a Texas summer to post a review of a winter seasonal? It's a bit of a grab-bag today on PintLog as we clear out some old notes that have been hanging around, so please excuse the odd timing. Rest assured though, the notes below were taken back when the beer was fresh.

Anyway, today's out-of-season Texas seasonal is Rahr's Winter Warmer. Brewed in the style of an English Dark Ale, the backbone is built with 2-Row, Crystal 40, Cara Munich III, and Chocolate malt varieties. As for hops, Magnums and East Kent Goldings are employed.

Here's how Rahr pitch the finished product:

Wonderfully robust, rich and full-bodied, Rahr's Winter Warmer is crated in the fine British tradition of holiday ales. Perfect for either holiday gatherings or quiet evenings at home.
Well, the weather outside might not be frightful, but let's dig in anyway!

Appearance: A murky mahogany-brown body with plenty of ruby highlights. Up top, a finger's width of off-white head that recedes rather quickly and leaves barely any lacing.

Aroma: Roasty malt with lots of nutty, spicy, and raisiny notes. Maybe a little cocoa as well.

Taste: Rather unique, this is very nutty, herbal, and almost vegetable-like. There's still plenty of dark fruit and roasty malt in the mix as well. The alcohol is hidden very well and the aftertaste is of grainy and roasty malt.

Mouthfeel: Surprisingly for the style, this is a little on the thin side. Dry throughout.

Drinkability: Between average and sipper territory. While it's somewhat light-bodied and the flavor profile isn't overly powerful or boozy, eventually the alcohol content has to slow you down.

Verdict: To be frank, I'm a little confused by this beer. Rahr's website list this as full-bodied, and that's certainly what you'd expect from a Winter Warmer, but the body just fails to measure up. So while it's certainly not a bad beer, it's not a particularly good one either.

Grade: C

Note: While this review is being published in August, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh two winters ago.

Corona Extra Review

Brewery: Grupo Modelo S.A.B. de C.V. | Beer: Corona Extra
Style: American Adjunct Lager | ABV: 4.6% | IBUs: ~10
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Pilsener glass

Corona ExtraCorona Extra is one of the most popular beers in the world, hands down. And like it or not, for the bulk of the population this single beer has become the default definition of Mexican beer despite the fact that it's essentially identical to the stuff sold in red, white, and blue cans.

With decades of clever marketing behind the brand, not only is Corona the beer most associated with Cinco de Mayo, but it's almost become the official beer of relaxing on a white sand beach. Marketing is a powerful thing, and a lifetime of peaceful beach scenes centered around ice-cold golden beers in beautiful clear bottles clearly works.

One of the most characteristic things about Corona is that clear bottle it's sold in. There's a continuum of beer containers ranging from the perfect UV protection of a can through to the skunk-inviting whisper of protection offered by a clear bottle. Clear bottles look great, but lead to off-flavors (especially in delicate beers like a soft lager); I think the fact this beer is sold in a clear bottle speaks volumes about the quality/image ratio here.

Anyway, I may not have any fresh lime slices on hand, but let's go ahead and dive in.

Appearance: A drastically pale straw body capped by less than a finger of white head that fizzes out rapidly and leaves no lacing.

Aroma: Just a whiff of corny and grainy malt. Meh.

Taste: A grainy malt body accompanied by some slightly skunky hops with notes of lemon and grass. The aftertaste is grainy and clean. At the end of the day, there's nothing offensive here, but really nothing pleasant either.

Mouthfeel: A medium-light body with good carbonation.

Drinkability: All that's holding you back is the way it tastes.

Verdict: Don't be fooled by the Spanish on the bottle, Corona Extra is just another bland and watery American Lager. I'm usually not a big fan of fruit served with beer, but in this one's case a lime certainly can't hurt.

Grade: D

Pilsner Urquell Review

Brewery: Plzensky Prazdroj, A.S. | Beer: Pilsner Urquell
Style: Czech Pilsener | ABV: 4.4% | IBUs: 40
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Pilsener glass

Pilsner UrquellUrquell means "original source" in German, and Pilsner Urquell is indeed the original Pilsener style beer; the one that the most popular beers in the world are either directly or indirectly copying. It has been brewed since 1842 in Pilseň, Bohemia, though today is a product of SABMiller.

Hailing from the Czech Republic, this beer sets the archetype for the Czech Pilsener style. Noble Saaz hops give the beer it's traditional lemony hop bite, the soft water of the area contributes a slew of unique characteristics, the backbone is built from home-malted Pilsener malt from the Bohemia and Moravia, and it all comes alive thanks to a yeast strain smuggled out of Bavaria over 150 years ago. Clearly, this is no bottle of fizzy, yellow blandness.

For more information on the ingredients and brewing techniques behind Pilsner Urquell, check out this fantastic article on BrewingTechniques.

Well, we've tried the imitators, now let's try the real deal. Na zdraví!

Appearance: A crystal-clear golden body capped by a generous cap of white head that leaves decent lacing on the way down.

Aroma: Lemony and herbal noble hops over a pils malt body. Appetizing, but just a little thin.

Taste: The intensity is ratcheted back up in the flavor. Grassy, lemony, and mildly bitter hops over a lightly honeyish pils malt backbone. The hops are a little weak at first, but build decent residual intensity as time passes. Pils malt and lemony bitterness in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: A medium-light body with good carbonation and a drying finish.

Drinkability: Nicely refreshing and exceedingly easy to drink, this is a great session choice.

