Thursday, May 23, 2013
Tonight I picked up a bottle of Stone Smoked Porter, which I had assumed that I had already reviewed quite a while ago. It is an American Porter with 5.9% Alcohol By Volume (ABV). According to the bottle, Stone Smoked Porter is "mysterious, smoky and verging on utterly decadent."
Stone Smoked Porter is a black bodied beer, which glows a dim ruby red when held up to a light source. A medium sized tan head leaves a thick sheet of lacing behind on the glass.
The nose is primarily black malt, with some caramel in the background, accented by smoked malt.
The smoke emerges a bit more in the taste, although it isn't too domineering, following a lightly roasted black and chocolate malt start, a subtle caramel undertone, finished off with a touch of hops, which are both earthy and citrusy. The mouth is a touch fuller than medium bodied and moderately carbonated.
Given the aggressiveness of Stone Brewing Company and their zeal to push the boundaries, the first time I had Stone Smoked Porter I was expecting it to be very heavy on the smoked malts, but it is a very nicely balanced beer. Nothing here that a fan of Porters wouldn't enjoy.
Stone Smoked Porter : B+
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
The last beer sample that I received from Sweetwater Brewing Company is an American IPA with 6.3% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) called Sweetwater IPA. We don't have distribution of Sweetwater beers here in Minnesota, but they are widely available throughout the southeast portion of the country.
Sweetwater IPA is a deep amber colored beer with a bit of a haze, topped with a medium sized off white head. The lacing clings to the glass in layers after each sip.
The nose has some pale malts with a bit of a Munich malt influence, but it is mainly focused on a bright hop presentation, which has citrus, grapefruit, and resinous piney notes.
The taste starts off with a nice malt base, mainly pale with some Munich and a touch of wheat grain, some lighter fruity esters in the transition, before settling into the hop profile, which opens up lightly floral, moves through juicy citrus and grapefruit, some underlying earthiness, and finishing lightly bitter in the piney range. The mouth is medium bodied and actively carbonated.
Sweetwater must have dry hopped the heck out of their IPA with some Simcoes and some more traditional northwester hops, because they are really nice and juicy without imparting too much bitterness to crush your palate. They certainly did a great job with this one, and there's no reason that any hop head wouldn't really enjoy it.
Sweetwater IPA : A-
A few weeks ago I got some samples of Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale from the brewery, and today I received a couple more sample beers from Sweetwater Brewing Company to check out. The first one I will check out is a Fruit Beer with 4.6% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) called Sweetwater Blue.
Sweetwater Blue is a golden colored beer, mostly clear with just a mild haze, an active internal body and a small white head. The lacing remains behind in scattered bits.
The nose is pretty focused on a blueberry presentation, with wheat and pale malts in a complementary role.
The blueberry notes are more evenly incorporated in the taste, serving more as an accent to the pale and wheat malt base. Just a touch of a leafy and citrus hop rounds it out. The mouth is light bodied and actively carbonated.
Sweetwater Brewing Company accomplishes what it sets out to do with Blue, which is to provide a nice, light, and tasty beer that would serve well to quench your thirst on a hot summer's day. Any fan of fruit beers will find that Sweetwater Blue hits the spot.
Sweetwater Blue : B-
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Stone Espresso Imperial Russian Stout is a beer that I was looking forward to trying out for a while (alright, the last month or so since I've started hearing about it), but I figured I had missed the release because I never saw it in stores. Today I did spot it, however, and of course I promptly purchased a bottle. They didn't have it in their cash register system yet, and the guy said that it just came in today, so it must still be in the process of being distributed.
Espresso Imperial Russian Stout is part of Stone Brewing Company's "Odd Year" program, in which they kind of play around with the recipes of their regular releases of Imperial Russian Stout and Old Guardian Barley Wine Ale (at least those are the two beers they have worked with so far, although the program was started in 2011 so it is still young).
Espresso Imperial Russian Stout features a slightly higher 11% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) compared to the regular version (10.5% ABV). It uses several hundred pounds of espresso beans from Ryan Bros. Coffee (per batch, not per bottle)
Stone Espresso Imperial Russian Stout is a completely black bodied beer, with no light penetrating when held up to a light source. A large, durable, dark brown head floats atop, leaving a wall of lacing in its wake.
