Showing posts with label Beer Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beer Reviews. Show all posts

October 9, 2013

Beer Mail: Goose Island, Magic Hat, Kona Brewing Company

I've been remiss in sharing some of the brews that have arrived on my doorstep over the past couple months. Things have been pretty busy around here. For one, I've been writing quite a bit of content for the E. C. Kraus homebrewing blog. I've also started with an exciting new project, which I'll share very soon. For now, some beer reviews from Goose Island, Magic Hat, and Kona Brewing Co.:

Goose Island Brewing Co., Chicago, IL

I was genuinely pleased with Goose Island's beers, a few were pretty impressive. Some people give Goose Island a hard time for "selling out" to AB-Inbev, but based on the quality of the beer itself, I can't fault them...

  • Honker's Ale - An easy drinking English style bitter. Burnt orange in color with an off white rocky head. Pale malt and some ale yeast esters in the aroma, with low hop aroma. Crisp grain flavor with mild hop bitterness. Some wheat gives it a medium-light body and good head retention. Finished somewhat dry. (4.2% ABV)
  • IPA - Similar to the Honkers in that wheat is used for head retention and body -- it's there in the aroma, along with sweet caramel malts and moderate spicy hop aroma. Not especially bitter in the flavor, pretty well balanced. Medium bodied. (5.9% ABV)
  • Urban Wheat - Light yellow in color with a big rocky white head. Faint aroma of lemons in the aroma, but nothing like the banana/clove of a hefeweizen. An easy drinking wheat ale perfect for a hot day. (4.2% ABV)
  • Matilda - This is where Goose Island's portfolio really begins to impress. Matilda is a Belgian style pale ale featuring complex aromas of orange, spice, phenols, and some dark fruit. Medium and frothy body with a moderately sweet finish. Excellent. (7% ABV)


    Goose Island Matilda - there's a winner.
  • Sofie - Sofie is a farmhouse ale, pale yellow in color with a white head. Somewhat tart with a prominent lemon character, plus some mild farmhouse funk. Light, yet chewy mouthfeel. (6.5% ABV)
  • Bourbon County Stout - This highly coveted imperial stout pours black/brown and viscous with a big brown head on top. Sweet chocolate is balanced by bourbon spice. This one's definitely a sipper! (15% ABV)

A pretty impressive lineup from Goose Island.

August 13, 2013

A Rare Beer Club Tasting: Best Served Chilled with Cheese and Good People

Rare Beer Club Tasting
The Rare Beer Club offers some
hard-to-find libations.
The Rare Beer Club puts hard to find and limited release beers in the hands of craft beer fans. They were kind enough to send me a few bottles, so I invited some Asheville beer folks over to try the club's summer releases. Included in the lineup were collaborations from some of the United States' favorite brewers, as well as a saison from one of the world's most highly regarded producers of the style.

First, a little more about the club...

July 17, 2013

Fu Manchus, Pirates, and Scotsmen: Three Beers from Monday Night Brewing

Monday Night Brewing beers

Monday Night Brewing is a company that gets marketing and PR. They've got creative names and packaging that portray a fun brand. Besides, they were kind enough to send me one each of their three year round beers to review, so that helps.

Seriously though, the Atlanta-based company really knows how to portray a fun attitude, reminding us perhaps not-so-subtly, "Hey, this is beer. Why don't we just enjoy it?"

March 1, 2013

Dandelion, Rye, Salt, and Coriander: Magic Hat's Spring Fever Mix

Magic Hat Variety Pack
It's March 1st and spring is so close, you can nearly taste it. It's time for the imperial stouts and other high-gravity beers to make way for something lighter, something that can be enjoyed out on the porch as we welcome the warmer weather.

Arriving on my doorstep last week were three such beers from Magic Hat's Spring Fever Mix variety pack: Pistil Dandelion Ale, Ticket to Rye IPA, and Saint Saltan Gose.

Using my Rate That Beer tasting sheet as a guide, I lined up all three for a tasting:

December 8, 2012

Burlington, VT: Magic Hat's Winterland Variety Pack


"A performance in every bottle."
Christmas came early for this beer writer. Arrived on my doorstep a week or so ago was a sampler of three beers from Magic Hat Brewing Company's Winterland Variety Pack. It may not be "local" for many readers (unless you live in Vermont), but the company widely known for their #9 "Not Quite Pale Ale" has some new seasonals out that might be worth a try. Plus, readers from Costa Rica may be interested in what the new Florida Ice and Farm/Cervecería Costa Rica subsidiary has to offer.

