Monday, May 16, 2011

Porter time

I do love the dark beers, so this week Im trying another porter. This is the Walkers Reserve Porter, from Firestone Walker Brewery in California.
It starts off a beautiful opaque coffee color, with plenty of foam and a tan colored head. The aroma is a bit weak, but you can definitely smell the sweet malt and fuggle hops. The first sip comes across smooth and drinkable. Its lightly sweet, with plenty of body, almost like a milk stout. You get some deep toasted coffee flavors along with hints of date and walnuts. The hops are a nice counterpoint, but not overpowering, just enough to give it some sour bite at the end. I could easily put down a couple of these.
Look: 5 - opaque black
Aroma: 3
Taste: 4 - sweet and drinkable
Feel: 4 - plenty of body

Monday, May 9, 2011

Classic Porter

If you know me, you know I like the dark beers. Today we have the Porter from Butte Creek Brewing in Montana. The bottle says its organic too.
It's a great color for a porter, deep chocolate brown with a solid creamy head. The aroma has lots of malt, and hints of brown sugar, chocolate, and fuggle hops. The first taste has plenty of malty flavor, but what catches me right away is the watery mouthfeel. I had expected more body from a porter, this struck me as thin. The flavor is still excellent, with deep coffee and bitter hops all the way through. Very drinkable.
Look: 4 - classic opaque brown
Aroma: 3 - malty
Taste: 3 - layers of porter
Feel: 2 - watery
Total: 3

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spring beer

With Spring come the bock beers! Traditionally, bocks were brewed by monks to drink during Lent. They were required to fast during this time, so they would make stronger, richer beers to give them calories. This is a classic, the Spaten Optimator Doppelbock from Munich. Beers ending in "ator" are typically strong sweet bocks.
It pours a deep dark coffee color, with a light head. The aroma is sweet and malty, even a bit medicinal, and you can tell the alcohol content is high. I get notes of raisin and even banana in there. The flavor pours across your tongue, very strong and heady, with lots of sweetness. The medicine flavors come out, but not overly strong, and you get some fruity notes in there too. The aftertaste is more alcohol than hops, which isnt necissarily a bad thing.
Look: 4 - deep coffee
Aroma: 3 - sweet
Taste: 2 - a bit too medicinal for me
Feel: 4 - thick
Total: 3.25

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

More Spring Seasonal

Spring does bring some delicious beer styles, like bocks; but an IPA is not a beer you normally associate with Spring. The Pyramid Brewing Company has gone one farther, making an Imperial IPA for their Spring seasonal beer this year. Lately, American brewers have used the word "imperial" to mean a stronger, heavier version of a regular style. This one weighs in at 8.5% alcohol, a tad bit higher than you'd expect from an IPA, but nowhere near the 10-11% of some other 'imperial' beers.
This one pours a deep gold color, with plenty of carbonation and nice head. The aroma is clean and fresh, and does put you in mind of spring. Nice hop aroma there, you get some floral and spice notes. The flavor... wow, is HOPPY. The bitter and spice really takes over from the first sip, almost too much at times. There is a good strong body underneath to support it, and some lingering sweet maltiness there too. Certainly not one you can drink quickly, but worth a try.
Look: 4 - deep gold/orange
Aroma: 3 - spring!
Taste: 2 - overpoweringly hoppy
Feel: 4 - tons of body
Total: 3.25

Monday, April 18, 2011

Beer for a Cause

Good beer that also supports a good cause? I'll drink to that!
This week I discovered the SOS "Save Our Shore" Pilsner from Abita Brewery in Louisana. Ive admired their beers before, and this one is special. All proceeds go to coastal restoration for the gulf oil spill of last summer.
This is a bottle conditioned wheat pilsner, thus the golden and cloudy look. The aroma is refreshing and clean, with some nice hop spiciness and a good sweet malty undertone. The first taste, in a word, is creamy. Lagers typically have a smooth, slippery mouthfeel, but this takes it to another level, and tickles your tongue with creaminess. The flavor is lightly sweet and citrusy, plenty of body, and hints of peach, orange, and spice. The sterling hops give it a good touch of bitterness on the back end, not overpowering but enough to let you know this beer means business.
At 7% alcohol, its enough to make you happy too!
Look: 4 - cloudy gold
Aroma: 3 - sweet and spicy
Taste: 4 - balanced malt and bitter
Feel: 5+ - creamy!
Total: 4

