Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mendocino Brewing Co.: Eye of the Hawk Special Ale

I've been familiar with Mendocino Brewing Company for a while now. Their Red Tail Ale has long been one of my favorites (a post will be forthcoming, I promise), and they make a decent pale as well. But today I went with a six pack of one of their other brews--The Eye of the Hawk. Here's the scoop.

Mendocino bills this one as a "Special Ale." I have no clue what that is supposed to mean. And, as I'll get to later, it's not all that special. Beer Advocate labels it as a Strong Ale. I'm not sure that really fits either. Arrogant Bastard would--quite credibly I think--excoriate this beer mercilessly for claiming to stand in the same genre as itself. This beer is malty enough that I am tempted to label it a Scotch Ale, but I'm not nearly familiar enough with that particular genre to be so bold. So I'll stick with Strong Ale, arrogant bastards notwithstanding.

As I mentioned, Eye of the Hawk is malty. Really malty. And a sweet malt at that. From start to finish, this beer is malt malt malt. There is a little hint of bitter earthy hoppiness, and a good amount of carbonation, which in combination manage to take the edge off of the malts ever so slightly. And if there's more flavoring than that going on in here, it's way too subtle for my tastebuds.

Mattie posted earlier on a combination of Eye of the Hawk with another of Mendocino's brews. He gave it a lukewarm review. Lukewarm is about as good as I can do too. It's certainly not a bad beer. And with the big bold flavor and increased alcohol content, it's not boring either. But in the end, it left me looking for a little bit more.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Anchor Bewing Co.: Summer Beer

I was wandering up and down the beer aisle in Safeway earlier this week looking for a new brew to sample and write up. I had forgotten how much of Safeway's selection is devoted to name-brand brews, and how little there is to sample in the way of genuine crafts. With some trepidation, I grabbed a six pack of Anchor's Summer Beer. The trepidation had nothing to do with Anchor. They're pretty well-regarded, and as San Francisco's oldest and best-known craft brewer, I have to confess to a certain hometown bias. My worries had everything to do with the particular genre I had selected. I generally find summer beers disappointing. They tend to have very mild and uninteresting flavors. Refreshing, perhaps, but the same might be said for Corona or even a properly-chilled Coors Light.

Fortunately, Anchor's Summer Beer bucks the trend. This one is really hoppy for a Summer beer, about on par with what you'd expect to get out of a pale. But the taste is a little bit drier than your typical pale--much more earthy than citrusy. As is typical with the summer ale genre, this one is brewed with wheat rather than barley. But while the unmistakable wheaty smoothness is present, it is somewhat obscured by the hops. The beer is also highly carbonated. Not soda-level carbonation, but about as carbonated as you can expect to find in a beer. Combined with the healthy dose of earthy hops, this gives Anchor's summer beer a very crisp taste that lingers a bit on the tongue, which is the perfect recipe for a hot summer day.

I suspect that real devotees of the summer ale genre will be a bit put off by this one. Most summer ales opt for a soft and mellow wheaty flavor accented by fruit and citrus notes. By contrast, Anchor has opted for a starker, bolder take that uses the wheat as a springboard for a pronounced, but simple, crisp hoppiness. But what disappoints the summer ale enthusiasts is a boon for hopheads!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rogue: Kells Irish Style Lager

As promised here is another Rogue beer for review. This time I went with Rogue's Irish Style Lager. This is a pale lager that has a distinct taste. Generally, for reviewing purposes I find it helpful to think of what the beer tastes like and find a mental comparison to a similar beer that I've had in the past to help hone in on flavors. The problem with that method of detection is that some beers don't compare to any others of like kind. I find that Rogue's lager is one of those unique beers. The only thing this brew reminds me of, is the other times that I've drank Kells Irish Style Lager. Most American lagers are pretty thin and flavorless and thus finding a richer lager defies comparison.

Luckily, one of the cool features that Rogue implements on its packaging is imprinting the ingredients and characteristics. For example, this lager contains "great western pale, crystal-15, wheat and acidulated malts; sterling hops, free range coastal waters & czech pils yeast." In addition this beer exhibits "12° plato (gravity), 28 ibu (international bitter units), 75 AA (attenuation), 9.80 L (Lovibond). While all of that doesn't necessarily give you a whole lot besides knowing that this lager isn't that bitter, Rogue also gives you a description "smooth mellow flavor with an apple crisp finish." And not surprisingly, Rogue is spot on. I would say that this lager is surprisingly tart. Hints of sour apple tart are present and complement the honey malt flavors. With the touch of bitterness the lager has a full flavor.

Even though this is a full bodied lager, it's still a lighter brew. That being said, this beer is not tasteless as many American style lagers. Maybe that's why Rogue adds the 'Irish style tag' to this beer's name. While I've never been to Ireland, I hope to go someday. And maybe if I grab a lager across the pond it'll remind me of Rogue's brew. Cheers.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rogue: Shakespeare Stout

As you've probably noticed from prior posts Hof is a huge fan of Rogue Ales Brewery. Despite the fact that I have yet to review one of their beers, I too love Rogue beer. In fact I finally made my love official by joining the Rogue Nation (see membership card to right).

The Rogue Nation is nothing more than a declaration of drinking good beer and enjoying the experience. Those are ideas I can get behind of. In the spirit of my new citizenship I've purchased a lot of Rogue of late (another review to come soon).
One of my favorite Rogue ales is their Shakespeare stout. Ideally Hof should have reviewed this literary titled brew as he was an English major and has read far more Shakespeare than me. So while I can't make as many references to famous soliloquies or clever iambic pentameter as Hof, I have spent just as much time downing Rogue beers.