The nose is pretty dominated by coffee and chocolate notes, with underlying darker fruits, and a hint of alcohol.
Coffee and roasted malts open up the taste, nicely complementing each other, with a chocolate and black malt base, subliminal caramel malts, darker fruits in the plum and raisin range, a touch a vanilla, and a bit of an earthy hop in the finish. The elevated alcohol does show up a bit, but overall it is nicely blended. The mouth is full bodied and silky smooth.
I've had a reputation of being a Stone homer with my friends for quite a while now, and some of my regular readers have started to notice as well, but hey, I love their stuff. That said, you can add Espresso Imperial Russian Stout to the list of Stone beers that are home runs in my ballpark. I think (although I never really like to compare beers unless they are both in front of me) that the espresso coffee beans kind of mellow of the roasty character of the regular Imperial Russian Stout, and move towards a smoother coffee flavor. Everything is nicely balanced, there are layers of flavor to peel back, and it tastes great. What's not to like?
Stone Espresso Imperial Russian Stout : A
Monday, May 20, 2013
Moving along with the beers that I picked up tonight in a sample pack from Tallgrass Brewing Company, the next one up is a Milk Stout with 5% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) called Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat. I picked up at least a can of Buffalo Sweat when Tallgrass first started distributing here maybe 4 or 5 years ago, but it has been a while since I last checked out this beer.
Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat is a black bodied beer, which admits a dim mahogany hue when held up to a light source. A fairly large khaki-colored head floats at the apex, trailing a nice amount of lacing.
The nose is mainly comprised of black and roasted malts, along with lactose sugars.
The roast pulls back a bit in the taste, with a clean black malt starting it off, a bit of an oat influence, lactose, molasses, neutral yeast, with just a touch of cocoa. Medium bodied with a pretty dry finish.
Tallgrass pulls off what it was seeking to do with Buffalo Sweat, which is deliver a nice, flavorful stout while keeping it light and drinkable. Buffalo Sweat isn't too complex, but it is well built and would work well as a beer to be enjoyed throughout the night.
Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat : B
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Tonight I picked up a sample pack from Tallgrass Brewing Company, which is located in Kansas and which currently distributes to about 13 states in the middle of the country. The sample pack has 8 cans of beer, 2 of each style. The first one I will check out is an American Pale Ale with 5.2% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) called Tallgrass 8-Bit Pale Ale. I heard a good amount of talk about 8-Bit when it was first released about a year ago, but this will be the first time that I've tried it out.
Tallgrass 8-Bit Pale Ale is a deep golden colored beer, pretty hazy and a fairly active internal state. A large off-white head floats atop, leaving ring after ring of lacing in its wake.
The nose has pale and hints of continental malts, but the focus is on the hops, which have citrus, grapefruit, lemon and herbal notes.
The taste matches the scent pretty well, with pale and Vienna malts starting it off, some lighter fruit notes in the transition, with a nice array of hops which start lightly floral, lemony, citrus, some tropical fruit with a nice bitter finish. The mouth is a touch lighter than medium bodied and actively carbonated.
The featured hops in Tallgrass 8-Bit Pale Ale are Galaxy hops, which is a newer variety from Australia, and they impart a nice, fruity flavor to the beer. Along with a number of other more traditional varieties, the hop presentation is nicely blended and provides plenty of flavor that hop heads will enjoy. I will be sure to pick up some 8-Bit Pale Ale again in the future.
Tallgrass 8-Bit Pale Ale : B+
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Grand Teton Brewing Company has a series of limited release beers called the Cellar Reserve Series, and to celebrate their 25th anniversary, this year they are bringing back some beers that have been released in the past. The first one, released in January, is a Doppelbock with 8% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) called Grand Teton Double Vision.
Grand Teton Double Vision is a purplish-black bodied brew, glowing a murky deep brown at the narrowest point of the glass when held up to a light. A large brown head floats atop, with a new layer of lacing deposited on the glass after each sip.
The nose features lots of caramel malts with hints of a Munich influence, underlying darker fruits and a hint of smoke.