June 14, 2012

The Charleston Beer Exchange

The Charleston Beer Exchange ought to be a certified craft beer Mecca -- any beer fan passing through the area MUST make a stop here. From the top regional brews to the most obscure beers from around the world, CBX has just about every kind of craft beer you can think of, and then some. They've got hundreds of bottles and cans, more or less arranged by region, plus nine taps at the growler station that change on a regular basis. Stay up to date with what's on tap here.

March 15, 2012

Napa, CA: Napa Smith's Organic IPA

Today we have a guest post from Eugene Kolankowsky, one of the masterminds behind the blog A Tale of Two Brewers.  Bringing us a taste of the West Coast, this is a review of Napa Smith Brewery's Organic IPA.  Which raises an interesting question: Is organic beer any better than non-organic beer?  Well, I know organic is better for the environment (no pesticides, no herbicides, maintains healthy soil), but does it make for a better tasting beer?  In this case, it just might -- Napa Smith's Organic IPA won a Silver Medal for Traditional IPA at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.  But let's see what Eugene has to say about it...


I had a pleasant surprise the other day. I don't know how many of you know the world of engineering, or office life in general. If you aren't familiar consider yourself lucky. Carpeted walls appeal to two types of people, engineers and the mentally disturbed. I digress. But if you're familiar with that world you know that when lunchtime comes around, the offices empty, and the workers spread like vultures to pray on the local eateries.

Well I was out with some of my fellow vultures the other day. Coming out of the burger joint I noticed a sign saying "craft beer sale." Craft beer? Sale? I'm all over that like a chick on Coach. I walked into a little place called "Wine Styles." Truth be told I usually avoid wino's. They tend to fall into the same category as your standard Beer Snob. Well after I walked around clueless for a minute, I was able to chat it up with one of the winos, Lynzie (nope, that's spelled right). The selection of craft beer is small, but diverse. And Lynzie, unlike your typical wino, is extremely friendly and is just as willing to learn about things as she is to share information. In asking about the selection of craft beer she informed me that she's always ordering different stuff, so keep on checking in. I couldn't help but shamelessly promote my blog, and handed her a card. She was very excited about the card and told me how she couldn't wait to check it out. Lynzie, if you think complements will work on me, you are absolutely correct. Flattery gets you everywhere in this world.

Which brings me to my first beer review purchased from this store! Napa Smith Brewery: Organic IPA. From Napa, California (what a guess), this IPA weighs in at a hardy 7.1% ABV, which is hovering at the upper end of the style guidelines. It comes in a thick brown glass bottle, with label artwork much alike wino's artwork... conservative. Which is fine, but certainly doesn't make some of the crazy statements like Flying Dog does. And it's organic! Organic is always good. Let's rock.

The beer pours an almost opaque sandy brown color. If this beer is supposed to be filtered, someone better call the mechanic. A golden layer of head with great retention floats above the beer. A potent aroma of hops is present, which fills the nose and remains even while I finish writing this sentence. First sip smacks you in the mouth much like a good hoppy beer tends to. Probably a variety of good ol' American hops, but light on the Cascade. Honestly, Cascade is really the only one I'm good at recognizing, oh well. After a few consecutive sips and swirls, the IPA certainly has some subtle fruity backgrounds, mostly citrus (could be from hops or actual fruit). The mixture of hops and citrus is very long lasting, and may even last just as long as the buzz from the 7.1%. A good beer with some unique tastes to it. Definitely come back to this one.

Anyone out there have this? What do you think? Post a comment!

February 23, 2012

Maui, HI: Maui Brewing Co's Coconut Porter

Image from ByThePint.com
Today's beer review is a guest post from the Ale Evangelist.  The Coconut Porter is a unique, award-winning ale from Maui Brewing Company in Hawaii.  I was pleased to discover that Maui Brewing Company uses bio-diesel vehicles to deliver their beer around the island and solar panels to power its production facility.  That's locally produced power, folks.  Visit the website to read about their beers and their sustainability efforts, or check out this nifty tool which measures how much electricity they generate through their solar panels.


February 8, 2012

Panama Brews Part 1: The Macros

To make a longer story short, there are two large breweries here in Panama: Cervecería Nacional and Cervecería Barú Panamá. Just like in the United States, there are three main macro beers here (all light lagers) that just about everyone drinks.

January 28, 2012

Charlottesville, VA - Starr Hill's The Gift

Every time I walk down the beer aisle I'm confronted with a dilema: Do I really have to buy beer? (Usually yes) Ok, what to get? Of course it's nearly impossible for me not to buy beer when I'm already looking at it, but sometimes I just want to try something new. So what happens if you don't like the whole six-pack? Luckily, some stores will let you break down six-packs, which makes for a less risky investment than buying the whole sixer.  So, last time I went grocery shopping, I picked up one of these.

