Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lagunitas Lucky 13.alt Anniversary Release

A while back, I reviewed Lagunitas' Lucky 13 Mondo Large Red Ale, the cousin, or predecessor, to this, if you will. I thought it was an excellent beer. Now from Lagunitas is the "anniversary version" of their Lucky 13. Not a red this time, but an ".alt" - an American strong ale (not an altbier as some thought).

Many (most?) folks on BA report this to be mostly golden yellow (hunh?). This ale is a fairly rich, crystal-clear orange. Scratch that. I probably say crystal-clear too often (like many people). This stuff is clearer than an obvious, relatable simile - it's as clear as a glacial lake (aw yeah). The head is decent, pale apricot in colour, and a bit creamy. It leaves some pretty solid lacing.

Much like the Mondo Large Red, the smell is of pineapple... like that roasted pineapple on a ham (minus the ham), maybe with a cherry or some raisins on top... and of sweet, red candy apple. Some malty sweetness comes through, too, in the form of milky caramel (not that clear Caramilk stuff). There is just a hint of the 8.9% alcohol in it.

Flavour-wise, this one didn't quite live up to my expectations. It's still good, but it just doesn't wow me. Expect pineapple, candy apple, and some lightly rich malt notes... toffee, perhaps.

There is some heat / burn from the alcohol in the feel, which is too bad. This could have been balanced out a bit better. Other than that, the feel is fine. It's a little viscous/slick, with a surprisingly clean and mostly "no-finish" finish. The impression that's left is the heat and the malt notes, along with some bitterness.

Overall, this beer was good. Maybe a bit better than good. Unfortunately (at least for me), there's just too much out there (the Mondo Large Red included) that I think is better. This post was brought to you by bracketed asides and italics.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Portsmouth Brewery's Thaizenheimer

I always love a unique beer. Even if it doesn't turn out the best, I love diving into the intrigue of a beer off the beaten path. This Thaizenheimer is a twist on the Portsmouth Brewery's Weizenheimer, an American wheat ale. The twist is the addition of ginger, lemongrass, and kafir lime leaves.

While not impressive, a decent little head comes from a hard pour, and a creamy skim of the just-off-white stuff remains on top. It leaves some broad webs of lace on the way down. Out of the bottle, the beer looked quite pale and yellow, but, as you can see, it has a bit of brownish depth to the colour.

The aroma is mostly of strong ginger and lime, with some notes of honey and wheat. The ginger also gives an interesting almost-spicy aspect.

The flavour has some of the ginger, but the lemongrass and (especially) the lime leaves take over here. Combined with the wheat ale base, this is like an Asian take on liquid American wheat field sunshine.

Feel-wise, the carbonation makes a crisp tingle on tongue. The body is on the full side of light, with a smooth feel and some stickiness in the finish. That being said, what stands out most is the bright, acidic feel from the lime that lingers... it's kind of nice, and lingers at the back of your tongue and throat. This is coupled with an even longer-lasting, almost sour lemon-lime tang on the sides of the tongue.

What separates some good beers from the rest of the pack for me is how memorable or different they are. This one is definitely unique enough to stand out from the pack, and, overall, this is a very nice beer (especially for summer). It would also do very well with something light like whitefish, chicken, or, especially, shrimp (Benjamin Buford "Bubba" Blue would be so proud).

Berkshire Brewing Company's Lost Sailor IPA

This, my first beer from Massachusetts' Berkshire Brewing Company, is more of a British-style IPA - meaning that it should have more of a malt presence and be a bit more well-balanced than the strong hop bombs I also love.

As expected, this IPA is a bit darker than other recent ones I have had. This is a somewhat-deep orange-brown, as you can see for yourself. The head is fairly creamy and cream-coloured, and leaves patches of lacing that look like Rorschach blots inspired by the shape of Florida (calling them spotty or webby just wouldn't be enough).

The smell is rather subtle - light dates, some grass, and just the shadow of orange & citrus. Some toffee as it warms. A bit of spice... almost like cinnamon. Almost.

