Friday, January 22, 2010

Independence Bootlegger Brown Ale Review

Brewery: Independence Brewing Co. | Beer: Bootlegger Brown Ale
Style: American Brown Ale | ABV: 6.0% | IBUs: 14
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Independence Bootlegger Brown AleThe first beer I ever reviewed here on PintLog was Independence Brewing's Austin Amber Ale, a tasty little Amber with a gorgeous label. Well, it's been a few years and I figure it's time to review another of their beers. For the follow-up I settled on their Bootlegger Brown Ale.

On their website, Independence mention that Horizon hops are used for bittering, but it's unclear what (if any) other varieties are included. The backbone is built from 2-Row Pale, Belgian Chocolate, and 20° Caramel malts. Here's how they describe the finished product:

Smooth, chocolaty, and easy-drinking. Bootlegger has a distinctive, chocolaty flavor. [It's] is medium-bodied and filtered for a clean, laid-back finish.
On the label, there's another piece of gorgeous artwork, featuring a depiction of a bootlegger driving down Congress Avenue outside of the Texas Capital. If the beer is half as good as the artwork, it should score well.

Appearance: A slightly hazy, dark brown body with pumpkin highlights. Up top, a half-finger of tightly-packed and cream-colored head that recedes rapidly, leaving a ring around the glass and little lacing.

Aroma: First up, a wave of coffee. Not dark-roasted espresso, but regular black coffee, (similar to New Belgium's Giddy Up). There are plenty of chocolate and roasty malt notes to back it up. No hops.

Taste: The coffee flavors keep going strong with lots of chocolate, roasted malt, nuttiness, and dark fruit. Some mild hops in the finish. There's lots going on here, but everything meshes in a way that keeps it pretty straight-forward. This is very much a sweet beer, but not cloyingly so.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and silky smooth with good carbonation. The hops in the finish dry the sweetness up a little.

Drinkability: An easy-drinking beer, this would be a good session choice.

Verdict: Independence have crafted a charming little beer here. Lots of different complementary flavors come together to give Bootlegger a good amount of character (something many Browns are missing) while still having a lot of sessionability. Solid.

Grade: B+

Rogue Kells Irish Style Lager Review

Brewery: Rogue Ales Brewery | Beer: Kells Irish Style Lager
Style: Premium American Lager | ABV: 5.0%
| IBUs: 28
Serving Method: 22 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Rogue Kells Irish LagerBack in 1998, the owners of Kells Irish Pubs were looking for an American beer to put under Guinness in beer cocktails. They approached Rogue to make it happen and after four test batches Rogue brewmaster John Maier delivered what we have here.

I'm listing this as a Premium American Lager, as that seems to be the closest fit in the BJCP guidelines. They describe the style as "refreshing and thirst quenching, although generally more filling" than Standard and Light American Lagers. They also typically contain less adjuncts (or indeed none at all) when compared to their little brothers. For reference, "green bottle" beers such as Heineken and Stella Artois fall into this category.

Sterling hops provide bitterness and Czech Pils Yeast is employed for fermentation. The backbone is built from Great Western Pale, Crystal -15, Wheat & Acidulated malts varieties. Here's how Rogue pitch the finished product:

An Irish style lager with a smooth mellow flavor and an apple crisp finish. Perfect for floating Guinness! The recipe was developed for our friends at Kells Irish Restaurant and Pub.
Side note: I know a pint glass doesn't seem like the right choice for this beer, but I had a pint glass decorated specifically for this beer, so I felt obligated. Anyway, let's get started.

Appearance: A slightly hazy, pale golden-straw body capped by two fingers of off-white head that settles quickly into a thin sheet and leaves decent lacing.

Aroma: Grassy and lemony hops over a sweet pale malt base.

Taste: Very similar to the aroma; grassy and lemony hops over a honeyish pale malt backbone. Simple, yet quite effective. The aftertaste is grainy and honey-like.

Mouthfeel: A medium-light body with good carbonation. Crisp with a clean, dry finish.

Drinkability: The 22 ounce bomber goes back rapidly, making this a very drinkable proposition.

Verdict: I may not be an expert on the subject of Irish Lagers, but I do know that this is a tasty brew. If you're looking for a lightish lager with some character, you won't go wrong here.

Grade: B+

Moylan's Moylander Double IPA Review

Brewery: Moylan's Brewery | Beer: Moylander Double IPA
Style: American Double India Pale Ale | ABV: 8.5% | IBUs: 90
Serving Method: 22 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Moylan's Moylander Double IPAMoylan's is another of the breweries that finally made a highly anticipated debut in the Houston area last year. The Novato, CA brewery was founded in 1995 by Brendan Moylan, who is also a co-owner of the Marin Brewing Company. Moylan's is known best for their monstrous Double IPA, Hopsickle, but today we're starting with their "small" Double IPA, Moylander.

These guys are particularly generous with the information they publish for each beer—I wish every brewer were so thorough. American 2-Row, Crystal 15L, Caravienna, Munich and Acidulated malts make up the backbone. The hop bill consists of Yakima's Chinook, Simcoe, Columbus, Glacier, and Ahtanum varieties. They even list the specific yeast strain employed: White Labs' #001 Chico. Here's how they describe the finished product:

Fat and resiny, with aggressive and excessive hops swinging on on an enormous malt backbone like naughty monkeys on a vine.
Mmm... monkeys.

Appearance: A slightly hazy, golden-orange body capped by about two fingers off creamy, off-white head. The head sticks around for a while and leaves good lacing.