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What beer drinkers drink when they're not drinking beer

What would that be? Why hard cider, of course! This is the Fox Barrel Black Currant Cider, from California.
It looks deceivingly simple, like an apple juice with a blush of pink, and moderate carbonation. The aroma is heavy on the apple, and lightly sour, with just hints of berry hidden in there. The flavor comes through also heavy on the apple, which is to be expected, as its primarily an apple cider with berry added. You get a nice crisp dry feeling on your tongue, then residual berry flavors creep out on the back end. Very smooth and refreshing.
Look: 3 - apple blush
Aroma: 4 - lots of apple
Taste: 4 - great balance of fruit and sour
Feel: 3 - crisp!
Total: 3.5

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Flemish Red

Continuing the theme from Monday, is another fine beer from Belgium. This is a Flemish Sour Red Ale, named Monk's Cafe, from the Van Steenberg brewery. Its an oak aged young sour ale, which is a style that hasnt really caught on in the US, but should.
Its a lot like Monday's beer, which is a very good thing. It pours a bit darker, but with tons of carbonation from the cask and bottle conditioning. The aroma is heavenly, lots of fruit and a bit of sourness, like an apple cider. The taste is where these beers differ. Where the Ichtagems was more of an apple and pear flavor, this one is more sour cherries and oak. It goes down very smooth with lots of carbonation, a good dose of sour and sweetness from the malt in the aftertaste, and hardly any hop flavors at all. Highly drinkable, and leaves you wanting to open another.
Look: 5 - deep red with lots of foam
Aroma: 5 - fruity!
Taste: 4 - juicy sour cherry
Feel: 4 - smooth and carbonated
Total: 4.5

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Fruit and beer have been paired together for ages, but blueberry isnt one you see a lot. This is the Blueberry Oatmeal Stout from Buffalo Bill's Brewery in Hayward, CA.
Its a deep opaque black, just what you want in a stout, with a light amount of carbonation. Even the head is dark brown. The aroma is totally berry, you certainly know this is a fruit beer, while the malty stout and fuggle hop scents are relegated to the background. The flavor was a bit of a let down. The first thing that hits you is the sourness. While a stout might have a bit of a sour character to it, here it took over. The deep caramel and toasted nutty flavors of the stout are there, and the berry peeks in on the back of your throat. The hops are nice on the aftertaste, but the sour lingers on also, and didnt go over well.
Look: 4 - opaque black
Aroma: 4 - lots of berry!
Taste: 2 - too much sour
Feel: 3 - decent body
Total: 3.25

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monkey Beer!

Ive had a number of good beers from the Left Hand Brewery, and the label on this one caught my attention. Its the 400 Pound Monkey IPA.
As far as IPAs go, it really hits the mark. Deep gold color with a bit of cloudiness, and a moderate amount of carbonation. The aroma is nice and hoppy, with floral and grassy smelling bits, and a good deep bitterness underneath. The flavor is actually rather light for an IPA. They elected to go away from the "cram as many hops as you can into that thing" mentality and instead went for a nicely balanced malt and hop combo. You can taste the light sweetness of the malt, then the hops wash over with the sharp spicy flavors and a nice residual hop bitterness at the end. A very accessable IPA, that leaves you wanting more.
Look: 3 - cloudy gold
Aroma: 4 - plenty o hops
Taste: 3 - good balance of hop and malt
Feel: 3 - refreshing!
Total: 3.25

Monday, March 7, 2011


Its the end of winter, but not yet the end of winter beers. This one is from Norway, and the Nogne Ø brewery, where winters are long and beers are strong. Simply called "winter ale", it caught my attention.
It pours very dark, a near opaque deep brown, with a cocoa colored head. The aroma is both sweet and fruity, and dark and malty. Which turns out to be an excellend combination. The first taste lets you know that it means business. Like most winter ales, the alcohol content is a bit high, at 8.5%. This gives you a bit of alcohol burn as you sip. The flavors are smooth and soothing. You get a good deep malty caramel flavor, with some coffee bitterness, balanced by some fruity high notes of plum and fig. Then the hops take over and carry you into a mellow sour aftertaste that leaves you wanting more. Overall a great way to spend a cold day.
Look: 4 - deep and dark
Aroma: 3 - good mix of sweet and malty
Taste: 4 - layers of bitter, sweet, and nut
Feel: 3 - solid body
Total: 3.5

