Sunday, April 29, 2012

Maine Beer Company - Zoe

Maybe it's just me, but when I hear the term "Amber Ale," the first thing that comes to mind is a beer that is kind of meant to please everyone. With a few exceptions (Troegs' Nugger Nectar being the biggest one), most of the amber ales I've had have been very middle of the road beers. Not to say that I don't enjoy ambers, but if I'm looking for new beer to try, it's not too often I'll seek out an amber. Unless, that is, it's an amber I've heard as much about as Maine Beer Company's Zoe. I was able to find a bottle at a liquor store near my sister's place in Boston and opened it soon after getting back to San Diego.

Zoe (named after the daughter of one of the brewery's co-founders) pours a dark and deep reddish brown color with a great looking one finger cream colored head. The aroma had some big citrus hops, grapefruit and some faint roasted malt. Already, I could tell that this wasn't going to be the kind of amber ale I was used to.

The taste opens with a big hit of grapefruit hop flavor followed by a complex middle that featured notes of chocolate, roasted malt, tangerine rind and toffee. The finish is hoppy and dry with a good amount of pine. The depth of flavor in this beer easily surpasses any amber I've come across and this is right up there with Nugget Nectar as the best amber I've ever had.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 37

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cambridge Brewing Company - The Audacity of Hops

Cambridge Brewing Company may not be the best known brewery in Boston, but the general consensus seems to be that it's among the best that Boston has. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to make it to the brewery on this trip (next time, Cambridge, next time) but I was able to find a bottle of their Belgian Double IPA, The Audacity of Hops, at a liquor stone in downtown Boston.

The Audacity of Hops (fantastic name, by the way) pours a hazy golden color with a one-finger cream colored head that leaves some spotty lacing down the glass. The smell wasn't massive, but I was able to pick out a musty pine hop note and a touch of the Belgian yeast.

I was a little worried about how this was going to taste when I got home from the trip and noticed that the bottling date was December, 2011. A 5 month old IPA? That couldn't still be good, right? Luckily, I was very wrong. The taste opens with a huge medley of pine and citrus hops. A hint of Belgian yeast shows up in the middle before some more pine hops and cracked black pepper show up on the finish. The finish is dry, bitter and delicious. If you don't love hops, this probably isn't for you, but if you do, this is a beer you absolutely have to seek out. If it tasted this good at 5 months old, I can't even begin to fathom how good this would taste fresh. I'll have to find out on my next trip.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 37

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sixpoint - Bengali Tiger

We spent much of our first day in Boston recovering from a delayed red eye flight that I'd rather not go into too much detail about. After lunch and a quick walk around our hotel, we took an epic nap and by the time night came around, I was feeling pretty ready to go and pumped to try some new beer. We ended up going to dinner at a place called Parish Cafe, which just so happened to have a fantastic beer selection. After trying a beer that was way up on my list, Sam Adams 26.2 (check out my Sam Adams Beers review for that one), it was time to try a beer I'd heard a lot of good things about: Sixpoint's Bengali Tiger.

Sixpoint is a brewery located in Brooklyn, New York that was founded by Shane C. Welch in 2004. Despite being a pretty young brewery, Sixpoint has a great reputation for making some quality craft beers, particularly IPAs. Bengali Tiger is their self proclaimed "homebrewed IPA interpretation" and, like many of Sixpoints offerings, comes in a can. Sweet! Alright, let's get on to the important stuff.

Bengali Tiger pours a rich copper color with a thin off-white head and leaves some slight traces of lacing down the glass. One sniff of this beer and I was in love. I picked up a huge amount of piny hops, hop resin and lots of grapefruit pith. This beer smelled right up my alley.

The taste is chock full of grapefruit pith and it's both intensely bitter and absolutely delicious. Pine sap and resin reinforce the bitterness through the middle of the beer before a touch of orange and malt sweetness give your palate a bit of a break. Despite the high levels of bitterness, this beer is dangerously drinkable. This beer is an absolute hop bomb and one of the tastier ones out there. If you come across this beer, it's really one you shouldn't miss out on.