I like love IPA's in general, but definitely gravitate towards the hoppier American variation. So, my first impression of the flavour of this is a bit "meh". It doesn't seem particularly flavourful in any way. Its main note, to me (even though it's pretty fresh) is a grassy one - what I always think of as "stale" in this style. Where the best notes appear in this beer are in the aftertaste... it's what keeps you drinking. You get just a hint of citrus & pith. What comes out more are things like an earthy woodiness, some sweetness akin to maple syrup, and the overall impression of a cream / amber ale. The more you have, the better it gets.

In terms of feel? At 40 IBU's, this is a pretty "gentle" IPA. It has a bit of acidic tang on the sides of the tongue that lingers for a bit. The finish is also sticky. The body is medium and creamy-smooth. The carb is so secondary (but balanced) that you don't even think of it.

Overall, I'm searching for or wanting my "ballsier" hops, but I know that's not what this beer is about. While I don't love the flavour or smell, there is something about the impression this beer leaves in its aftertaste and balance that leaves me thinking it's alright. I didn't love it, but it's a good beer one could have a few of in one sitting.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Garrison Comes to PEI

The good news from Nova Scotia today is that Garrison is shipping a couple of their brews over to PEI, to actually - get this - be available in our liquor stores! Tall Ship Amber has been available on PEI in draft form previously, but nothing from Garrison (or Nova Scotia from that matter... I mean, it is so far away, right?) has ever been available in bottled form. Better than that is that their Hop Yard Pale Ale is coming, too. While it's a bit of a lightweight in terms of bitterness and hoppiness (compared to the stronger IPA style at least), I think it's instantly the hoppiest (and probably just about the best) beer available to Islanders. Good news all-round. Hopefully this opens up the beer gates to PEI a bit more.

Monday, August 22, 2011

August 2011 Beer Trade / Haul

This month saw the completion of my first true beer trade, and I must say it was quite fruitful.

A fellow BA member, Anthony (ajcormier) contacted me about beer on PEI and whether or not we could do a US-Canada beer trade. Luckily, I was going to be in Halifax between then and the trade (since there's nothing really to trade with from here). After a couple / few months, I finally got to meet Anthony and his Mrs. (a great couple), and trade the stash of beer I had in my cellar. What you see in the pic is what I got, and what you can expect to see here eventually (three have already been imbibed and two have already been reviewed):

Cisco Brewers Inc. - Grey Lady
White Birch Brewing - Indulgence Ale (Bottle Count 840, Batch One)
Lagunitas Brewing Company - Lucky 13.alt, Hop Stoopid

Berkshire Brewing Company - Lost Sailor IPA, Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale
Moat Mountain Brewing Company - Imperial Stout (Bottle #796, Brew #1162), Barley Wine Style Ale (Bottle #91, Brew#1233)

Allagash Brewing Company - Black Belgian Style Stout (Batch 30)
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - Namaste
Maine Beer Company - Lunch
Green Flash Brewing Company - Grand Cru

Long Trail Brewing Company - Double Bag
Smuttynose Brewing Company - Maibock (Big Beer Series)
Smuttynose Brewing Company - Big A IPA
Smuttynose Brewing Company - Winter Ale
ajcormier's Espresso Brown Ale

Portsmouth Brewery - La Chat Noir
Portsmouth Brewery - Thaizenheimer
Portsmouth Brewery - J.O.S. (Jurgen's Oatmeal Stout)
Portsmouth Brewery - GOSE

Shipyard Brewing Company - Pugsley's Signature Series Imperial Porter
Shipyard Brewing Company - Blue Fin Stout
Firestone Walker Brewing Company - Proprietors Reserve Series Porter
Firestone Walker Brewing Company - Proprietors Reserve Series Double Jack

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Firestone Walker Brewing Company's Double Jack

This brew is my first from California's Firestone Walker Brewing Company. I'm thinking starting with a double / imperial IPA is a great introduction.

