Saturday, January 28, 2012

White Birch Indulgence Ale


This is my first brew from White Birch Brewing in Hooksett, New Hampshire. This brew was bottled almost a year ago, in Feb. '11. It's numbered Batch One, with a bottle count of 840. The alcohol content is 8%.

Holy crap is this stuff dark. More than that, holy crap is the head ever dark. And fast-forming. And fast-falling. And loud as it does it! It's like the fizz on top of a glass of pop, dissolving in slightly-slower motion. Within a minute or so, just a thin layer is left on top. There's no real lacing to speak of.

It's not hard to tell that this black ale has a lot of chocolate malt in it - the aroma is almost all dark chocolate. You can also smell something like coffee or espresso, and something else sweet & fruity (think blackberries or really ripe cherries).

I kind of like the flavour - a mix of chocolate and coffee with a bit of funk. It's like a dark Belgian in some ways (beer, I mean... a dark Belgian beer), but is mostly like an imperial stout or porter. There is a light, woody character to it in its finish, though, that I don't like. Nice exhale and pretty good aftertaste, though. There's something getting in the way of the flavour's good points, however...

The carbonation of this is just ridiculous - possibly the highest-carbonated beer I've ever had. It's an in-your-mouth fizz bomb. Lots of burps to be had here - like after every sip or so. If this thing was much flatter, it'd be a different and better beer. After my first couple of sips, I pondered shaking the bottle up before I topped the glass up... I decided to swirl the bejeezus out of it in my glass instead and try it again. Much better now! The carbonation isn't accentuating the unsavoury traits as it was in the beginning. The body is actually full / heavy, and smooth if given a (de-fizzed) chance. The finish is sticky & chewy.

Overall, I'd say I was a bit disappointed. Lots of promise, though. With one major tweak (the carbonation) and some minor ones in other places, it could be a much better (and very good) beer. Right now, it ain't that great - no great indulgence.

Friday, January 27, 2012

VB - Victoria Bitter


I had this one over a year ago... wasn't exactly rushing to post it.

This beer pours a deep, mellow gold. There are lots of pop-like bubbles which almost instantly turns into one of the flattest-looking, headless beers I have ever had.

The smell ain't great. There's a hint of "oily garage" in there. It smells almost like a cider, but stale and a bit metallic.

It tastes more like a cider or apple juice, too... a bit fruity. The aftertaste is a bit grassy... lingering and rather gross.

The carbonation is a bit sharp at first. A little watery and oily in the finish. It's only a bit bitter.

Overall, in case you didn't guess it yet, avoid this one. It has to be one of the five or ten worst beers I have ever had.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Allagash Black

This is my first brew from the Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine. I've been staring this one down in the beer room for about five months now, and could wait no longer. As their site describes it, it is made from
"2 Row barley, torrified wheat, oats, both roasted and chocolate malt and a generous portion of dark caramelized candi sugar. The silky mouth feel is a great balance to the roasted character, coffee and dark chocolate notes expressed throughout this beer."

Lots of gas and a loud pop behind the cork on this one. Guess what colour it pours. Brown? Noooo. Blue? Noooo, that's that Japanese beer. It's black, of course! Well, when the glass is full it is. In small amounts, it's dark brown. The head is modest, creamy, and tan.There's some light lacing on the way down.

The smell is unique and familiar at the same time. There are stout hallmarks, but also some strong Belgian traits, too. It's a unique blend of brown sugar, licorice, yeast, some light chocolate, and a bit of spice.

Oh. Em. Gee. It's really good, but after the first sip I'm amazed at how much this one comes across as a solid stout. In some ways, I think that's incredible, and in a wee way, I think... really? Just a stout? I sip on...
By the third and fourth sip, its other traits start to build and really come out. This brew is a lot more than just a solid stout. Sure, there are roasted notes, oats, caramel, and chocolate. Then, there is that lightness and tingle on the sides of your tongue - it's like the feel of black licorice without most of its taste. That feel as well as the dry feel and aftertaste of coffee and the sugar are what linger.

Feel-wise, it's as-advertised. Pretty friggin' silky-smooth. The finish is slightly sticky at first, then fairly dry and airy due to the hops / bitter coffee traits. The carbonation is light and just right - in the background but enhancing.

