Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Samuel Adams: Summer Ale

After my somewhat poor review of the previous local brew's white ale, I stumbled across an extra couple of Sam Adams' latest seasonal brew in my fridge. While summer is still quite a way's away, we were given a taste of it here in Boston a week ago. As per normal New England weather, the climate quickly shifted back to normal (rainy, cold), but that doesn't mean I won't take up a chance to sample what will come.

Despite an ugly bottle (brown, yellow, and blue? Come now, guys), I was pleasantly surprised by Sam Adams' latest seasonal attempt. It's a pale wheat ale, and has a wonderfully cloudy and heady pour. While light, it remains crisp and bready, with a light citrusy aftertaste that is quite refreshing. I definitely see myself drinking more of these on my porch come summer. While not overly pronounced in flavor, it definitely doesn't stick to your tongue, my biggest complaint with their spring-time witbier.

I think one of the best things about this beer is that it simply doesn't make me thirsty after drinking it. It's crisp and refreshing, great for late summer bbqs and the warm and humid summer evenings. So while not overly flavorly, I still appreciate their effort at making a tasty and light beer. I think I can finally say I've found a Sam Adams beer that I'll actually ask for at a bar, so hopefully it'll be available on tap. As for all you west coasters, keep an eye out for it at your local packie, bodega, or whatever you kids out there call the local boozery.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

D&G: Red Stripe Jamaican Lager

Now we tend to post on crafts here at 801 on Tap. But of course, once in a while, we're tempted by a sale and take advantage of the situation. My corner bodega is usually a rip off, but when I heard $15 for a 12 pack of Red Stripe, I was sold.

With a light body, soft malty smell, and little flavor, Red Stripe reminds you of American macrobrews but with a with a Caribbean flavor. But I can't quite tell what that is. It's definitely not as crappy as a Bud Light, but it's not quite there next to a Tecate or Caguama. Or maybe it's just that it has a really cool bottle, which despite its small size, still holds 12 ounces.

So basically it tastes like your standard American lager, and is entertaining to drink because of the bottle. I guess that's really it about this beer. For shame. I guess at least it's 4.7% ABV, which makes it stronger than a normal macro. I guess that's one other redeeming thing.

And I guess they have great commercials. What can I say, I'm a sucker for entertaining marketing. It's beer! You're beautiful!

So bust out a Red Stripe when you're not feeling a Bud or a Coors, but want a slight step up in front of your friends without going the whole 9 yards. Your uncultured friends will think you're cool for bringing JAMAICAN BEER, but you'll still have your dignity in that you bought something somewhat unique, though ultimately not as awesome as a Caguama or other American style lagers that just are way more satisfying.

But hey, not a bad advertisement. Hooray, beer!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co: Stout

Who am I kidding? I can't go a month without drinking a beer. Hell, I can barely go a week.

Well that's good for you the reader and that's really good for me too.

Luckily a lot of stores sell single beers these days. So I quickly picked one up: Sierra Nevada Stout. A staple (and not a seasonal) of Sierra that's occasionally overlooked due to the prevelance of the brewery's pale ale, porter, and wheat beers.

First, this is a good looking beer. Take a look at it. ->
Worth admiring.
Great dark center. Amber-brown edges when thinned. And a thick spongy head that looks like a scoop of coffee flavored ice cream, which recedes in time.

The smell is pretty mild but the taste very strong. Main flavor is a fancy bitter chocolate. Similar to 60% - 70% cacao chocolate that you might find in Switzerland. Coffee and malt flavors come through a little. Starts with a bitter aftertaste that eventually dissipates in a smooth feeling on the tongue.
Overall pretty solid. Nothing crazy, but boy am I glad I purchased it. Cheers.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bell's Best Brown Ale

Since Rojas hasn't come through yet on his promise to pick up the blogging, and because I'm just so goddamn happy to have made it through another week (only two to go!) I decided I'd blog another beer. Since pretty soon I'll be back in Cali and the easternmost beers will be out of reach, I figured I would try one more beer from a tried-and-tested brewery that we don't have access to out west. So here comes Bell's Best Brown Ale.

Brown Ales are generally pretty mild as ales go, so it can be tricky to pull of a genuinely satisfying brew. Properly executed, they're subtle-yet-complex. Poorly done, they're bland and forgettable. Bell's version falls somewhere between these poles. It has a very pleasant toasted malt flavor that is accented by a very faint spiciness that comes through in the end. It's got a decent amount of carbonation, which actually ends up working out very well; a nice balance to the maltiness.

Overall, a solid take on a staple brew. Definitely rates high on the drinkability scale. Somewhere above a Nukie but probably below a Downtown on my scale.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Flying Dog Brewery: Old Scratch Amber Lager

I hope you all enjoyed the flurry of posts. I too am entering beer hibernation until the end of May. I'm not looking forward to it.