Aroma: From the second the cap is popped, there's a blast of tropical-fruity, citrusy, and mildly piney hops wafting through the air. Underneath the hops, there's some spicy alcohol and a solid caramel malt backbone keeping things grounded.

Taste: Up front, it's all about the solidly bitter, citrusy and resiny hops—there's never any doubt that this is a Double IPA. After the hop assault starts to recede, the rich caramel malt backbone comes into focus. Alcohol is detectable throughout, though it's mild and always complimentary. The aftertaste is nicely bitter and endures well.

Mouthfeel: A slightly creamy medium body with good carbonation and just a little burn from the alcohol. The hop assault ensures a dry finish.

Drinkability: Not quite a sipper, but you're still going to have to take your time a little.

Verdict: Moylander is a solidly bitter, yet well-balanced Double IPA that doesn't disappoint—it's not quite at the top level, but it's close. After this, I can't wait to crack open the Hopsickle I have chilling in the fridge.

Grade: A-

Lagunitas The Hairy Eyeball Review

Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Co. | Beer: The Hairy Eyeball
Style: American Strong Ale | ABV: 8.8% | IBUs: 57
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Lagunitas Hairy EyeballHere we have another Stong Ale from Lagunitas. Once again there's a little bit of confusion as to what category this beer falls in—Strong Ale or Barleywine. From what I can tell, Strong Ale seems most fitting, but who really knows. These jerks sure like making it difficult for me to fit their beers in neat little boxes, don't they?

Anyway, The Hairy Eyeball is Lagunitas' Winter seasonal. There's not many published details about specific ingredients out there, save for a mention on their website that "several types of crystal malt" are used.

It's become traditional here on PintLog to post the wonderfully batshit-insane text that accompanies each Lagunitas beer, so without further ado, here's what can be found on the six-pack holder The Hairy Eyeball:

We hope you enjoy our Mondo-ultra-mega-super-premium Holiday Offering. We first brewed this five years ago while in our Ross Street Petaluma brewery and have looked brewery and have looked forward to its' return every solstice season since. For us, these are days of light and hope in the midst of the darkest months of the year. A time when we reflect on the possibilities of the coming year even as our present days are bourne ceaselessly and forever into the past. Hold close what is important to you this season and share what matters—thoughts, meals, long walks, a knowing look from across a crowded room, maybe even a beer. We all are all we have left, and in a world that is ever less forgiving, it's good to have friends.
That was a little sweeter and less rambling than normal—warms the heart, doesn't it? To be honest, I'm slightly worried this might end up a little too similar to Brown Shugga', but I'm optimistic. Let's get to it.

Appearance: Dense dark brown body with ruby highlights. A tannish head clocks in just shy of a finger high and great curtains of lace.

Aroma: Lots of sweet, caramelized, almost burnt malt with some dark fruit and a healthy dose of booze.

Taste: Still lots of sweet caramel malt and dark fruit with a little spiciness mixed in and a decent splash of hops for some balance. The alcohol is kept in check, but is a constant companion.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied and smooth with low carbonation.

Drinkability: A sipper, but perhaps a little above average for the style.

Verdict: Hairy Eyeball is somewhat similar to Brown Shugga', but certainly different enough to warrant its existence. Perfect for a cold and drizzly day like today. I'll be aging a couple of bottles next to the bottles of Brown Shugga' to see how it evolves.

Grade: B+

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat Review

Brewery: Boston Brewing Co. | Beer: Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat
Style: Fruit Beer | ABV: 5.4% | IBUs: 23
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Weizen glass

Samuel Adams Cherry WheatFirst brewed as a summer seasonal back in 1995, Cherry Wheat was popular enough to warrant year-round availability as part of the Samuel Adams Brewmaster's Collection. It's proved to be so popular that it's one of the best selling Sam Adams beers out there—it's certainly my wife's favorite.

Cherry Wheat's body is built from 2-Row Pale and Munich malts alongside malted wheat. Bitterness is provided by one of Sam Adams' favorite hop varieties, the Tettnang Tettnanger. Other ingredients include a "touch" of honey and two additions of Michigan cherries—one during the mash and one during finishing. Here's how the finished product is pitched:
The sweet fruitiness of the cherries is balanced against the crisp, cereal note from the malted wheat and the subtle citrus flavor from the Noble hops. The end result is a sweet, refreshing beer that is light on the palate but long on complexity.
It's about time I got around to this one—let's get to it, shall we?

Appearance: A slightly hazy, golden-amber colored body with a massive and sticky off-white head. Great lacing.

Aroma: An overabundance of candy-like cherry. Some definite wheaty beer underneath, but the balance is out of whack.

Taste: The cherry flavor is certainly in the spotlight here and almost reminds me of cherry cough syrup. Underneath, there's a firmly subservient and very average wheat body. Sweet, but not too cloying. Lingering aftertaste of cherries.

Mouthfeel: A medium-light body with sharp carbonation.

Drinkability: If you're not put off by the strong cherry flavor, rather good drinkability.

Verdict: As wrong as it seems, there is something pleasant about the cherry flavor. However, it still seems much better suited to the candy world than the beer world. This is a very strange beer, and I find it hard to rate. All I can really say is that while I certainly don't love it, I don't absolutely hate it either. I suppose that makes it average.

Grade: C

BrewDog Rip Tide Review

Brewery: BrewDog Ltd. | Beer: Rip Tide
Style: Russian Imperial Stout | ABV: 8.0% | IBUs: 65
Serving Method: 22.4 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

BrewDog Rip TideAs much as I was looking forward to trying BrewDog's offerings, I wasn't exactly a fan of the first I tried, their Hardcore IPA. Luckliy it had an friend on the long trip from Scotland, an Imperial Stout called Rip Tide. Hopefully we have some better luck this time around—I'm optimistic.

