Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dogfish Head: Olde School Barley Wine

I figured I'd take a break from the stouts for a little while and try something outside my typical diet of ambers and pales (and stouts). I haven't had a barley wine in quite some time, but Dogfish is generally a safe pick, so I grabbed their "Olde School."

Unfortunately, Dogfish scored less than a ringer on this one. I give them some props for managing to pull off a 15% ABV brew, but like their 120 minute IPA, this one is way too sweet for my tastes. The predominant flavor is a vaguely fruity malt flavor, and while there is a reasonable amount of hops in here, it's completely overpowered by the other flavors. What's more, the sweetness sticks around on your tongue for quite a while with this one, which--combined with the alcohol taste--leaves you feeling like maybe you should be reaching for a chaser.

Barley wines are supposed to be big, unorthodox, and bold in flavor. But if it's a flavor that your not particularly fond of, bold can be bad. I applaud Dogfish for their willingness to push the limits of brewing, but this is one that I don't think I'll be seeking out again.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Brewery Ommegang: Abbey Ale

Back in November I sampled two Brewery Ommegang beers and found myself savoring one (Hennipen) and ready to pass on the other (Rare Vos). After a mini mental debate at the store on what brew to purchase, I thought I should go back to the Ommegang well. Since I enjoyed their Belgian Saison so much, I figured I should try another Ommegang offering in hopes of finding a second great American recreation of a Belgian classic.

This time around, I sampled the Abbey Ale. This abbey is a Belgian dubbel that bubbles like champagne. If you zoom in on the picture you'll notice some overflow around the base of the glass. I poured this brew, nice and slow with a slight tilt at the begging but it bubbled up quick and way past the rim. Even after letting the open bottle sit for 15 minutes, when I refilled my half drank glass, the head again bubbled over the top. Trying to sip down the foam, there are two immediate features you notice about this dubbel: One, this beer is very aromatic. And two, the foam doesn't taste all that great. The aroma shouldn't come as a surprise because the label reads: "rich, fruity, and aromatic". But the marketing department at Brewery Ommegang is not kidding. This might have been the most pungent beer I've ever sampled. Even while sipping I found the nose of this beer dominating and influencing the taste. Even without the proper wide-mouthed glassware, sweet brown sugar and yeast smells fill the air. Moving back to the thick head, while sorta of unfufilling and tongue smacking, once you get past the foam the beer is quite tasty. Again the label does not lie as the brew is very thick and rich and full of fruit flavors. The fruits are very sweet and taste like sugar coated cherries and plums. While similar fruit flavors are exhibited in Rare Vos, I found the strong aroma and thick body of this Abbey Ale to alter the taste a little and better compliment the brew.

Overall this was a fun tasting. I found the incredible carbonation and powerful aroma very interesting and unique for most bottle tasting experiences. Add in 750 ml of rich ale at 8.5% abv and you have a good hour of drinking ahead of you. While not as good as Hennipen in my opinion, an unique offering that is worth the try. Cheers.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

North Coast Brewing Co.: Old # 38 Stout

I really liked Rasputin, so I figured I'd give another one of North Coast's stout's a try. Old number 38 is a little bit milder than its Russian-inspired cousin. The predominant taste is dry smoky malt flavors, giving it a sweet-yet-dry flavor. The hops don't come through very strong at first, but as the malt flavors begin to fade, they become quite pronounced, leaving an almost leafy aftertaste. The beer is medium bodied and lightly carbonated, but despite the bold malt flavors, it's not at all overpowering.

I rarely go for Irish-style dry stouts, but I founds this one quite enjoyable. It wasn't so great that it's going to displace my preference for oatmeal and Russian stouts, but it's good enough that I might be tempted to pick it up again sometime. North Coast once again proves its mettle as a first-rate brewery.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mendocino Brewing Co.: White Hawk IPA

I'm coming right out the gate with an apology. It's been far too long since my last review. Over two months actually. While I have a whole host of excuses I won't go into any. But no worries, despite my MIA status I haven't abandoned hops and barley. Even though I haven't been posting, I have been drinking beer. A lot of beer. Not only drinking but learning a thing or two as well. In fact during my absence I read Maureen Ogle's: Ambition Brew. While a little disjointed, it was a very informative read. But this isn't a book review, it's a beer review. So onto thew brew:

In tribute to my recently absorbed beer knowledge, I went with Mendocino Brewing Company's White Hawk IPA. Why Mendocino? Well I learned that Mendocino Brewing Co. opened the first brew pub in California. For all the time I've spent in alehouses I figured I can reward Mendocino Brew Co. for their brilliance by buying another sixer of their beer. It had been a while since I imbibed their IPA, so I went with the White Hawk.

This india pale ale is not my favorite in the hoppy genre. The beer does have a great aroma and a nice woody hop burst. However, the woody and soft pine flavors are overwhelmed by a boozy aftertaste. This IPA hits exactly 7.0% alcohol by volume but the aftertaste makes it seem higher. I wish Mendocino Brew Co. could somehow create another version with the smooth hop flavors without the hard alcohol punch. I actually find this brewery's imperial ipa to rest easier on the tongue than this traditional ipa. While occasionally I don't mind a strong alcohol flavor in my beer, this booze taste almost felt like an accident and made the beer feel home-brewish. But still drinkable and overall still enjoyable.

While definitely not my favorite offering from Mendocino Brewing Company I problem shouldn't criticize. I mean I haven't reviewed a beer in two months. We're not all perfect. Right? And I mean this company invited the brewpub. Ingenious! Cheers.

Old Dominion Brewing Co.: Oak Barrel Stout

It's bloody cold here. We've seen very little in the way of above-freezing temperatures in the last week or so, and it's not supposed to get any better any time soon. So it's definitely the season for big, bold stouts, be they Oatmeal, Milk, Java, Russian Imperial, or--in a totally new twist--vanilla-oak.

Dominion Brewing Co. presents a new twist on a very old genre. At base, this is an irish-style dry stout, a la Guinness Draught. But Dominion's brewers took this venerable stalwart and infused it with vanilla beans and oak wood chips. Consequentially, this brew has a pleasant sweet vanilla flavor to offset the otherwise dry bitterness that defines this sub-genre. The oak taste is substantially harder to detect, just barely coming through as a pleasantly woody finish. It's got a medium body to it and is mildly carbonated. It's very tasty and approachable for a stout, though by the bottom of the glass the vanilla gets a little bit tiring.

Overall though, I'm pleased with this one. I'll definitely be looking it up again in the future.