As a result, I made the effort to clean out and imbibe all the beer from my fridge this weekend in preparation for the dry season. I was careful to save one bottle of Flying Dog's Old Scratch so I could give it a proper review. Here goes:

I picked up a sixer of this amber lager simply because of Flying Dog's ground level marketing campaign and customer service. Most of the readers know by now how this brewery contacted Hofer and sent him some microbrews to review. I was impressed by this move. I had only previously tried Flying Dog's version of the pale ale. So wanting to see more of what this brewery was about, I went out searching for their other beers. After a quick shopping scan, I found Flying Dog's amber lager in most local markets. So to make a bad pun, if Flying Dog is going to scratch our back I'll give Old Scratch a try.

And I'm glad I did. This beer is exceptional. I love how this amber lager almost tastes like an amber ale. Most American lagers are weak and lack any powerful flavors. This beer has great caramel malt flavors and a hop bitterness aftertaste reminding me of stronger styles. But since it is a lager the beer is still very drinkable. I could easily corner myself with an entire six pack if in the mood for a day of heavy consumption. So I guess I'm OK with the fact that this will be the last brew that touches my lips for over a month. Cheers.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sudwerk Resturant and Brewery: Maibock

Great lunch before watching The Final Four. A couple of quality brews to drink, anticipation building from the pre-game show on the flat screens, fellow sports fans chugging drinks, and some good food to top it all off. Sudwerk is really a great Davis spot to throw back a couple. Here goes the in between game review:

I went with the Maibock. It's spring time so I figured I'd start with a seasonal that's not around much in local Davis markets before I'd switch to Sudwerk's tasty classics. Overall a couple features to brag about but at the same time nothing much to say.
By far the most redeeming quality is this bock's drinkability. Even more so than TJ's bock which I reviewed last month. Following Maibock tradition we have a lighter hued brew instead of some darker and heartier bocks. For topping out at 7.5% alcohol this beer is surprisingly drinkable and smooth. Easy to sip down and wash away the pork and fries I was munching on. On the disappointing side, this beer doesn't have very many powerful flavors that attack the palate. A kinda bland bock. I was hoping for more, since I love Sudwerk brews (Xtra Pale, Dragonfly, and Marzen especially) and I had gotten some recommendations to try the Maibock when it finally came out. But overall not a bad start to the day. Cheers.

Allagash Brewing Co: Dubbel Ale

We're about to enter studying time around here so I need to fire off as many beer reviews as I can before we enter the "dry season."

Allagash is a big name in the Northeast, hailing from way up in Portland, Maine. They are best known for their white ale, but I wanted something darker so I figured I'd try out their take on the Dubbel. This 7.0% abv brew is remarkably drinkable. It's very light-bodied, which is a bit unusual I think for Belgian style ales. The predominant taste is a light earthy maltiness, accented with a faint tartness that has a bit of a cleansing effect on the palatte, though there is a pronounced lingering bitterness as well. It also has a bit of that odd sweetness that is particular to Belgian abbey-style ales, though it's much milder than you'd find in a Leffe blond or brown.

Dubbels are a bit odd to those of us raised on American ambers and pales because they feature a non-hoppy bitterness. I'm not really sure what it is that achieves that, but it takes a little getting used to. If you wanted to describe this beer in two words, it would have to be "sweet dirt." Not the most appetizing slogan, but still worth a try.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Stone Brewing Co: Ruination IPA

Wow. Stone is not kidding around with this one. Known for their strong ales, all Stone brews pack a real punch. But I can't remember the last time I was physically shocked by an initial sip of a beer. Ruination IPA does just that.

This feeling is of course is what Stone wants to do with this imperial ale. Hitting at 7.7% alcohol and proudly declaring a mark over 100 international bitter units, this SoCal brew gives you a swift kick to the mouth. With this beer, I feel Stone is proudly staking their claim in the 'extreme beer' category.

This beer is incredibly hoppy. The hoppy flavors are more woody than floral and there is a ton of hops to go around. Bitter yes. Very bitter, leaving a strong aftertaste along with an alcohol falvor. In fact the reason Stone names this beer Ruination is because of "the immediate ruinous effect on your palate." I figured I'd put Stone's classic witty back bottle description to the test. I tried a average strength beer after consumption and boy were they right. I felt as if I was still drinking the IPA while sipping on a subsequent lager. The taste really does stick with you and 'ruins your palate' for any other beer.

I thought I was a hop head. I mean, I love Stone's Arrogant Bastard (see Hof's post), I like Stone's IPA, Pale Ale, and even their Old Guardian (which has a higher alcohol content than Ruination). But Ruination, I must say, might be too much for me. Prepare yourself if you gonna grab this beer. Consider yourself warned. Cheers.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co: Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale

I was intrigued by Mattie's barleywine post, so I decided to take a crack at one and see if I liked it. But you don't see Barleywine's all that often outside of beer specialty stores so I had to grab the first thing I saw. As it happens, the first Barleywine I stumbled across was by none other than Sierra Nevada.

Bigfoot's taste is complex, but not subtle. This has got to be one of the maltiest beers I've ever had, but its balanced by a pretty healthy dose of hops as well (in true Sierra Nevada style). There's some faint floral notes in there as well, but they pretty much get entirely muscled out of the way by the malt and the hops. That adds up to a truckload of flavor. The beer doesn't have a very heavy body, though.

All in all it's quite tasty, though it's also definitely one for sipping rather than guzzling.