Not the same beast as the Imperial Stouts we're used to in America, BrewDog describe Rip Tide as"a contemporary Scottish take on an age old Russian classic style." The first thing that tipped me off to that was the eight percent alcohol content, relatively weak for anything with the word "imperial" on the bottle. The ingredient list is hardly some wilting flower though.

First Gold and Galena hops provide bitterness, while the backbone is built from Maris Otter, Dark Crystal, Caramalt, and Chocolate malt varieties along with and roasted barley. What BrewDog list as the "twist" in the mix is dark muscavado sugar—an unrefined brown sugar with lots of molasses flavor. Here's how BrewDog describe the result:

A strong, silky smooth imperial stout with a deep, dark ruby appearance. Mocha, bitter chocolate, liquorice and dark cherry flavours prevail, before the balanced, warming and encapsulating finish.
Well, it's time to dig in. BrewDog recommend you enjoy this beer with "an air of aristocratic nonchalance," so I'll try to keep that in mind.

A dark and murky brown body with no distinct highlights. The head is slow to form, taking shape only after pouring is finished. What does manifest is half a finger tall, tan, and quickly fades to a thin skin that leaves little lacing.

Aroma: Dark fruit over moderately dark, chocolaty malt. There's a nicely bitter streak around the edges, giving it additional complexity.

Taste: The focus is a rich malt profile featuring great coffee and bitter chocolate notes. It's not all about the malt though, as there's a good dose of balancing bitterness coming from the hops. Some mild alcohol towards the end, but nowhere near what you'd expect from a bigger beer like a Russian Imperial Stout (the same can be said for the malt profile, too). The aftertaste is roasty and slightly bitter.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full bodied and velvety with light carbonation. There's the barest burn alcohol at times, but it's deceptively smooth. Dries in the finish.

Drinkability: About middle-of-the-road, just watch out for the alcohol content.

Verdict: Certainly an improvement over my first experience with this brewer, Rip Tide is somewhere between a regular and "Imperial" Stout, making it a bit of a unique proposition on the shelves. This is enjoyable, but I'm really looking forward to seeing what these guys can do with an all-out, ten percent Stout.

Grade: B+

Lagunitas 2009 Correction Ale Review

Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Co. | Beer: 2009 Correction Ale
Style: American India Pale Ale | ABV: 6.3% | IBUs: 74
Serving Method: 22 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Lagunitas 2009 Correction AleIt's that time again, time to review another hoppy limited edition Lagunitas brew with a nebulous style and oddball name. Always an enjoyable, though perhaps not earth-shaking, experience, these beers are usually worth a try (or two).

What we have here is 2009 Correction Ale, what the label claims that is is "NOT a Double IPA, just a good American Ale." I'm calling an American IPA based on it's vitals: 6.3& ABV and 74 IBUs.

As is the case with most Lagunitas brews, the label here features some pretty wacky copy. Check it out:

I think we're all Bozos on this bus... I mean, really—who would ever have given their money to a guy with a name like 'Made-Off'? If one day an oily guy named Soprano showed up at your door wearing a suit that said Countrywide offering free money; who would have taken it? Isn't 'free money' an oxymoron? If it was all too good to be true, it was. Wasn't the end in sight when 'Flip This House' went on television...? In the future 2009 will be there with 1929, 1941, and 1968. OK, we ALL partied down and, YES, we took some liberties with some of our female guests. Nut now it's the day after Mardi Gras when everyone kneels down and prays. Apparently, it really is possible to have too much fun. But it is far better to have partied and lost than never to have partied at all. Gracefully surrender the things of 2008. Smoke a fag, drink a beer, and buy toothpaste... in that order. Live to party again...
Alright... Well, let's crack the bottle and see what the beer is like.

Appearance: A crystal-clear golden-amber body capped by two fingers of creamy off-white head that features good retention and lacing.

Aroma: A blast of bright, floral, and mildly pungent hops with fruit character that ranges from citrus to pineapple. Underneath the hops is a somewhat meek pale malt base.

Taste: True to the aroma—piney, citrusy, and mildly bitter hops over a toasty pale malt backbone. As you'd expect from an IPA, the balance is certainly tipped towards the hop side of the equation. A nicely bitter aftertaste that endures well.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with good carbonation and some oiliness. Dries in the finish.

Drinkability: A very sessionable IPA; the bomber disappeared rapidly.

Verdict: Correction is certainly a tasty little IPA, and I could drink it all night long. I'd love to see this start showing up in six packs, rather than 22 ounce bombers.

Grade: A-

Note: While this review is being published in January, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh last June.

Abita Andygator Review

Brewery: Abita Brewing Co. | Beer: Andygator
Style: Doppelbock | ABV: 8.0% | IBUs: 25
Serving Method: 22 oz. bottle poured into Pilsener glass

Abita AndygatorSo far, the Abita brews reviewed here on PintLog have been from the Harvest series—mildish beers spotlighting a fresh Louisianan ingredient. While they've been pleasant enough, I decided to skip to something with a little more bite. Enter their Big Beer series, two eight percent beers with a more artisanal slant than the rest of their beers.

First up is Andygator, what Abita describe as a Helles Doppelbock. It's built with pale malt, hopped with German Perles, and brought alive by German lager yeast. Here's how they describe the finished product:

Unlike other high-gravity brews, Andygator is fermented to a dry finish with a slightly sweet flavor and subtle fruit aroma.
Just as a side note, it's worth noting that Andygator is presented in an absolutely gorgeous bottle—one of the nicest I've ever seen. Let's see if the contents are equally impressive.