This is an excellent beer. Fanfrickentastic, even. I wish I had ready access to it as well as Allagash's other brews. Oh well. At least I got to enjoy this one. Thanks, Anthony!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mill Street Coffee Porter

Mill Street's been a bit hit-or-miss with me in the last year. Some of their beers have been good, and a couple have been at least sub-par. I'm glad to see two different mixed six-packs from them in the last year (even though the brews inside are inconsistent). This is my first full bottle of a beer I've only sampled before.

This one poured nice and dark as it should, and had a nice tall head at first. By the time I got to drink it, it had lowered to a creamy-looking brown skim. It leaves frequent, random, small spots of lacing.

In those nose - surprise, surprise - is coffee, maybe just a hint of chocolate, and what smells like a bit of rye bread.

The flavour is - surprise, surprise - mostly coffee (kind of like choco-covered espresso beans), too. There is also some brightness / fruitiness, which is common in a lot of porters. It might be a bit high here, but it's what keeps it from coming off as a coffee stout, I suppose.

The carb was a bit brighter than expected - maybe a bit brighter than it should be, but it matches a bright sweetness in the flavour. I remember the sample I had last month as being somewhat watery. I didn't find that with this one. The body is on the full side of medium, actually. The finish is somewhat bitter and sticky.

This one was about as good as I thought it would originally be. Nice feel (although a bit too bright for me here) and flavour. Pretty solid.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Imperial ESB Collaboration Ale

In this gorgeously-labelled bottle is a collaborative effort between Propeller and Greg Nash of Hart & Thistle (among other places).

This brew has lots of slow-falling head. Large bubbles form inside of it, and it sticks to the glass in lumps as it recedes. The brew is a bit darker than I thought it may be - a reddish-chestnut.

The hop profile / combo smells so good - grapefruit, orange, and my wife thought peach.

At first, the flavour is subtle and fair... then the pith kicks in. Nice & bitter!The malt notes come out later, and gradually. They build a bit - some subtle nuts and coffee. There's a light roasted / sweet / nut aftertaste. The burps are great. For what I expected for the style (even this version), I thought the hops overwhelmed the malt somewhat. Not really a complaint - I just thought the malt profile would come through more.

The mouthfeel is on the light side of medium. The carb's gentle / subtle / almost not there. The main impression is the bitter finish.

Awesome? Maybe. So enjoyable, either way. Just what I wanted the night I had it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hopolates

From a company in Maryland called Hop Candy Inc. comes a beer-related chocolatey treat: Hopolates. Basically, take your pick of dark or milk chocolate and combine it with one of four varieties of hops: Nugget, Northern Brewer, Cascade, or Amarillo. From the website, a dozen cost about $11.99 shipped (within the US - shipping to Canada is significantly and stupidly more expensive), or around $7 if you see them at a festival.

Going left to right on the plate, I'll sample four different selections...


First is dark chocolate with Northern Brewer. Smell-wise, what mostly comes to mind is just a dark chocolate Easter bunny. After a big bite off the top of the "mug", I was fairly impressed. This little chocolate really does pop with hops. There's a bit of bitterness, and the flavours (and some aromas) of the hop variety really pop out (and linger) when eaten. Tasty.

Next up is milk chocolate with Cascade. Smell is the same in that there's no hops - just milk chocolate. Bitterness seems to be up on this one and flavour down compared to the first - I expected this one to be a bit stronger in flavour for some reason (like after one, I'd be some kind of Hopoplate expert). After my second and then final bites, the pithy flavour comes through more. Bit of citrus, but mostly a bitter / pith note with the chocolate. Nice, but I like the first one better.

Third is dark chocolate with Amarillo. The chocolate's just as nice and flavourful and bitter as the first one. You can get some of the hop notes that you find in the milk chocolate version of this (mostly a bit of the grapefruit), but they're more masked by the stronger chocolate.

Finally (sniff!) we have milk chocolate with Amarillo. There might be a whiff of hops from this one. Maybe. Starts off a bit more subtle than the Cascade, and less bitter. This one has a bit of citrus, grass, and pine to it. The bitterness built up a bit by the end of this one.

My verdict: I liked the dark chocolate ones most, as they seemed the best match for the hops (incidentally, this is a cool way to learn about a few hops' characteristics separate from any others). They were all tasty (man) chocolates, but my favourite, the one that gave the strongest hop impression, the one that married hop with ocolate the best... was the first one. If you live in the States, this is a treat well-worth ordering. If you live in Canada, it might make a treat or surprise for a special occasion.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lagunitas' Wilco Tango Foxtrot

According to the label, a limited release - "a malty, robust, jobless recovery ale". Not quite in the red or black, so they're in the brown.

