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-

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bud Ice Review

Brewery: Anheuser-Busch, Inc. | Beer: Bud Ice
Style: American Adjunct Lager | ABV: 5.5% | IBUs: ~10
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Pilsener glass

Bud IceAh, the North American ice beer. Unlike their bigger German cousins, American and Canadian ice beers are essentially just your typical crappy adjunct lager frozen to remove some of the water and boost the alcohol content a bit. The problem is, when you filter that water out, you end up filtering out yeast cells and protein particles as well, resulting in a more potent, yet less flavorful beer.

Introduced in 1994, Bud Ice is one of the most popular ice beers out there. While it lacks a little of the punch found in the competition, it's claimed to have more flavor. Despite all this, Bud Ice is best known for those "duby duby doo" penguin ads.

Also, for some unknown reason, there's also a light version of Bud Ice. If anyone can explain that one to me, I'll buy you a beer.

Anyway, with the temperature above 100 in Houston today, the ice-shaped bottle is enticing. Let's get to it.

Appearance: A crystal-clear, paler-than-pale straw body with a bubbly white head that burns out rapidly and leaves no lacing.

Aroma: Sweet, grainy malt with the barest hints of hops. Clean and thin.

Taste: It's all grainy, ricey, and slightly sweet malt up front. Then... there's really nothing to back it up. If you go looking for it, you may be able to pick out some grassy hops towards the end, just don't bet on it. The aftertaste is grainy and rather short-lived.

Mouthfeel: Light bodied and watery with lots of fizzy carbonation.

Drinkability: The only thing holding you back is the utter blandness of it all.

Verdict: Let's do a mental exercise. I want you to imagine a bottle of Bud Light with a percent more alcohol and perhaps a little more grainy malt. Can you see it? There, now I've saved you from ever bothering to try this. Bleh.

Grade: D-

Grolsch Premium Lager Review

Brewery: Grolsch Bierbrouwerij N.V. | Beer: Grolsch Premium Lager
Style: European Pale Lager | ABV: 5.0% | IBUs: 27
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Pilsener glass

Grolsch Premium LagerGrolsch is one of the most storied names in brewing. Dating back to 1615, the Dutch brewery managed to remain independent for almost 400 years. Sadly, it was bought by SABMiller in 2008, though the company still maintains it's headquarters and brewery in the Netherlands.

Accounting for 95% of the brewery's output, Grolsch Premium Lager is by far the company's flagship brew. Not just the face of Grolsch, this beer has also taken on the role of standard-bearer and archetype for the whole European Pale Lager style. If you're looking to get an idea of the style, look no further than the funky green bottle without a body label. That makes this a fitting first example of the style on PintLog.

A bit of a catchall, the European Pale Lager style is essentially made up of European lagers that don't fall into the Pilsener category. Generally, these beers have more malt and hop character than their Pilsener cousins with the same focus on noble hops. Like Munich Helles, many of these beers were initially localized reactions to the lager craze.

We've got one of the most famous examples ready to roll, so let's get to it.

Appearance: A crystal-clear golden-straw body capped by a generous white head that features decent retention and lacing.

Aroma: Crisp and clean noble hops over a rich pale malt base.

Taste: Herbal, earthy, and slightly lemony hops up front with a pale, honeyish malt backbone underneath. The clean finish features grain and some mild bitterness. A rather straightforward brew, to be sure.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied with good carbonation and a dryish finish.

Drinkability: Goes back rapidly, making it quite the session beer if you're a fan of the flavor profile.

Verdict: Grolsch is a pretty typical example of the Euro Pale Lager style; inoffensive enough, but far from special.

Grade: B-

Landshark Lager Review

Brewery: Anheuser-Busch, Inc. | Beer: Landshark Lager
Style: American Adjunct Lager | ABV: 4.7% | IBUs: ~10
Serving Method: 12 oz. bottle poured into Pilsener glass

Landshark LagerAs far back as I can remember, there's been one nagging question in the beer community that kept resurfacing: "What would a beer made by Jimmy Buffet taste like?" Well, a few years ago we got our answer, and it took the form of Landshark Lager.

To be blunt, this beer is simply a product of marketing. I'm not necessarily bashing that—I work in marketing for God's sake—I'm just saying it needs to be taken into account. Someone at AB had the brilliant idea of releasing a beer for parrotheads and the "Margaritaville Brewing Co." was born. What's in the bottle never really mattered.

Perhaps I'm just being a cynical old git, though. Perhaps Jimmy really cared and wanted to produce a relatively full-flavored adjunt lager; really crank out the best version of the style on the market. I'm willing to be an optimist for a second here.

Let's dive in.

Appearance: A crystal-clear, golden-straw body with two fingers of fluffy white head that features decent retention and lacing. Not too shabby.

Aroma: Typical macro: corny and grainy malt with some bare hints of grassy hops.

Taste: Bleh. A sweet base of corny and grainy malt with a few notes of sour apple and grassy hops on occasion. The aftertaste is grainy and short-lived.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied with good carbonation.

Drinkability: Easy enough to drink, but it's just so bland that there's not much motivation to keep going.

Verdict: While it's hardly a surprise that Landshark is not a good beer, it's certainly no worse that your standard macro lager. Call it "Corona With a Shark On It."

Grade: D+