Appearance: A crystal-clear, golden body with a large and sudsy off-white head that burns out quickly and leaves little lace.

Aroma: A rich and grainy malt body accompanied by a nice dose of earthy hops and some fruitiness. Somewhat Doppelbock-like, but clearly something different.

Taste: Not much to report over what was represented in the nose; dry, earthy hops over a sweet cereal-like malt backbone with lots of dark fruit and nutty notes in the mix. The aftertaste is grainy with just a hint of booze.

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

Drinkability: Perfectly quaffable, just watch the eight percent alcohol content.

Verdict: Basically a souped-up Helles, Andygator may not be a true Doppelbock, but it is a serviceable and solid enough brew. An interesting hybrid style, I'd like to see some other brewers have a shot at it.

Grade: B-

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dogfish Head Red & White Review

Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery | Beer: Red & White
Style: Witbier | ABV: 10.0% | IBUs: 35
Serving Method: 750ml bottle poured into tulip glass

Dogfish Head Red & WhiteOriginally brewed back in 2007, Dogfish Head's Red & White is a Witbier with a decidedly Dogfish twist. While most Wits are easy drinking summer-favorites, this is a big 10% ABV monster. My last encounter with big Witbiers, Samuel Adams Imperial White, left me scratching my head a little, I'm ready to give the concept another shot.

Red & White takes a "wine meets beer" approach, and is fermented with Pinot Noir juice. Once fermentation is complete, one fraction is aged in Oregon Pinot Noir barrels, while another is aged on oak staves. The two oaked portions are then blended back into the bulk and the beer is ready for bottling. Dogfish describe the resulting product as "successfully marry[ing] a Belgian-style white beer with the robust complexity of a bold red wine."

Color me intrigued. Let's get to it.

Appearance: A slightly hazy, pumpkin-colored body with plenty of sediment in solution. Up top, two fingers of creamy, off-white head that endures well and leaves decent lacing.

Aroma: Spices (mostly coriander), orange peel, and some booze (not nearly as much as you'd expect given the double-digit alcohol rating). Unfortunately, it's all just a little on the thin side.

Taste: The same orange peel and spice notes with some new grapey notes added into the mix. All of this is over a sweet, slightly wheat-like malt backbone. With the barrel-aging promised on the label, I was hoping to pick up some good oak notes, but I'm just not finding it. Perhaps that's because this is a sweeter beer. As for the alcohol, it's much more present in the mouth than in the nose and adds a lot of complexity without being too overpowering. The aftertaste is boozy and grapey.

Mouthfeel: Nicely thick and sticky with moderate carbonation. The alcohol dries it all out in the end and leaves some definite burn.

Drinkability: Very close to sipper territory, especially given the alcohol content.

Verdict: On paper, Red & White is a brilliant idea and would seem to yield something imminently unique and exotic; however, it's just not that special in the glass. This would work well as a beer to share with friends during dessert, just don't be expecting the most complex beer on the planet.

Grade: B+

Stone IPA Review

Brewery: Stone Brewing Co. | Beer: IPA
Style: American India Pale Ale | ABV: 6.9% | IBUs: 77
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Stone IPAFirst released in 1997, Stone IPA is the company's straight-forwardly named India Pale Ale. One of the first beers in the Stone portfolio, IPA is still one of their biggest sellers. Considered a typical "West-Coast" IPA, this is one of the beers that helped define that category.

Stone describe their IPA as having "medium malt character with a heavy dose of over the top hops." The specific hop varieties used are Columbus, Chinook, and Centennial varieties, and the beer undergoes dry-hopping. For a company known for it's focus on hops, you know this is going to be a hoppy bastard.

With big brother Ruination receiving an A+ here on PintLog, expectations are somewhat high for Stone IPA. Let's see if it can live up, shall we?

Appearance: A slightly hazy, golden-orange colored body with a finger and a half of sudsy, off-white head. Decent lacing.

Aroma: An abundance of floral, perfumy, citrusy hops right off the bat. Beyond the hops, a sweet medium malt base and a few whiffs of booze. Damn, this smells good.

Taste: Up front, tons of grapefruity, piney, and assertively bitter hops lead the charge. Underneath, a solid caramel malt backbone keeps everything relatively balanced. Bright and tasty from the first sip to the last and never too bitter for the style. The aftertaste keeps the resiny bitterness going well into your next sip.

Mouthfeel: A slightly more full than medium body with smooth carbonation and a dry finish. Every now and then, a hint of alcohol burn.

Drinkability: As long as you're into hops, the only thing to slow you down is the almost seven percent alcohol content.

Verdict: As I had imagined, this is essentially Ruination's (relatively) little brother. In all honesty, this IPA is a lot hoppier (and a damn sight tastier) than many brewer's Double IPAs—just what you'd expect from the boys at Stone. Well done!

Grade: A

Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA Review

Brewery: Harpoon Brewery | Beer: Leviathan Imperial IPA
Style: American Double India Pale Ale | ABV: 10.0% | IBUs: 122
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPAIt's been great seeing Harpoon's brews showing up on shelves here in Houston. Up until this point I've only tried their regular offerings—but now I've got my hands on one of their big Leviathan Series beers. Only dating back to 2008, the series is the home for the company's big beers and experimental fare.

Leviathan IPA is an American Double IPA. The backbone is built from pale and caramel malts, with the focus apparently on the pale variety. As for hops, Chinook, Centennial, Simcoe, and Amarillo varieties are employeed, and the beer is eventually dry-hopped with over one pound of unnamed hops per barrel. Here's Harpoon's almost Stone-like description of the beer:

Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA will challenge your senses and your palate. As the vibrant aroma rushes out of your glass you will notice the blend of piney and tropical fruit notes. At first sip, this big beer starts with a powerful hop bitterness up front and an aggressive hop flavor and character throughout.
I think I'm up to the challenge, so let's crack this bad boy open.