Final Grade: A-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 37

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ithaca Beer Company - Flower Power IPA

Going into my trip to Boston, I had a pretty extensive list of beers that I wanted to find during the trip. Number 1 on the list was The Alchemist's Heady Topper, which I wasn't lucky enough to find (apparently they were between batches, so none of the bars in Boston had it when we were there). I was, however, able to find a decent amount of other things on the list. Way up there was an IPA I had heard a ton about, Ithaca Beer Company's Flower Power. In case you've never heard of them, they're a small brewery located in Ithaca, New York (also the home to Cornell University) that has a reputation for churning out a solid lineup of beers.

Flower Power IPA pours a clear deep golden color with a thin, off-white colored head. The aroma has a ton of floral and citrus hops along with a nice dose of grapefruit and caramel.

The taste opens with huge notes of grapefruit pith, orange rind and pink grapefruit flesh with a nice caramel malt backbone to hold down all the hops. The beer finishes on a dry and bitter but very clean note. I was pretty sure that us west coasters had a monopoly on great IPAs going into this trip, but after this beer, I'm really not so sure. It was every bit as bold, aggressive and tasty as anything I've found out here.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 37

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sam Adams Beers!

I know what you're thinking: "Ok, jackass, it's been almost two weeks with no entries. How am I supposed to find out about tasty new beers if you're not writing about them???" Well, hopefully that's not exactly what you're thinking, but I'll admit it's been a while since my last entry. Rest assured that I haven't been spending my time off doing nothing, though. I've spent it drinking beer! In Boston! And I've got quite a few reviews lined up as a result of the trip! So let us start by taking a look at the first brewery most people think of when they think of Boston beer: Sam Adams.

During our trip to Boston, my sister (who lives there) took us to the Sam Adams Brewery, which is located in a strange little area in the south of the city called Jamaica Plains. When we got into the brewery, I was amazed by how small it was. Then we took the tour and I found out why. Here's an interesting fact: Samuel Adams Boston Lager isn't brewed in Boston. It's not even brewed in Massachusetts! The original brewery in Massachusetts was much to small to keep up with demand for the beer, so production was moved to larger breweries in Cincinnati, Ohio and Breinigsville, Pennsylvania. Crazy sauce! Even though most of the beer that Sam Adams makes isn't brewed in Boston, the original brewery is being used to some pretty interesting stuff; mainly for test batches for new recipes and for their barrel aging system. One of the first things we came across during the tour was a rack of barrels containing Sam Adams most notorious brew, Utopias. I don't know if I'll ever get to try this beer (it runs for anywhere from $175-$250+ a bottle), but I popped a huge beer geek boner just laying eyes on the barrels.

A few other beers were in the works in the barrel room, but seeing Utopias in the barrels had to be the coolest part of the tour. Someday, Utopias, someday. Anyways, let's move on to the important part: the beer!

At the end of the tour, we were given samples of three of Sam Adams beers: Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Samuel Adams Summer Ale, and 26.2 (a beer brewed exclusively for bars in Boston during the Boston Marathon). Let's start with the original: Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager

Samuel Adams Boston Lager pours a clear copper color with a foamy cream colored head and leaves some nice lacing down the glass. The smell is clean, with some citrus hop notes and caramel malts.

The taste is a bit sweet, with a lot of caramel malt, tempered by a dash of citrus hops. A faint breadiness creeps in on the finish. With the beers out today, Samuel Adams Boston Lager isn't the groundbreaking beer that it was when it was first released in 1985, but it's still a solid and very drinkable beer. Next up was Samuel Adams Summer Ale.

Samuel Adams Summer Ale

Samuel Adams Summer Ale pours a golden, honey color with a very thin, off-white head. The smell was a bit faint, but I picked up some faint wheat and citrus zest. To me, it seemed a bit like a mix of lemon and lime.

The taste is about what you'd expect from a summer ale: refreshing, grainy and lemony. This isn't a beer you're going to have to spend hours breaking down. It's simple and well suited for a hot summer's day. Now let's move on to a more interesting beer: 26.2.


26.2 is a Gose style beer, which means that it's an unfiltered wheat beer that is brewed with coriander and...wait for it...salt. I had heard of the style and seen one before, but 26.2 was the first Gose I'd ever actually tried.