So onto the brew: First as you can see this is a beauty of an American stout. A very dark hue with a thick persistent spongy brown head. I wouldn't been surprised if I found some malted barley hidden within the foam because this ale has tons of toasted malt flavors. Many stouts have strong toasted malt flavors but this beer has more than pretty much any dark beer I've had that wasn't a porter. The roasted and toasted malt flavors are cut by a sharp acidic hop burst. Despite this citrus hops and roasted flavors the stout is actually very smooth. Which was sorta unexpected because of the powerful tastes.

The great look in the glass, rich flavors, and smooth taste make for a fine stout. So I clearly enjoyed this beer. Which makes me think I need to drink and review more Rogue beers. While Hof has a huge head start on Rogue reviews, I'm proud to say I took him to his first Rogue meeting hall. And now that I'm a citizen in the nation, I'll be taking him more often, as I new get discounts on Rogue pints. Booyah. Cheers.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dogfish Head: Aprihop

I think Dogfish Head Craft Brewery created a new word: Aprihop. What is an aprihop? Definition: (n). A beer combining large amounts of apricots and hops.

Fruit in beers may seem strange at first glance but in reality a ton of breweries are using fruit; including real apricots, apricot juice, or apricot flavoring in a variety of beers these days. What is interesting about Dogfish Head's interpretation of the apricot brew is that they throw in pitted apricots into their IPA recipe. Yes, an India Pale Ale. Not just any india pale ale, but a 7% ipa. So while most apricot beers provide a nice fruit flavor to a wheat beer or a lighter ale, Dogfish Head adds apricots to a borderline imperial ale.

As mentioned in my surmised definition, I think an aprihop has tons of apricots. I make this educated guess because the IPA does not drown out the fruit flavors. The initial burst to the mouth is like a traditional IPA, but the back-end and after taste screams apricot flavors. As the beer warms there is really three stages to this brew. The first is a mild IPA, that is not too hoppy and surprisingly smooth. While there is obviously a lot of hops to get this beer up to the high alcohol threshold, but it is not nearly as hoppy as Dogfish Head's 60, 90 or 120 minute IPA. The second stage is a sweet alcohol burst that matches the 7% label, and the final course is a coating of apricot flavor after a every gulp. All combined on a quick slug, the three stages works together pretty nicely. While I don't add fruit to my beer and I rarely reach for a fruit flavor brew, this aprihop is quite drinkable despite the uncommon aftertaste. Maybe next time I brew I'll add some apricots and try to invent a new word of my own. Cheers.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Anderson Valley Brewing Co: Boont Amber Ale

We're big fans of Anderson Valley here at 801. Having already reviewed several of their brews, it's about time we made it to their flagship: Boont Amber.

For better or worse, the benchmark amber ale today in America seems to be New Belgium's Fat Tire. But Fat Tire is a bit of a malt monster, and as a result, it's easy to forget that the amber can also be a vehicle for a more complex array of flavors. Boont is definitely an brew that tends more toward the subtler side of the amber genre, and one that will carry more appeal for hopheads thanks to its pronounced hop flavors. The taste on this one leads with a burst of bright and crisp hops balanced nicely against a lightly toasted sweet malt flavor. As the beer rolls off your tongue, this initial burst of crisp malt/hop hybrid is gradually replaced by an earthier hop aftertaste. Despite the full flavor, Boont is among the lighter bodied ambers I've tried, making it one of the more "summery" ambers out there.

Props to Anderson for putting forward a great amber. With due deference to Rogue, Bell's, and all the other breweries that have forayed into this category, Boont really is a cut above the rest of the increasingly-crowded field of amber ales. Grab one, and enjoy!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Pike Brewing Co: Pike Pale

Did you think I would only buy one bottle of beer from a brewery that is an old favorite of mine?
Well the obvious answer to that rhetorical questions is a resounding 'no'. I now present another Pike Brewing Co review. The Pike Pale ale:

As just stated this is a pale ale. Let me first try to help you from being confused at the liquor store and the pub from mistaking this beer with another style. The label proclaims "Pike Pale" and "Pale Ale" but also has the phrase "heirloom amber ale" prominently posted on the lower portion of the label as well. To further confuse your mind and senses this brew has a very strong German brew aroma. Immediately after cracking the bottle, a powerful smell brought me right back to my days and nights at German beer gardens. Specially, the scent evoked the familiar fragrance of German pilsners and lagers. Even on first taste this pale ale tastes like a traditional German lager. Only after a full gulp do the after tastes of hops and bitterness overtake the soft malts and German flavored yeasts. As the beer warms even more malt flavors emerge. This effect combined with the larger flavors makes the beer taste like a solid amber lager. Potentially explaining the 'amber ale' langugage. While my taste buds could be off tonight, I wouldn't be surprised if this beer would confuse fellow beer enthusiasts.

All of that being said, you've probably gotten the sense that this beer is pretty easy drinking pale ale. The brew is definitely light on the hops and very low on the bitterness scale. There are also some nice bready flavors but nothing very intense and has a medium mouthfeel. So while this pale ale seems to borrow aspects for other beer styles it all works pretty well together. If you give it a shot, I think you'll find the interesting combination enjoyable. Cheers.