Appearance: A crystal-clear, rich copper body capped by a little over a finger of creamy, off-white head that features good retention and lacing.

Aroma: Pungent, piney, and citrusy hops over a sweet caramel base with lots of booze around the edges. Easily identifiable as a Double IPA from a mile away.

Taste: Up front, a blast of resiny and grapefruity hops that are not shy with the bitterness. Underneath, a caramel malt backbone keeps everything grounded well. That double digit alcohol content makes it's presence known, but is masked well enough to not drag the beer down. The aftertaste is thoroughly bitter and boozy with pineapple and caramel notes.

Mouthfeel: A creamy, slightly fuller than medium body with moderate carbonation and a dry finish. There's some nice burn in the throat and mouth from the alcohol.

Drinkability: With the big IBU and ABV ratings, this is about average for the style.

Verdict: Leviathan Imperial IPA is a very solid Double IPA that satisfies the itch for a big, biter, boozy beer. After trying some of Harpoon's more mainstream beers, I'm glad to see they can really step it up and deliver a high-end beer.

Grade: A-

Kona Pipeline Porter Review

Brewery: Kona Brewing Co. | Beer: Pipeline Porter
Style: American Porter | ABV: 5.4% | IBUs: 30
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Kona Pipeline PorterFounded in 1994 by a father and son team Cameron Healy and Spoon Khalsa, Kona Brewing Company is the best selling craft brewer on the Hawaiian Islands. Part of the Craft Brewers Alliance, along with Redhook, Widmer, and Goose Island, Kona enjoys distribution assistance from Anheuser-Busch. This arrangement also allows for the majority the Kona beer available on the mainland to be brewed by fellow Craft Brewers Alliance members.

The first Kona beer that really caught my attention was Pipeline Porter, an American Porter brewed with freshly roasted Kona coffee. Pipeline is available from September through March and features an absolutely gorgeous label design. Here's how Kona describe the beer:

Pipeline Porter is smooth and dark with a distinctive roasty aroma and earthy complexity from its diverse blends of premium malted barley. A delicate blend of hops rounds out this palate-pleasing brew.
I'm a big fan of coffee-themed beers, so hopes are high. Let's dive in.

Appearance: A thick brown, nearly black, body that's remarkably similar to black coffee in direct light. A finger of caramel-tinged and bubbly head that dissipates quickly and leaves spotty lacing.

Aroma: Typical roasty Porter character with the usual chocolate and coffee notes, but with much more focus on coffee. It really smells like a little bit of fresh ground coffee has been mixed in.

Taste: It's pretty much the same story here. The coffee gets a little bit lost compared to in the aroma, but it's certainly still in higher proportion than your average Porter. The malt backbone could use a bit more muscle for my taste, but it's tasty enough. The aftertaste really keeps the coffee flavors going.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied with lowish carbonation.

Drinkability: Goes back pretty quick, but it's just not exciting enough to order another.

Verdict: Pipeline is a very straightforward beer: a solid enough, but not amazing, American Porter with a nice coffee focus. If you like Porters and coffee, give it a try, just don't expect a mind-blower.

Grade: B

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stone Imperial Russian Stout 2009 Review

Brewery: Stone Brewing Co. | Beer: Imperial Russian Stout 2009
Style: Russian Imperial Stout | ABV: 10.5% | IBUs: 90+
Serving Method: 22 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Stone Imperial Russian Stout 2009Stone's Imperial Russian Stout is one of the large class of beers I've been wanting to try for years that finally showed up on Houston shelves this year. First brewed back in 2000, this release marks the beer's tenth anniversary—a nice round number on which to start my experience with the beer.

Many people have described Stone Imperial Russian Stout as one of the finest examples of the Russian Imperial Stout style, and it consistently shows up on "best beer" lists. Bitterness is provided by Warrior hops, and though Stone don't disclose the list of what malts are used, they did mention in a blog last year that they added more amber malt to this vintage. Here's how the describe the resulting brew:

Intensely aromatic (notes of anise, black currants, coffee, roastiness, and alcohol) and heavy on the palate, this brew goes where few can - and fewer even dare try.
I've waited a long time to get my hands on a bottle of this, so let's crack it open and see if it lives up to the expectations.

Appearance: An opaque black body capped by a generous three fingers of caramel-colored head that sticks around for a long time and leaves good lacing. Top marks.

Aroma: An intense blast of dark roasted malt with plenty of dark chocolate, dark fruit, and dark coffee notes (notice a trend developing here?). But as big as the malt body is, this is not just a one-sided affair, with decent pockets of hops and alcohol to be found amongst the malt.

Taste: Just as strong as the nose promised, the complex malt base absolutely dominates and features notes of bittersweet chocolate, dark fruit, molasses, and dark roasted coffee. The hop character from the nose shows back up towards the end to offer a little added depth. While the alcohol content certainly lets its presence be known, its deceptively smooth, feeling closer to about eight percent. The aftertaste is roasty and chocolaty with wisps of alcohol interspersed throughout.

Mouthfeel: A thick, creamy full body with only mild carbonation cutting through and a dry finish. After your sip, there's enough of a coating left in the mouth to keep everything alive for a long time. The alcohol leaves some warmth and slickness, but not as much as you'd expect with it weighing in at a hefty 10.5%.