Monday, February 28, 2011

Local Beers

Whenever possible, I try the new local beers I can find. Weston Brewing Company is a fairly new brewery in St Louis, I only noticed them late last year, and this is the first beer of theirs I've tried. Its the O'Mally's Irish Brown Ale. I've drunk many brown ales before, and many Irish ales, but an Irish brown? Thats something I havent seen before.
Its darker than a regular brown ale, but nowhere near as opaque as a stout. The aroma is lightly toasty, with a dose of sour, and some fuggle hops at the end. A good bit of carbonation too. The first taste is smooth and light, not as strong as I was expecting for something called "Irish", but theres a good nutty flavor, a mellow toastiness to the malt, and a sour undertone that feels more like a stout than a brown ale. A strong but muddled aftertaste of hops, I can certainly taste fuggles in there, but also some sharper ones. Overall the combination works, although it makes me think of a couple of homebrewing buddies who made a beer they liked then tried to figure out what to call it than a true brown ale.
Look: 2 - deep brown
Aroma: 3 - light and toasty
Taste: 2 - muddled mix of flavors
Feel: 3 - solidly refreshing
Total: 2.5

Monday, February 21, 2011

Moose Drool

Beer brewers tend to have an odd sense of humor when it comes to naming their products, and this one is no different. Its the Moose Drool Brown Ale, from Big Sky Brewery in Montana.
It pours a deep dark brown, darker than you normally expect for a brown ale, with a good amount of carbonation. The aroma is subtle and nutty, with some underlying sweetness and a light doese of hops. The flavor carries over the nuttiness of the aroma, with a bit of sourness to it also. The maltiness is understated, and the hop aftertaste is not strong at all. The carbonation is a bit much for me, almost to a light lager level, and not fitting of the style. But overall a light refreshing beer with a bit of flavor.
Look: 2 - dark for a brown ale
Aroma: 3 - subtle sweet
Taste: 2 - nutty but sour
Feel: 2 - too much carbonation
Total: 2.75

Monday, February 14, 2011

Doing the Quad

Yes, its another from the wonderful local brewery, Schlafly. What can I say, when I go there I cant buy just one. This is the Belgian Quadrupel, which has its roots in the ancient brewing traditions of Belgian monks. Those guys really know their beer.
It pours a deep thick brown, with tons of carbonation, and an aroma thats both sweet and spicy, with some notes of fruit. The first sip.... stand back, this thing hits you like a brick. Its 12% alcohol, and that makes you take notice right away. After your tongue recovers from the initial shock, you notice the wonderful sweetness, and an overall nutty flavor thats very satisfying. I also get some fruit flavors like sour cherry, dates, and grapefruit. Theres a decent hop kick at the end, just enough to keep the sweetness from becoming cloying, and the lingering afterburn of that high alcohol content. This is a beer you take some time to enjoy, lest you end up on the floor.
Look: 4 - great head
Aroma: 4 - sweet and fruity
Flavor: 4 - nice layers of fruit and nut
Feel: 4 - thick
Total: 4

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Beer Sunday

What better way to watch the Packers win the Super Bowl than with a great beer?
I had purchased this one a couple weeks ago at the local Schlafly tap house, and was saving it for a special occasion. Its their 20th anniversary Imperial Pilsner, brewed by their original brewmasters from when the brewery first opened. An Imperial Pilsner is not a type of beer you see every day; lately the word "imperial" has been used to denote a much stronger and heavier version of the standard style. This one certainly is!
It pours a deep clear gold color, with lots of carbonation, and the head sticks around a while. The aroma is sweet and citrusy, and rather strong for a pilsner, with some nice hop spice at the end. The first taste gives your tongue a smack.... this isnt your standard pilsner. The first word that comes to mind is creamy. It has a ton of body, so if you're thinking of a nice light refreshing lager, think again. The flavor is complex and layered. In front, you get a good dose of citrus, almost a tangerine flavor, with some light malty sweetness. Then the hops kick in, and you know its a pilsner. You get a spiceiness like sage or basil, plus the deep earthy bitterness in the aftertaste of a good pilsner.
The alcohol is up to 9%, very high for a pilsner, but the "imperial" should warn you. Its barely high enough to taste, and doesnt interfere with the flavors, but careful standing up after swilling a couple.
Look: 4 - deep clear gold
Aroma: 4 - sweet and spicy
Taste: 5 - Layers of citrus, spice, and hops
Feel: 5+ CREAMY!
Total: 4.5