Verdict: Overall, Pilsner Urquell is a crisp, sharp, and clean brew, just what you'd expect from solid a Czech style Pilsener. The beer that made the Pilsener style famous still does it proud over 150 years later.

Grade: A-

Lagunitas Maximus Review

Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Co. | Beer: Maximus
Style: American Double India Pale Ale | ABV: 7.5% | IBUs: 72
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Lagunitas MaximusNot quite as big as Hop Stoopid, but bigger than their IPA, Maximus is Lagunitas' "small" Double IPA. Apparently, it's a similar recipe to the IPA, but with "more hops, more alcohol and more body."

Unfortunately, Lagunitas doesn't disclose the hop or malt varieties employed, but I think it's safe to assume there are hops in here that start with the letter "C."

As is tradition here on PintLog, with any Lagunitas beer I post the lovable and sprawling madness found on the bottom of the six-pack holder:

Big beers are good and Big IPAs are even better. But it's kinda like, well, first you ride some great wheelies and then you get it in your head to try jumping stuff. Maybe you start with a ramp in the driveway and then you move on to bigger things like a real cougar and rattle snakes. It's a rush and all your friends think you're pretty cool, but eventually even that's not enough so you jump through fire, over some trucks, some Dodge's and Semi's, a fountain, and later a pile of wrecked cars. While making strong beers it's hard to screw the pooch and end up steppin' off into a rag doll boogie, but your taste buds can get bent and over time you start thinkin' that only bigger is better. Eventually you jump your beer over the Snake Canyon and end up on the news in the river with a headache. We do dig our beers big and we do dig an occasional Flip n' Whip, a solid McMetz, or a Nack grab... but balance is still the most important skill and the MAXIMUS IPA is exactly that. Ask anyone. Ride a pint. Taste the hops. Slurp the malt. Drink the Juice. Live to ride another day...
Hmmm, alright. Well, let's pour this bad boy out and "ride the pint."

Appearance: A crystal-clear clear, orange-brown body. On top, a finger of fluffy, off-white head that leaves good lacing.

Aroma: A complex hop profile that's hard to pin down: perfumey, floral, earthy, piney, and candied citrus. Underneath it all, a solid dose of caramel malt.

Taste: Much the same combination here: pungent, earthy, and citrusy hops over caramel malt. While the hop character is certainly not as big as you'd expect with the name and marketing, it's still very tasty. With everything going on, the alcohol is masked well. The aftertaste is nicely bitter.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied and almost creamy. Somewhat dry.

Drinkability: With a milder hop profile and alcohol content, this is above average for the style.

Verdict: Despite it's name, Maximus is certainly on the lower end of the Double IPA intensity scale. If you like pungent hops in your beer, this is certainly worth trying; just don't expect a total hop-bomb.

Grade: A-

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Ale Review

Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Co. | Beer: Hop Stoopid Ale
Style: American Double India Pale Ale | ABV: 8.0% | IBUs: 102
Serving Method: 22 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Lagunitas Hop StoopidLagunitas is a company known for hoppy beers, so when their hoppiest beer showed up here in Houston, I was thrilled. As good as their IPAs and Double IPAs had been to me, I couldn't wait to try their biggest hoppy beer was.

Apparently, the idea behind Hop Stoopid was to cram as many different types of hops into the bottle as possible. Unfortunately though, they don't list the hop bill so we'll have to take their word for it. They also don't provide any details on the malt bill, so we'll just have to guess there, too.

With Double IPAs, you usually get lots of "extreme" marketing that challenges or dares you to try the beer. Tired of all the weak innuendo, Lagunitas has thrown down the gauntlet and upped the game with the the text found on Hop Stoopid's label:

"Give it to Mikey, he'll drink anything!" Up the bomber went in toast, then to his lips, and what happened next could not have been foreseen. Hop Stoopid, a slick re-animator green fluid oozed from the bottle. When it crossed his teeth and came in contact with the bitterness flavor receptors on his tongue, his eyes rolled back in his head, he did sort of a death rattle, a cloud crossed the Sun, an all his hair fell out. A spot on the side of his cheek blistered and a little bit of juice squirted out laterally starting a small fire. The rest of his head did the Indiana Jones melting Nazi thing, and as his head drained down his shirt and into the open stump of his esophagus, a little whistling noise came from the navel, which burst open and onto his pals, one in the forehead and the other in the eye. Finally, the carcass slumped forward in a gelatinous mess, caught fire, and burned for three weeks.
Here's hoping there was some level of hyperbole in there, because I have things to do later today.

Appearance: A crystal-clear, orange-amber body that's lighter than most Double IPAs. Up top there's two fingers of creamy, off-white head that features great retention and lacing.

Aroma: Moderately pungent and citrusy hops over sweet, biscuity malt.

Taste: Up front, a hop profile of pine, pineapple, grapefruit that is mildly bitter given the style. The malt backbone, as one might predict given the hue, is notably paler than the average Double IPA. The aftertaste is mildly bitter and biscuity but trails off a little quickly.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with good carbonation and a dry finish.

Drinkability: Above average for the Double IPA style.

Verdict: Hop Stoopid is a tasty beer, but perhaps a little plain compared to other Double IPAs. Maybe it's the way the beer is hopped, maybe it's the paler than normal malt base, or maybe it's the combination of both factors, but at the end of the day this comes off as an easier drinking and slightly less bitter take on the Double IPA. Also, props for the price point.

Grade: A-