Drinkability: Quite the sipper, which is no surprise given the style, alcohol content, and IBU rating. A brilliant beer to savor after a meal.

Verdict: Certainly worth all of the the hype, Stone's Imperial Russian Stout is a damn fine beer that is well worth seeking out for any Stout fan. As good as this tastes now, I can't wait to see how this ages.

Grade: A

Note: While this review is being published in January, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh last June.

BrewDog Hardcore IPA Review

Brewery: BrewDog Ltd. | Beer: Hardcore IPA
Style: American Double India Pale Ale | ABV: 9.0% | IBUs: 150
Serving Method: 22.4 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

BrewDog Hardcore IPAOf all the breweries that started to show up in my neck of the woods last year, BrewDog was one of the ones I was most excited to try. The Scottish brewery was founded in 2007 by James Watt and Martin Dickie with a distinctly anti-establishment attitude. It has grown swiftly into Scotland's largest independent brewery, with distribution reaching far enough to stock our shelves here in Houston.

For simplicity's sake, I've listed this as an American Double IPA, though that seems like it may be a little inaccurate. Its backbone is built from Maris Otter Extra Pale Malt. As for hops, the beer is "hopped to hell" and "dry-hopped to hell" with Simcoe, Chinook, Amarillo, Warrior varieties. Here's how BrewDog describe Hardcore:

This explicit ale has more hops and bitterness that any other beer brewed in the UK. This is an extreme beer rollercoaster for freaks, gypsies and international chess superstars.
Hopes are high here, so let's get this show on the road.

Appearance: A thoroughly hazy golden-orange capped by a slow-to-form finger of off-white head that leaves good lacing.

Aroma: Mild citrusy and herbal hops over a caramel malt base. Missing the punch you'd expect from a "Hardcore IPA."

Taste: Where in the hell are the hops? According to the bottle, this bottle will still be fresh for over six months, so I'm sure this isn't a freshness issue. Some grassy and herbal bitterness builds up as time goes on and it warms, but it never really gets much "hoppiness" going. With the hops not making much of an impression, the plain caramel malt body makes up the bulk of the flavor profile. Plenty of butteryness and unmasked alcohol throughout, making a boring profile into something unpleasant. The aftertaste is bitter and boozy.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with smooth carbonation and some slight burn from the alcohol.

Drinkability: Rather poor due to the flavor profile and alcohol content.

Verdict: Hardcore IPA is a thoroughly confusing beer; I was ready for something different, but I've never had to search for hops in an IPA. Even if you take style off the table and try to rate this beer in a style-vacuum, it's still not a very pleasing beer. When you take into account that this bottle cost me over seven dollars, this really becomes a hot mess.

Grade: D+

Dogfish Head Burton Baton Review

Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery | Beer: Burton Baton
Style: American Double India Pale Ale | ABV: 10.0% | IBUs: 70
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Dogfish Head Burton BatonOriginally brewed for the late Michael Jackson's Rare Beer Club back in 2004 as a tribute to America and England, Burton Baton is a 50/50 mix of Dogfish's 90 Minute IPA and an oak-aged English Strong Ale. That new Strong Ale thread is a potent and hoppy brew utilizing both American and English yeasts and a four month aging in French oak.

The end result is essentially an American Double IPA with some added complexity gained during aging and a particularly rich malt backbone. Here's how Dogfish describe Burton Baton "Citrus notes from Northwestern hops meld with vanilla notes from the oak [along with] brandied fruitcake and raisiney [tones]."

It all sounds interesting to me, so let's get going.

Appearance: A slightly hazy, rich orange body with one finger of off-white head that sticks around a good while and leaves patchy lacing.

Aroma: Lots of bright, citrusy hops throughout, with a sweet caramel base poking through. There are also lots of tropical fruity, spicy, and woody notes to be found (though some of that woodiness may be due to the power of suggestion). Definite notes of alcohol, but not quite as many as you'd expect from a double digit ABV beer.

Taste: An even more complex proposition in the flavor profile. While there are plenty of hops here, but this is hardly what I'd call a hop-bomb. The hops are citrusy, spicy, earthy, and taste almost candied. As for the generous malt backbone, it's sticky sweet caramel all the way. I can detect some nice oakiness towards the end, but it's not all that powerful. Ten percent beers are usually very happy to let you know how potent they are, but in this case the punch is hidden rather well. Overall, this is very balanced for a Double IPA, with the hops evenly matched with the rich flavors from the malt and alcohol. The aftertaste is citrusy, oaky, and slightly boozy.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and smooth with mild carbonation. Dries in the finish nicely.

Drinkability: Ten percent alcohol content and 70 IBUs may not be a recipe for a thirst-quencher, but this is rather drinkable considering.

Verdict: I went in expecting something interesting and satisfying, and that's exactly what I ended up with. While this isn't a big hop-bomb (neither is their 90 Minute), Dogfish Head have crafted a tasty and complex brew here. I'm curious to see exactly how it ages.

Grade: A

Abita Satsuma Harvest Wit Review

Brewery: Abita Brewing Co. | Beer: Satsuma Harvest Wit
Style: Witbier | ABV: 5.1% | IBUs: 17
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Abita Satsuma Harvest WitFor my first review of an Abita product, I decided to go with something a little oddball, their Strawberry Harvest Lager. Well, it was interesting enough that when I saw another of their Harvest series, I went for it.

This time, it's their Satsuma Harvest Wit, a Witbier brewed with (you guess it) Satsumas. As with the other beers in the series, the star ingredient here is sourced from Louisiana. As for the beer underneath, the backbone is built from wheat, oats, and "the finest barley." Here's how Abita describe the resulting brew:

Pale and cloudy, like the haze on a hot summer day, this white beer has a sweet and subtle citrus flavor with a touch of spice that is cool and refreshing.
Sounds pretty appetizing, let's check it out.