The Gift is a winter seasonal from the Crozet, VA, brewery Starr Hill. It is a Hellerbock, a strong lager that's lighter in color than a regular bock. Fun fact: Bocks are believed to have originated in the German town of Einbeck, which sounds a lot like ein bock, German for a billy goat.  That's why you'll sometimes find a goat on the label of a bottle of bock.


Smell - In the Gift, I found a lot of sweet malt in the aroma, along with some fruity notes, but essentially no hop aroma.


Appearance - The color is a light amber and the beer was very clear. The white head faded pretty quickly.


Taste - The taste echoes the aroma: lots of sweet, fruity malt, almost no hops. There is a tiny bit of hop bitterness on the finish.


Mouthfeel - The Gift is medium-bodied and with a somewhat frothy mouthfeel. Due to the relatively high alcohol content (6.5%), it provides a warming sensation, which is nice in the cold weather.


Overall - Starr Hill nails this style right on the head. The Gift actually reminds me a bit of Bass, because there was some definite fruitiness going on. Personally I prefer dark lager, but hey -- try it for yourself!

January 19, 2012

Brazil: Xingu Black Beer

Alright, so I don't usually review imported beers, but I'm making an exception with Xingu for two reasons: a) I really like black beer (aka schwarzbier, a dark lager style originating in Germany), and b) something about the six-pack caught my eye.  Yes, it's a cool-looking black package with an alligator and snakes in the logo, but in the top right corner there's a stamp for Y Ikatu Xingu, an organization aimed at protecting the Xingu River in the Amazon rainforest.  Now that's pretty awesome.  I'm a big fan of companies that make supporting social causes part of their business plans.  If you want to read a great book about companies that try to make the world a better place, check out Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World, by Gary Hirshberg, CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm.

Now back to the beer...

Yup, that's a Sierra Nevada glass
Appearance - Xingu pours a nearly opaque brown into my pint glass, with red tints.  A moderate, light brown head fades pretty quickly.


Smell - Very clean aroma.  The most noticeable characteristic is sweet malt.  There's essentially no hop or yeast aromas, which is appropriate for the style.

Taste - Immediate caramel sweetness on the tongue.  A hint of chocolate with a lingering bitterness.  Hop bitterness is a little hard to find.

Mouthfeel - Light in body, crisp with prickly carbonation.

Overall, a pretty good representation of the style.  Not quite Köstritzer, the original schwarzbier, but I'd give Xingu maybe 4 out 5 stars.  This would be a great intro to dark beers for someone that's not quite into stouts yet.


Stay tuned for some cooking with beer!

October 7, 2011

Atlanta, GA: Wrecking Bar Brewpub

Have you ever been to a restaurant where every single thing you try is fantastic?  That's what happened this past weekend at the Wrecking Bar Brewpub in the Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta.  I discovered what is possibly the best brewpub in the South.

September 29, 2011

Atlanta, GA: Red Brick's Laughing Skull

I'm down in Georgia for a spell, and that means the opportunity to try out some new brews.  This six-pack got my attention (wonder why...).  When I noticed it was made locally that sealed the deal.  Like the bottle caps say, "Beer from around Here" is what I'm all about.

This amber ale from Red Brick Brewing Company (formerly Atlanta Brewing Company) is downright pleasant.  It's relatively light-bodied so it won't weigh you down.  The dominant flavor is toasty, roasty malt -- tastes like fall.  Ya know, it's nice having a simple beer once in a while that doesn't take a whole lot of thinking.  This is a refreshing beer that goes down clean and easy.

Just the thing to take to a UGA tailgate or fall cookout.

Red Brick distributes to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Stayed tuned for more Georgia beer!

September 23, 2011

Holland, MI: New Holland's Farmhouse Hatter

What? The bottle says it's a Farmhouse IPA -- so is it a Saison or an India Pale Ale?

Well, it's both. On a recent trip up to Ann Arbor, Michigan, I stopped by Whole Foods to see what "the Wolverine State" had to offer. This 22 oz bottle from New Holland Brewing grabbed my attention -- the label is great, and the description was pretty intriguing:

"Fermentation character from Belgian-born yeast envelops bright hop character with a spicy, tart farmhouse funk. Pairings: seafood, fennel, mushrooms, pickled veggies."

Lacking any seafood, fennel, mushrooms, or pickled veggies, I had to try the Farmhouse Hatter straight up.