Monday, January 31, 2011

Belgian White

Cathedral Square Brewery is a small, pretty new brewery from St Louis. They make primarily Belgian style beers in large bottles, and on tap, for the local market. I've tried a couple of their other styles, and they do some good work.
This is the Belgian White, which is typically a light colored, citrusy summer beer, with a decent body. This one fits the standard well. It pours a deep gold color, and slightly cloudy from the live yeast and protein haze, which is intentional. The aroma is light and sweet, with a nice dose of citrus, and some mellow sourness. The flavor is a good traditional White, with a solid body, and hints of grapefruit, and a bit of spiciness from the hops. I was a bit disappointed with the aftertaste, which was on the sour side, like the yeast had been left too long. As it warms up, that dead yeast flavor gets a bit strong, and not very pleasant. But overall a pretty good beer.
Look: 3 - cloudy gold
Aroma: 3 - sweet and citrusy
Taste: 2 - lost points for dead yeast aftertaste
Feel: 4 - great body
Total: 3

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rice Beer

Ive tried rice beers from Japan before, where there is a strong tradition of brewing with rice. Actually, theres a tradition of brewing with rice in the US too, but not very well. The big name brewers use rice and corn for their beers because its cheaper than barley, but they usually dont do it well. This one does. Its the Samurai Rice Ale from Great Divide Brewing Company in Colorado.
While Japanese beers tend to be light and dry, this one keeps the flavor more in line with American tastes. Its a lovely pale gold, with lots of carbonation, and slightly cloudy. The aroma is amazing for a beer. Ever stick your head inside a box of rice crispies? Yup, thats what this smells like. Lightly sweet and ricy, plus some hoppy notes just to tease you. The flavor is quite nice, if on the light side. You get the tickling light sweetness of the rice malt, plus a touch of citrus and some crisp spicy notes from the hops. The aftertaste is not heavy at all, but has enough bitterness to balance. Overall a darn refreshing beer.
Look: 3 - cloudy gold
Aroma: 5 - rice crispies. seriously. wow.
Taste: 3 - light and clean
Feel: 3 - good body for a light beer
Total: 3.5

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter Hibernation

Winter does bring out some great seasonal brews, usually dark and strong and full of flavor, to keep you warm and happy during long winter nights. This is the Great Divide Hibernation Ale, which the label says is an English old style ale.
Its dark brown, nearly black, with moderate carbonation, and an aroma of toasted nuts and woodfires. Plenty of sweet malt and hints of maple syrup. You get some sourness in the aftertaste that reminds me of apple cider, and the alcohol is just high enough to taste. Good lingering hop flavors, overall a decent beer.
Look: 3 - dark brown
Aroma: 3 - sweet and nutty
Taste: 3 - deeply malty
Feel : 3 - good body
Total: 3

Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter Lager

I have to admit, the label caught my attention first. This is the Howl Winter Seasonal beer from Magic Hat Brewery of New York. Ive had a number of their beers in the past, and they do pretty nice work. I drank a couple of these while watching the Packers beat up on Atlanta in the playoffs.
Its a deep dark coffee brown, with a good caramel colored head. The aroma has plenty of malt, and enough kick to let you know it means business. The first taste kind of surprized me, it started off almost watery, but that goes away quickly with sip number two as the deep toasty flavors and hops assert themsleves. It has a good nutty flavor, even some of the dry tannic of walnuts, and hints of coffee, molasses, and dates. The hops are moderately strong on the finish, but not overpowering, and just enough alcohol to warm you up without affecting the flavor.
Look: 3 - deep coffee brown
Aroma: 3 - toasted malty goodness
Flavor: 2 - starts off watery, but warms up fast
Feel: 3 - nicely carbonated
Total: 2.75