Appearance: A nicely hazy golden body capped with a finger and a half of creamy, off-white head that features good retention and lacing. On point for the Witbier style.

Aroma: It certainly smells like a Wit too with lots of yeasty, doughy and bready notes. There's not that much in the way of citrus, but maybe it will be more prominent in the flavor profile.

Taste: Classic Wit flavors of bready, doughy wheat malt dominate, though it's missing a lot of the spice found in the Beligian originals. In the absence of spices, the citrus character that is usually derived from orange peel is amped up and somewhat jucier. The citrus flavor may be somewhat subtle, but it's there, especially towards the end. The aftertaste is bready with a trace of juicy citrus.

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

Drinkability: Certainly a quaffable and nicely refreshing brew.

Verdict: Satsuma Harvest Wit is a serviceable Wit with a nice splash of citrus, just don't go in expecting a brew that's infused with bold orange juice.

Grade: B

Note: While this review is being published in January, the tasting notes contained within were taken when the beer was fresh last July.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Boulevard Double Wide IPA Review

Brewery: Boulevard Brewing Co. | Beer: Double Wide IPA
Style: American India Pale Ale | ABV: 8.5% | IBUs: 55
Serving Method: 750ml bottle poured into pint glass

Boulevard Double Wide IPABoulevard was founded back in 1989 by John McDonald in Kansas City, Missouri. Since then, they have grown quite a bit, and are currently ranked as the eighth biggest craft brewer by the Brewers Association.

The company has a full portfolio of year-round and seasonal brews, along with a line of something a little more special. Introduced in 2007, Boulevard's Smokestack Series is the company's line of premium and experimental beers. Double Wide IPA, an American IPA, is one of the original beers in the series.

Boulevard only mention caramel malt when describing the backbone of Double Wide, but the hop bill sounds much more impressive. Zues and Magnum varieties used for both bittering and aroma, and Ahtanums used just for aroma. There are two courses of dry-hopping, with Ahtanums, Centennials, and Chinooks employed.

Sounds complex and tasty, so let's dive in.

Appearance: A rich, hazy reddish-orange body capped by a massive portion of off-white, frothy head. The head endures well and leaves great lacing.

Aroma: A nice blast of citrusy and piney hops on top of a solid caramel base.

Taste: Grapefruity and properly bitter hops up front; I'd have pegged this above the advertised 55 IBUs. Underneath, a toasty caramel malt backbone keeps everything balanced. As for the alcohol, it's hidden rather well, making only the briefest of appearances. The aftertaste is nicely bitter and biscuity. This beer punches above it's weight, and I tend to agree with those that describe this as being somewhere between a standard and double IPA.

Mouthfeel: A creamy, medium body with smooth carbonation and a dry finish. Hints of alcohol burn, but nothing substantial.

Drinkability: For the American IPA style, this is certainly on the slow side. However, the big 750ml bottle still goes back in good time.

Verdict: Double Wide IPA is certainly a substantial and enjoyable IPA, though it just doesn't seem worth the nine bucks that I paid for the 750ml bottle. Well worth a try, but I'd feel a lot better about it if it I'd gotten a six-pack, or even a four-pack for the price of admission.

Grade: A-

Harpoon IPA Review

Brewery: Harpoon Brewery | Beer: IPA
Style: American India Pale Ale | ABV: 5.9% | IBUs: 42
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Harpoon IPAWhile I started my Harpoon experience with their Summer Beer, they are best known for their IPA. Brewed for over 15 years, it's one of the longest-running versions of the American IPA style on the market today.

Harpoon are a little stingy with ingredient details, but they do mention that Cascade hops are used "generously" and that the backbone is built from 2-row pale malt along with two other varieties. Here's how Harpoon describe the resulting brew:

The high hopping of Harpoon IPA is not only noticeable in the nose but especially in the finish. The lingering bitter finish of this beer is not harsh or astringent, but crisp and pronounced. This is created, in part, by dry hopping. This beer is floral, medium body with an aggressive, clean hop finish.
With so many years passing between this beer's original launch and the craft beer climate of today, I'm curious to see how it stacks up.

Appearance: An orange-amber body with two fingers of sudsy, off-white head. Good lacing.

Aroma: Citrusy Cascade hops over sweet pale malt. Good stuff, but perhaps more in line with a straight-up Pale Ale, rather than an IPA.

Taste: Up front, a mild wave of citrusy Cascades sets the tone. Underneath, the malt backbone is more than able to meet the hop challenge, making for a very balanced proposition. Once again, this smacks more of a great Pale Ale rather than a full-fledged IPA. The aftertaste is mildly bitter and a little grainy.

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

Drinkability: Certainly above average for the IPA style, this makes for a wonderfully sessionable beer.

Verdict: Certainly not the most hopped IPA out there, I really would have pegged this one as an Pale Ale if I had to guess. I guess over the years the craft beer world has just moved on from this definition of an IPA. But, putting style aside, this is still a tasty and highly sessionable beer—just don't go in expecting an excess of hops.

Grade: B

Samuel Adams Imperial White Review

Brewery: Boston Brewing Co. | Beer: Samuel Adams Imperial White
Style: Witbier | ABV: 10.3%
| IBUs: 15
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into tulip glass

Samuel Adams Imperial WhiteMy first experience with the Samuel Adams Imperial Series was the wonderful Double Bock. Well, it may have taken me a while, but I'm ready to continue my evaluation of the series. Up next, Imperal White, a Witbier with a double-digit ABV. Wait, what?