This brew is a dark reddish brown with some bright red/orange highlights. There isn't too much head, but what's there stays... thick and creamy almost like melted marshmallow.

A great, complex nose - like a dubbel with American IPA hops... brown sugar, coffee, dates, and pine and citrus. There is a mystery smell in there, too... something almost like cumin or celery seeds?

The flavour is interesting... coffee and nuts up front on first sip. There are some hops in the flavour, especially in the burps (fantastic, pleasant surprises over the nice, malty finish) and in bitterness / feel - piney and a bit pithy. It's a bit earthy but still bright.

The feel is smooth and fairly clean but with a moderately slick finish. The body is medium. Carbonation is fairly light.

This is an easy-drinking but really flavourful beer. It's definitely malty - more coffee and nuts than anything else -  but with a pretty solid hop / bitter slant. This was one cool beer. Not so much WTF as MMM.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Moat Mountain Imperial Stout

This was my first brew from Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Company in New Hampshire. This 9% beer is #796 of a run of 1162.

This stout pours a very dark brown. The head on it ends up being just about the most impressive I have seen - very tall, slow to fall, rich, creamy, dense, lumpy, and brown. Lacing follows the head all the way down.

It smells of dark chocolate, some raspberry, and maybe a bit of vanilla. It's sweet and also a little sharp. There's a hint of alcohol in the aroma... almost like a little... bourbon?

In the flavour is coffee. It's also a bit tart and fruity. It's a bit like an oatmeal stout in flavour as well. There isn't much chocolate in the flavour, but there is some slight woodiness.

It has a tangy feel on the sides of the tongue. The body's on the full side of medium, I guess, but - somehow - has a finish that is slightly watery.

The whole bottle in one sitting was a bit much - it was pretty rich, and the last couple of sips were rather sharp. In its defense, I had a full stomach when I had it, though. Overall, a fairly tasty brew, but I wouldn't rank it on the top of my imp. stout list.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rogue Santa's Private Reserve Ale

Oh... look what fell out of the sleigh...

With a matching glass in a wooden box with matching burned-in logo, is this Christmas offering from Rogue - a red ale, natch.

The beer is amber in the pour, blood-orange red in the glass, with a golden head. It leaves sticky lacing and a big lumpy puck of bubbles on the top. The head is lumpy and long-lasting.

In the nose are nice, bright hops (mostly grapefruit, with something like oranges or something I can't quite pin), toffee, & candy.

The flavour is not quite as bright and enticing as the aroma. The bitterness is up front, and the flavours don't really pierce through it. The hops are a bit too spicy / grassy / peppery. It's OK... I just wanted something more citrus-y - personal taste, I guess. I think it should be brighter (oranges would suit), or have some more candy / toffee... it is Santa's beer, right?

The finish is sticky and bitter. The body is medium, and the carb's just right.

Enjoyable. Good. But not very great or even very good. A red ale more like Bear Republic's Red Rocket would be more inline with what I'd want here. Fantastic package, though.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Rogue's Portland State IPA

Coming in a fancy shmancy wooden box with a burned-in label, and a matching T-shirt, is this Portland State IPA from Oregon's Rogue Brewery. On the bottle, they claim that this beer is an all-local effort, having even the bottle made locally. It's somewhat ironic that they delivered this to my door - 6082km away. But, hey... I'm not complaining.

At first, this beer is super-clear. There are gobs of sediment in the bottom, though, that make it a bit cloudier as this brownish-amber brew wears on. It has a tall, off-white head that has large bubbles in it forming almost right away, taking their time before popping.

The nose? Hops - a mix of pleasant citrus and something that reminds me of my cat's litter... really, something rather pee-like. It's not enough to stop you in your tracks, but it's there.

The flavour? Whoa. That was unexpected. It's really orange & tangerine-y. I think the Maris Otter malt is playing a nice role in balancing things out. There's some caramel / light roast notes in there, too. It's different. There's something "luxurious" about the malt profile of it - like maple syrup without the maple, if that makes any sense (no, not just syrup).

The carbonation's a bit of a tingle on the middle of the tongue. The body's on the lighter side of medium, with a slightly sticky finish.

Overall? Nice. Not a wower, but nice.