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Maximum IPA

The Lagunitas Brewery of California has impressed me in the past, so I thougth I'd give this a try. Its the Maximus IPA. As a quick refresher, that stands for India Pale Ale, a highly hopped and moderately strong ale. The style originated with British colonists in India, who wanted beer from their homeland, but the standard beers couldn't survive the long trip by ship. The extra alcohol and lots of hops acted as a preservative for the voyage.
Its pours a good pale brown, slightly cloudy, with a good dose of carbonation. The aroma is all IPA, with hops, hops, and more hops. You get the crisp strong ale flavors, with some floral spiciness like basil and thyme. Lots of carbonation, almost too much. The aftertaste is darn good, the hop bitterness lingers and leaves you wanting more. Overall a great example of the style.
Look: 3 - cloudy gold
Aroma: 4 - lotsa hops
Taste: 3 - clean and tasty
Feel: 3 - good carbonation
Total: 3.25

Monday, January 10, 2011

Its not just for breakfast any more

This one came highly recommended from my local beer warehouse, so I gave it a try and bought a four pack. Its the Founders Breakfast Stout, from Founders Brewery of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Acording to the bottle, its a stout made with oatmeal, chocolate, and coffee. Sounds like a brilliant combination!
It certainly looks like a stout, pouring a deep inky black that sucks up light. The aroma is amaizing, you get fresh coffee, plus deep bitterness from the hops, and a lovely malty sweetness. The flavor is anything but subtle. Your tongue is first hit with the molasses-like malty flavors, then the bitterness of the coffee and chocolate creep in. Ever try a chocolate covered espresso bean? Thats what this beer tastes like. The hops give you a nice bite at the end, and theres just enough alchohol to let you feel the burn. Overall an excellent beer.
Look: 4 - deep inky black, nice head
Aroma: 4 - coffee and chocolate
Taste: 5 - like a chocolate covered espresso bean. seriously.
Feel: 4 - lots of body
Total: 4.25

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Im a big fan of the dark beers, and a great coffee stout is like heaven. This one looked promising, Big Shot Espresso Stout, from Twisted Pine Brewing Co of Boulder, CO
It has a deep, opaque, inky black color, and lots of carbonation. The aroma definitely says coffee, plus burnt maltiness and molasses. The first taste, however, was a bit of a let down. It comes across very watery, without a lot of body. Yes, theres lots of coffee flavor, but wheres the stout? The hops take over the aftertaste, plenty of fuggle goodness. As the beer warms up, the flavor does get a bit darker, but the wateriness cant be overcome. Overall, a disappointment.
Look: 4 - promising inky black
Aroma: 3 - fresh coffee
Taste: 2 - watery
Feel: 2 - too light for a stout
Total: 2.75

Monday, January 3, 2011

Field Trip

Over the weekend we took a little road trip to Kirkland, a suburb of St Louis, and stumbled upon the Highlands Brewing Company. They are one of the many little brewpubs that make beer just for their own bar, and dont sell in bottles. There are probably many near you, too, and they're worth a look.  In the photo here you can see the number of brews they have fresh on tap, and the bartender informed us that there were a number of others not on the board.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

First beer of the year!

Lets get this party started right!
I rang in the new year with something really special. This is Sam Adam's Infinium, a limited release beer they created late in 2010. They partnered with the Weihenstephan brewery of Germany, one of the oldest in existence, to produce a new "champagne like" beer that follows the Rheinheitsgabot, or German Purity Law, meaning it uses only water, malted barley, hops, and yeast.
Its a lovely deep golden color, with plenty of carbonation. The bottle conditioning gives it tons of tiny bubbles. The aroma is strongly citrus, from the noble hops, with some sweet undertones of peach and a bit of floral spiciness. The taste is just lovely. It has plenty of body, giving it a thick and slippery mouthfeel, but not an overpowering flavor. Theres a good sweetness from the malt, balanced by flavors of lemon peel and apricot. The hop finish is light and clean, and leaves you wanting more.
It comes on with a bang, at 10 percent alcohol, but the alcohol flavors are barely detectable. Great beer for a celebration.

Look: 4 - deep gold with lots of fine bubbles
Aroma: 5 - lots of citrus and spicy hops
Taste: 5 - layers of malt, fruit, and hops
Feel: 4 - lots of body, but still light and creamy
Total: 4.5