You read that right, this is an Imperial Witbier that tips the scales at 10.3 percent alcohol. It's potent enough that it actually has the highest alcohol content of the series. Hallertau Mittelfrueh is the lone hop variety, while the backbone is built of malted wheat along with 2-Row Harrington and Metcalfe malts.

Pitched as a "wine substitute," Sam Adams claims Imperial White:

Pushes out the boundaries of a Witbier. While the brew delivers orange and coriander notes, typical of Witbers, it has a bigger mouthfeel and body. It's truly a unique brew.
At this point, I'm wondering who decided to go with a Witbier for the Imperial Series, but let's see how it turned out.

Appearance: Far from white, the body is a rich pumpkin-orange and quite hazy. The off-white head pours very tall and leaves good lacing. Not a typical look for the style, but fetching none-the-less.

Aroma: A variety of spices and a fruits over a sweet malt base. Perfumey. As you'd expect for a beer with over ten percent alcohol, there is a lot of booze here.

Taste: It's much the same in the flavor profile. Lots of spice (coriander and pepper) and fruit (pineapple, banana, and citrus). Nothing as far as hops go, but there's a bit of balance from spiciness. This is rather sweet. The booze character is massive, can feel rather out-of-place, and dominates the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Thick and syrupy. Despite the massive ABV, there isn't too much burn. Dries slightly in the finish.

Drinkability: With the ABV and syrupy body, this is a sipper, which seems bizarre for a beer with "Witbier" in the style name.

Verdict: Imperial White is not a bad beer, but a baffling one. If given this in a blind taste test without knowing the style, I'd have no idea at all what it was—Wit certainly wouldn't be my first guess. To me, Witbiers have always been light and quenching beers perfect to enjoy on a warm Summer's day. Imperial White is just kind of a syrupy, boozy wildcard that just begs the question "why?" Of all the styles to "imperialize," why Witbier?

Grade: B

Rogue Dead Guy Ale Review

Brewery: Rouge Ales Brewery | Beer: Dead Guy Ale
Style: Maibock/Helles Bock | ABV: 6.5% | IBUs: 40
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into pint glass

Rouge Dead Guy AleDead Guy is Rogue's flagship beer, and one of the most ubiquitous brews in the craft world. The dead guy logo was originally designed as a tap sticker in honor of the Day of the Dead, but it proved so popular that Rogue applied it to their Maibock.

The Maibock, or Helles Bock, style is a strong German lager brewed for consumption during spring. According to the BJCP, it can be thought of as "either a pale version of a traditional Bock, or a Munich Helles brewed to Bock strength."

Not just a catchy label, Dead Guy has won a slew of awards, including nine medals from the World Beer Championships. The backbone is built of Northwest Harrington, Klages, Maier Munich, and Carastan malts, Perle and Saaz hop varieties provide bitterness, and fermentation is provided by Rogue's proprietary Pacman Yeast.

Rogue describe the beer as "deep honey in color with a malty aroma and a rich hearty flavor." Sounds good, let's crack it open and pour it into my handy Dead Guy pint glass.

Appearance: A slightly hazy, golden-amber body capped by two fingers of creamy, off-white head that endures well and leaves good lacing.

Aroma: Lots of toasty caramel malt with a dash of spicy hops.

Taste: The focus here is really the bold and toasty caramel malt backbone, which is spot-on for the style. Towards the end a mild alcohol character emerges, about equal to what you'd expect to find in a Bock. It finishes with earthy and subtlety spicy hops that help to dry everything out.

Mouthfeel: A medium, slightly creamy body that features moderate carbonation.

Drinkability: Just shy of session territory, but still very drinkable.

Verdict: Dead Guy is a tasty and very drinkable beer with lots of character, but falls short of being exceptional. A worthy flagship brew for one of the bigger American microbreweries.

Grade: B+

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rahr Blonde Lager Review

Brewery: Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. | Beer: Blonde Lager
Style: Munich Helles Lager | ABV: 4.8% | IBUs: 22
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into
Pilsener glass

Rahr Blonde LagerIt's time to add yet another Texas brewery to PintLog, and this time it's Fort Worth-based Rahr & Sons Brewing Company. Founded by husband and wife team Fritz and Erin Rahr back in 2004, the brewery has evolved to a capacity of 5,000 barrels per year with distribution throughout the Lone Star State. Their stable includes ten beers—four year-round offerings and six seasonals.

Blonde Lager, one of the year-round brews, was the company's first release, so it seems like a good place to get started. It's a Munich Helles style lager built from 2-Row, Munich, and CaraFoam malt variates and bittered by Magnum and Sterling hops. The company pitch the beer as a "medium-bodied traditional Munich Helles" with a flavor profile featuring "light malty sweetness, breadiness, and restrained bitterness."

Sounds good, let's dig in.

Appearance: Slightly hazy, pale golden body with a decent white head. Below average lacing.

Aroma: Faint, sweet barley with grassy hops and a hint of apple.

Taste: Crisp, grassy, and somewhat subdued hop flavor up front balanced with honey malt bring up the rear. Some apple cider flavors mixed in. The best way I can think of to describe this is as a richer macro without the shitty twang. Somewhat thin, but that's very appropriate for the style. Mildly bitter aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body with fine carbonation. Finish dries slightly.

Drinkability: Very easily drinkable and refreshing, this is perfect for a Texas barbecue.

Verdict: This is the beer that the macros should be. If you're looking for something simple and drinkable that won't offend at your next BBQ, you'll do a lot better with a case of this than the normal Bud/Miller/Coors fare.

Grade: B