As you can see, the beer poured a huge head which continued bubbling up for several minutes. There was a big citrus and floral hop aroma -- Cascade, if I had to guess, but don't hold me to it. Also a caramel sweetness in the smell. My first reaction when I tasted the beer was that it was way out of sync with the smell -- a bit of a shock. The main taste was the tartness, the "farmhouse funk" that comes from the Belgian yeast they used.

As I went deeper into the bottle other characteristics started to come through. I found there to be more hop bitterness than hop flavor, but there was still some citrus action in there. Overall, I thought the beer was highly sessionable, despite all of the unusual flavors mixed together. Very similar to the Springhouse Ale I had a couple weeks ago, and for a beer with an identity crisis, it turned out to be very interesting and easy-drinking -- not an easy feat!

Cheers to New Holland for pushing the boundaries!

Here's a close-up of the character on the bottle:

Sorry Johnny Depp, this guy's way cooler.

September 8, 2011

AleWerks Scores Big at the US Beer Tasting Championship!

I'm pleased to announce that my hometown brewery, Williamsburg AleWerks, has recently been deemed a Grand Champion at the US Beer Tasting Championship!  They beat out breweries from around the country to win the Belgian/French Specialty category with their Springhouse Ale.  Here's the category description from the USBTC Website:

Ales brewed in traditional Belgian/French styles including saison, biere de garde, 
farmhouse ale, Belgian pale ale, and Abbey single ale.  Excluded from this category are
Belgian Wits (included in its own category-below), Abbey/Belgian Strong Ales (tasted in 
Winter Session), and Belgian Bruin/Red Ales.

If you've ever sampled Belgian beers, you know that this category can cover quite a lot of ground.

Obviously I had to get a hold of this Springhouse Ale (what AleWerks calls a Belgian-style Farmhouse Ale) and try it for myself.

First impressions: Really like the label.  Pours slightly cloudy and orange with a bodacious, frothy head; very fragrant, almost smells like a white wine
The taste: Wow - very complex.  Good thing I have a 22 oz. bottle to dissect this thing!  Flavor has a lot of that same dry, white wine-like aroma, likely derived from the yeast strain, with just a touch of sourness.  There are some various spices in there but the beer is so well-balanced it's difficult to pick out any in particular.  Hardly any discernible hops flavor.
About mid-way through: Jeez, what's the ABV on this guy? (9.4% alcohol) Wouldn't have guessed it by the taste - and that's a good thing.
Final impression: This is one of the most challenging beers I've ever reviewed.  There's just so much going on, that as they say on the AleWerks website, "this is an interesting ale that deserves your attention."  Very well done.

With that, I'm going to savor the rest of this bottle and suggest you try it for yourself!

Check out the other winners of the 2011 Summer USBTC here.  Have you tried any of them?




August 4, 2011

It's IPA Day - Starr Hill's Northern Lights

After a long first day at my new job, I'm happy to finally be able to indulge in this holiest of beer holidays. OK - I had no idea an IPA Day even existed until I saw it on Twitter the other day, but I'm not going to let that stop me.

To celebrate, I'm reviewing Northern Lights - an IPA from Starr Hill Brewery, which was founded in 1999 in Charlottesville, VA. Today, the brewery is located just down the road in Crozet, VA, which I just found out is not a town but a census-designated place. Odd.

Back to the beer.

Northern Lights pours a nice reddish-amber color, with a substantial head. The smell is hoppy for sure, mostly a sweeter citrus and floral character. The taste compliments the aroma very well. It's not overwhelmingly bitter. The floral and citrus notes give way to a slight malty sweetness that you might expect from an amber or red ale.

I think some hop-heads might want a little more bitterness, but in my book, Northern Lights gets very high marks.

Look for it in Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida.

July 29, 2011

Live from Legend Brewing Company - Richmond, VA


The last time I wrote about Legend, I was reporting from Barret's Seafood Restaurant in Williamsburg.  This time I'm going straight to the source.  To start things off, I went with the old standard, Legend Brown Ale, which according to the Legend website poll is preferred by over a third of responders.  To chase that down, I ordered a pretty respectable Kabob sandwich with a side of Brown Ale sauerkraut.  Believe it or not, you can actually taste the beer's influence on the kraut.  I understand not everyone is a fan of boiled cabbage, but if you appreciate the German culinary influence I suggest you give it a shot.

Next up, a cask-conditioned Pale Ale: smooth, with a substantial foam head and dominated by citrus and floral hop notes.  Given that this beer is made with four varieties of hops, it does demonstrate a pretty complex flavor.