It pours a somewhat pale and crystal-clear orange - think orange Jell-O or pale apricot. The head is tall, just off-white, and slightly creamy. It leaves rings and spots of lacing as it lowers.

The aroma is bright and crisp: tangerine, flowers, grapefruit, a bit of honey and malt. Great. I'd say bottle it up, but that's already been done.

The flavour, initially, comes across as a little hot / alcoholic, unfortunately - but, thankfully, that gets increasingly less with each sip... this beer gets better and better as it warms up and goes on. As the malt notes increase with warmth, they mask the heat. I was thinking this would miss the mark a bit, but it's hitting the right spot right about now, one third of the way through. It's bitter, citrus-y (mostly grapefruit), piney, a little sweet & rounded from the malt... this is a nice beer that becomes more balanced as it goes. That being said, the alcohol seems to come out a bit in the last third again.

In terms of how it feels in the mouth, there is a bit of burn / heat from the alcohol (9.5%), but that's pretty minimal overall. It's a little resinous and sticky, and also a little light considering how "big" this beer is. The finish is a little sweet, but mostly tingling bitterness.

Unlike my wife, who, after one sip, said, "It was like I took a bite of the rind of a grapefruit soaked in alcohol," I quite enjoyed this one. Being a bitter, strong, double IPA, it's not everyone's (read: IPA-inexperienced people) cup of tea... er, glass of beer. But, for the converted, this is a nice, big beer. As a parting thought, I'd be curious as to how this would taste and feel if it was less filtered.

PS - the burps taste so good. If you're an IPA fan / hop-head, you'll understand.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Maine Beer Company's Lunch

Named after a feisty New England fin whale (not the mid-day meal), I'm drinking this Maine Beer Company brew fresh thanks to fellow BA member and new friend in beer, ajcormier.

The head on this is massive! At first pour, it came out nearly 80% head or something ridonculous like that. It's an off-white colour, fairly dense, and creamy. As it starts to lower, larger bubbles start to form in the middle, while the perimeter actually goes down ahead of it. It takes several minutes for it to lower to the surface of the beer, and it leaves some thick, sticky lacing on the glass. The beer itself is nice & clear ('til the sediment gets stirred up), and is of a dark copper colour.

There is something about IPA's that just intoxicates me, and it really starts with (and is probably mostly based on) the smell. This one smells pretty fantastic... it's alllll hops. Pine. Grapefruit. Orange. I could just sit here, smell it, never sip it, and be totally happy (well, almost).

Taste-wise, it's a bit lighter than the smell. That's what really makes this one a beaut, though - it's an easy-drinking (though strong-smelling), approachable IPA that just begs to be imbibed in large amounts... and allows you to do so because it's so well-balanced and doesn't smack you across the face with bitterness or anything else (not that that's a bad thing, necessarily). There's something about the bitterness or 7% alcohol , though that gives at least the idea that it's a little hot / high in alcohol. No big deal, though. There's a nice malt backbone to this, too, but who are we kidding... nobody drinks IPA's for the malt notes.

In terms of how it feels, there is the aforementioned mid-range bitterness, and maybe a bit of alcohol kick. It's not overly resinous or slick, but it does have a smooth, medium body. The finish is the bitter pith notes, and is eventually a bit dry.

Overall, a great IPA - so glad I got to have it and have it fresh. I may have to hit that Maine Beer Trail soon!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Anchor Brewing Company Liberty Ale

It was 28 degrees outside today (which, due to our humidity, would be like 140 to you Yankees), which makes it the perfect evening to pop open an American pale ale... the cleaner, hoppier, less malty version of an IPA.

This beer pours a crystal-clear, pale apricot colour, with a finger or two's worth of head that reduces to a nearly-uniform film on top after a few minutes. There is only the odd spot of lacing to it.

The nose on this one is pretty great (I'm so glad this is a large bottle): grapefruit, pine, some orange... lemon... I think this is the best-smelling beer I've had in over two months. As it warms, flower and pine notes start to strengthen.