A nice presentation of bready malts opens up the taste, different varieties of caramel and continental malts forming a nice, complex mix, lightly burnt, a smokiness that picks up just a bit of strength from the scent, plum and raisin, hints of vanilla, with some leafy hop in the finish. Alcohol spice is very muted and could go undetected unless you look for it. The mouth is medium bodied, moderately carbonated with a wet finish.
It's too bad that Grand Teton Double Vision doesn't come around once a year, as it is a very nice beer. Featuring a complex and tasty malt profile, with secondary characteristics adding some nice depth, Double Vision still manages to come across as a pretty drinkable beer despite its size. Check it out if you see it.
Grand Teton Double Vision : A-
Monday, May 13, 2013
Yesterday I picked up a beer from Southern Tier Brewing Company called Southern Tier Oak Aged Backburner, which is an American Barleywine with 9.6% Alcohol By Volume (ABV). The exact release date varies each year, but Backburner is a late winter release. I think I had one of regular versions of Backburner a couple of years ago, but as far as I can recall, this is my first experience with the oak aged version.
Southern Tier Oak Aged Backburner is a dark brown colored beer, which shines a clear, rose petal-red when held up to a light. A small tan head floats atop, leaving behind a nice web of lacing on the glass.
The nose is chalked full of caramel malts, darker fruit notes, a hint of pepper spice, along with some citrus hops.
Caramel malts open up the taste, molasses, lots of darker fruits in the raisin and plum range, brown sugar, some oak and vanilla notes, with a pretty nice hop presentation, starting with floral, followed by a lot of citrus and a bit of earthy bitterness in the finish. The elevated alcohol is very well blended and might go unnoticed unless you look for it. The mouth is fairly full with a fair amount of carbonation.
Southern Tier Oak Aged Backburner is a very solid beer, and any fan of American Barleywines will surely enjoy it. It features a robust malt presentation, with enough of a supporting cast to keep it interesting throughout the bottle. Oak Aged Backburner is definitely worth checking out if you come across.
Southern Tier Oak Aged Backburner : A-
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Throughout the week, I have been going through a sample pack of the non-seasonal release beers from Brourwerij St. Bernardus, which is one of the top Belgian breweries. The final beer is another Dubbel, this one with 6.7% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) called St. Bernardus Pater 6.
St. Bernardus Pater 6 is a murky, dark brown beer with purplish hues, with some tiny flakes floating about appear when held up to a light. A large tan head floats atop at the crown, with a very thick sheet of lacing adorning the glass.
The nose has a lot of dark fruity notes to it, plum, raisins, cherries, along with banana, some nuttiness, and spicy yeast notes.
Brown and Munich malts start off the taste, doughy, hints of nuts, plums, raisins, hints of cocoa, brown sugar, subtle pepper spice, with a touch of candi sugar. Just a slight sourness to it. The mouth is fairly full and actively carbonated.
It has been two or three years since I sat down with my own bottles of the various St. Bernardus beers, and having gone through them all again recently, I am reminded of how solid of a brewery they are. St. Bernardus Pater 6 is another great entry in their line, and sports lots of complexity to keep you interested throughout the glass. Definitely worth a try if you haven't come across it yet.
St. Bernardus Pater 6 : A-
Moving right along with the sample pack of all of the regular release beers from Brouwerij St. Bernardus, which has been a treat, the next one up is a Tripel with 8% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) aptly named St. Bernardus Tripel.
St. Bernardus Tripel is a cloudy, amber colored beer, with a very active internal state and particulate matter suspended throughout. A large, white head tops it off, trailing a thick coating of lacing in its wake.
The nose has some sweet pale malts, candi sugar, bananas, pears, spicy yeast and hints of vanilla.
Sweet pale malts open up the taste, spicy clove and pepper, banana, pear, hints of grapes, a bit of honey, orange peel and just a pinch of vanilla. The mouth has a smooth feel and a medium body.
It has been a while since I last had St. Bernardus Tripel, and it is every bit as good as I remember. Sporting lots of complexity, with a superb balance, this beer is sure to please any fan of the style. It is one of the better Tripels that are readily available to most people.
St. Bernardus Tripel : A