And to round things out... I sampled a Smoked Chocolate Stout, and while I dig the smokey beers (something of a novelty in the States right now), I'm not too keen on drinking a whole pint of it at the end of a session.  Maybe at a barbecue.  I'm going for the IPA instead.

Surprisingly less hoppy than the Pale Ale, clear and golden, it's a little spicy and has the mouthfeel of a lager.  I like it!

Unfortunately, Legend only offers tours on Saturdays at 1pm, so I won't get a chance to see the inner workings of the brewery this time around.  I'll have to make that happen next time I'm in the area.  Stay tuned!

July 21, 2011

Atlanta, GA: Sweetwater Brewery

Like Ray Charles I had Georgia on my mind, so I went down to Atlanta to visit my girl and check out the Sweetwater Brewery.  Many a Sunday afternoon in college were spent enjoying 2-4-1s at the Broadway Brewhouse in Nashville with a basket of chipotle chicken wings and a glass of Sweetwater 420 (this may sound familiar - my first beer review took place under similar circumstances).  I was pumped to see where the beer I remember so fondly was created.

July 13, 2011

DC Day 3: Dogfish Head Alehouse

OK.  Now I know what all the hype is about -- and why the line for Dogfish Head at the American Craft Beer Fest was out of control the whole time. With a brewery based in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Dogfish Head also has three restaurants in the DC area: two in northern Virginia, one in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I walked in, went straight for the bar, and ordered up a glass of their 90-Minute IPA.  The Dogfish IPAs are pretty well known among IPA fans, aka 'hopheads'. Dogfish does a 60-Minute, a 90-Minute, and a 120-Minute IPA, the 'minutes' referring to how long the beer spends boiling with hops. But rather than listen to me tell you about it, why don't you let the Dogfish Head founder, Sam Calagione, tell you himself?


And it was extremely delicious. I followed the IPA with a tasty Alehouse BBQ Burger - two beef patties cooked over a wood fire, bacon, onion rings, and cheese - and spent the next hour or so deliberating which beer to get next. This is where I was just about knocked off my barstool. The beer selection at Dogfish Head was truly mind-blowing. 'Standard' simply isn't part of their vocabulary. Nearly every single beer was made with ingredients that don't typically find their way into commercial beer. I sampled one called Theobroma, derived from a 3,200-year-old Aztec recipe and made with cocoa powder, honey, chili peppers, and annatto (a seed from a tree found in Latin America). I was shocked how light it was - none of those ingredients was overwhelming at all. I tried another beer called Black & Red, which was a strong, dark, fruity beer made with mint - lots of mint. After several samples, I finally decided on the Raison d'Etre, a Belgian Ale made with raisins and beet sugar.  As you might expect, it smelled and tasted somewhat sweet and somewhat fruity -- definitely a unique combination.  At 8% ABV, it also packed a pretty good punch on the alcohol scale.

I would have loved to hang out and try all the beers on the menu, but I figured I'd save some for when I visit DC again next week.  So -- stay tuned...

July 7, 2011

DC Day 2: Folklife Festival and the District Chophouse & Brewery

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is held every year on the National Mall in DC and features three different countries, regions, states, or cultures.  This year the focus is on the Peace Corps, Colombia, and Rhythm & Blues.  I decided to swing by the Festival first, so as not to get too distracted by whatever's on tap at the local bar.

Sandwiched between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building, the Mall was filled with tents for the different speakers and concerts and thousands of visitors bustling between them.  I spent most of my time in the Colombian and R&B sections.  There were dozens of Colombians artisans demonstrating how to make baskets, furniture, and the like, but my favorite part, no doubt, was the Colombian music:


After exploring the festival for a few hours, I walked up to the District Chophouse & Brewery, recommended to me by someone I'd met at Capital City Brewing Company.  Walking into the Chophouse, I was impressed by its swanky feel.  The wait staff was well-dressed, there were stained wood and leather booths, and a very 1920s-style bar was situated towards the left.  Upstairs were the brewery's fermentation tanks. 


After perusing the brewery's impressive beer selection posted on the chalkboard behind the bar (they had 8-10 choices available), I decided to start with their IPA.  It was floral in aroma and taste and it went very well with my Roasted Veggie Pizza.  I followed the IPA with the Saison.  This brew was less tart than some other Saisons I've tried.  I liked its wheaty nature and its peachy overtones - a great summer beer.  I would have liked to stick around drinking beer the rest of the day, but those DC prices can add up pretty quickly.  I'd gladly swing by again for their Happy Hour - Monday through Friday 4pm-7pm.