The flavour doesn't quite live up to the olfactory hype. It's still a good beer, flavour-wise - it just doesn't offer up what the nose does. In the flavour is mostly the orange, some pith, a bit of that other citrus (mainly lemon), and some second-fiddle-playing malt undertones.

The bitterness is subtle at first, but it does build as the bottle goes on. The finish is a bit sticky (especially up the middle), but mostly dry. The body is just on the light side of medium.

At first smell it was love, and at first taste it was "meh". After the whole bottle, though, I was pretty pleased with the whole package & experience. I wouldn't hesitate picking one of these up again if I had the chance.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tusker Lager

Tusker is my first beer from Kenya (or Africa, period, I think). It has been brewed since 1922, and is named for the elephant that killed one of the brewery's founders (just like the step-mom who almost killed good beer in the US, Anheuser-Busch). I appreciate that the bottle has "BEER ONLY" embossed on the glass so that I don't mistake it as a bottle of elephant repellent.

Without a doubt, this is one of the palest beers I have ever poured or drank. Right out of the bottle's mouth, you can tell how pale and clear it is. There is a couple of fingers of head that come with the pour, and a skim of creamy head remains once it lowers. It also leaves solid lacing all the way down.

In the nose are honey, grass, and just hints of cardboard and sulfur (the undesirable traits magnify a bit as it warms - some malt aromas actually come out as well).

The taste is pretty fresh (despite being past its best before date - just to be honest) and refreshing actually. It is a repeat of the nose and appearance in every sense. It's light, a bit sweet, and has hints of things you'd like to leave out.

The mouthfeel is crisp, light, and rather watery in every way without feeling too cheap. It just feels like a beer that should be drank on a hot day like today.

Overall, a decent and crisp lager.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Innis & Gunn Blonde

No surprises with the appearance here - as with all Innis & Gunn bottles, what you see through the clear bottle is what you get - in this case, a pale blonde ale with a bit of an orange/apricot tinge to it. There is a bit of creamy head from the pour which lowers quickly, but leaves a little bit on top all the way down.

It's got that typical I&G aroma - vanilla, toffee, and oak. Oddly, some brighter fruit notes emerge as it warms (usually it's the fuller, malt notes that do this).

The flavour is more of the same, but some fruit notes and light, grassy hops come out as well. The dominant flavours are the former ones.

The feel is mostly dry, with a bit of stickiness. There is also a brightness / acidity to it that gives it a bit of a tangy feel. The carbonation is rather low, leaving the overall feel of this rather smooth.

Overall, this is a pretty decent, easy-to-drink beer. I prefer the original I&G or some of their stronger offerings, but this is a nice beer to suggest to someone who's just starting to investigate beers outside of the mass (and flavourless) market. It has some interesting traits, but is light enough to not put someone off. I have recommended it before with such a purpose and had positive results. Perhaps think of it as good beer that doubles as a "gateway beer".

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rickard's Blonde

Being a new mass-market beer, this one is most likely going to get panned by some craft beer enthusiasts before they even try it. So... let's forget that this Blonde is not really a blonde... it's a pilsner. Let's not focus on the fact that, although it's billed as "...indeed the one beer in our Rickard's portfolio which includes the highest concentration of hops," there is no IBU number for it or the names of the four hops used. It doesn't matter, really, how much / many hops were used in this beer - it just looks a bit bad on Rickard's to say that this pretty plain brew is the hoppiest one they have. It's not this beer's fault. Let's just take this beer as it is and see if it's any good.

This one pours crystal clear (as a pilsner should), and provides scads of head at the beginning - maybe a bit much for the style. The retention isn't too bad, actually, and there is consistent, spotty lacing.

I don't get much or any of the advertised floral notes in the aroma. I smell more of a wheat/grass combo, perhaps with a bit of that characteristic sulfuric "lager smell".

The taste is a bit acidic, fruity, and sweet. None of those traits are overpowering, but it's pretty strong in those respects for a local pilsner.

The carbonation level is medium, and the finish is dry, overall.

Overall, a decent beer. Good enough to keep a couple in the fridge for a hot summer day. Not good enough to really engage you and pique your interest as you drink it; at least it's pretty refreshing and you won't feel bad if you decide to sacrifice one to cook with.

Friday, August 5, 2011

PEI Beer Festival

Today is International Beer Day, and I haven't even had a beer yet. I entered the day tired (due to the new addition to the family), and a little bummed, since I was unable to make the 5th annual Halifax Seaport Beer Festival today or tomorrow. So many new beers in one spot... and limited-run sales of some of them at the NSLC stores! But not for me...

But now, there is good news: a PEI Beer Festival. I was thinking I would actually have to/get to kick start this in part by myself in the near future, so I'm a little disappointed but mostly elated. I don't want to get my hops (heh heh) up too high, but this is definitely something to look forward to on September 24th. The bonus? A new beer made with Island hops should be ready at the fest. The potential drag: the thought that the available beers will be just what's at the PEI liquor stores. Here's hoping for the best...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dieu du Ciel's Rescousse

Rescousse, or "To the rescue" is a relatively uncommon style on store shelves - it's an "altbier". On the label, they advertise it as an "Ale rousse de tradition allemande", or a red ale of the German tradition. Altbiers should be more brown or copper, apparently, but that's just being nitpicky.

The colour really is a rich, reddish-brown - like a deep copper when the light shines through it (think of a penny without its shine), and like a chocolate soda when it's not. The head is creamy and off-white, which leaves a solid curtain of lacing all the way down.

The aroma is a rich, malty one, with a muted layer of what smells like the noble hops (exactly which one(s), I couldn't say) the style should have. To make an easy comparison, the hop aroma's similar to Sam Adams' Noble Pils - just not as bright. Some of the malt notes remind me of their Route des épices - the rye, and even a bit of the spice.

On the tongue, the hops come forward a bit more. They still play second fiddle to the beer's richer traits, but their bitterness and tingle in the aftertaste do come through. The richness of this beer comes through as hearty rye bread & sweet notes of molasses cookies.

The mouthfeel is medium and smooth, with a bit of a dry finish overall. The carbonation is there just enough to help keep things feeling light.

As my first altbier, this was a great introduction to the style. Rich yet light enough to be able to enjoy a few of them at once if you wanted to. A note from the brewer's site:

Dieu du Ciel! Brewers will donate 11 cents for every bottle sold to Fondation de la faune du Québec, in support of efforts to save endangered species such as the wolverine, the copper redhorse, and the western chorus frog. "Liberté, égalité, biodiversité !" Leave indifference behind and make a difference:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dieu du Ciel's Rosee d'Hibiscus

In this summery beer from Dieu du Ciel!, there is almost no head, and not much of what there is stays for long - just a few bubbles in the glass, and nothing really on top. The colour is fantastic... it's the colour of rhubarb soup (yes, it exists) or broth - almost an amber beer colour, but with a decidedly more rose / pink / red hue to it and a bit of "orangeness".

The smell is different... it reminds me of some froo-froo soaps I've used to be honest... a grapefruit one comes to mind... not quite roses... it must be hibiscus, I guess... I just can't recall exactly what they smell like to be honest. Maybe they smell like this.

The taste is cool, for lack of a better term - really fresh and refreshing. There is a bit of straw / wheat... and some berry / fruit, for sure. It's obvious without being dominant or very in-your-face.

The mouthfeel is light without being watery. The carbonation and overall feel of the beer kind of lift into the roof of your mouth and stay there. You can feel it stick and then fade as your tongue goes a bit dry. There's a smidge of a tingle and sweetness (almost tartness) to it that reminds me of "girly wine" (what my mother calls Boone's) or champagne - almost like some wedding punch I have had a few times... some orange/wine-champagne/"red-something" punch.

This is a great beer for the summer. It'd go very well with a salad - greens and strawberries, raspberry vinaigrette, perhaps.