26.2 (named after the number of miles in a marathon) pours a hazy, pale yellow color with a thin, off-white head. The scent was faint, but I picked up a good amount of the coriander and a bit of wheat and citrus.

The taste is predominantly grain and wheat with a touch of citrus bitterness. The finish brings a hint of salt at the back of the throat with lingers until you take the next sip. The result is a beer that is insanely drinkable and pretty approachable for just about anyone.

Lastly, I want to review a beer that I picked up in the Sam Adams gift shop. It's one of the beers that they brew as part of their Barrel Room Collection: Samuel Adams American Kriek. This beer is made with Balaton cherries from Michigan and aged in oak barrels at the brewery in Boston.

Samuel Adams American Kriek

Samuel Adams American Kriek pours a copper and reddish color with an off-white head that has hints of pink in it. The smell is full of black cherries, but doesn't present much else. Still, I was excited to try this one.

The taste is full of tart, unripe black cherry flavor with just a touch of funk. The finish brings some red delicious apple sweetness. I'll admit, I was hoping for a bit more from this. After about two sips, you had figured out every dimension of this beer. It didn't have the complexities of a true Belgian kriek. Still, it was a good attempt and maybe the best American kriek I've had to date.

That just about wraps up the review of the Sam Adams beers I was fortunate enough to try while I was in Boston. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for a lot more great beer from this trip.

Final Grades:

Samuel Adams Boston Lager: B+

Samuel Adams Summer Ale: B-

26.2: A-

Samuel Adams American Kriek: B

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 37

Friday, April 6, 2012

Anchorage Brewing Company - Galaxy White IPA

Anchorage Brewing Company is one of the newer breweries to hit the market and definitely one of the more interesting breweries out there. The head brewer, Gabe Fletcher, left Midnight Sun in 2010 to start a new brewery with a focus on barrel aging and the use of brettanomyces. So far, Anchorage has bottled 6 beers, 2 of which I've been lucky enough to try. One of their newest releases is a beer called Galaxy White IPA.

First of all, this is one complex beer. Here's the description on the bottle:

"Ale brewed with Galaxy Hops, coriander, kumquats, and peppercorns. Fermented and aged in French oak foudres with a wit yeast. Dry hopped with Galaxy hop. Bottle conditioned with brettanomyces and wine yest."

Holy crap. This beer sounds awesome! A dry hopped white IPA that's bottle conditioned with brett??? Amazing! Time to check this one out.

Galaxy White IPA pours an incredibly hazy honey color with an absolutely beastly bone-white head that takes forever to recede and leaves big rings of lace down the glass. The smell is really complex, with notes of candied orange, juicy mandarin orange, a touch of oak, some nice barnyard funk, a bit of coriander and a touch of white pepper.

The taste opens with a bit of citrus sweetness, then moves towards a more bitter middle and finish. Grapefruit pith, brett and some biscuity malt all combine with some peppery hops to form a dry and lingering finish. Overall, I wouldn't say this was quite as good as Anchorage's Whiteout Wit, but it's still a brilliant beer. If you see this out there, don't hesitate to pick it up. It's one of the more interesting beers you'll find out there.

Final Grade: A-

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 37

Monday, April 2, 2012

Anheuser-Busch, Inc. - Bud Light Platinum

I first heard about Bud Light Platinum (as so many others did) during the Super Bowl. In case you missed it, here's the ad. I wasn't particularly surprised that Bud Light was launching a new product, as they seem to drop some "groundbreaking" new version of Bud Light every few months. But I was curious about what was different about this one, as the only real things that the ads say about Bud Light Platinum is that it's "triple filtered," has a "smooth finish," and has "top shelf taste." That's not incredibly descriptive. Anyways, I was able to find a single bottle at Bristol Farms a few days ago and decided to really find out what was different about Bud Light Platinum.

There are two obvious differences between Bud Light and Bud Light Platinum right off the bat. One is the bottle color. Bud Light Platinum comes in a "cobalt blue" color, which is a little off-putting for me, if for no other reason than the fact that the only other beer I know of that comes in a bottle of this color is the retired Sam Adams Triple Bock- widely known as one of the worst beers ever made. The other main difference is the alcohol percentage. Standard Bud Light clocks in at 4.2% ABV while Bud Light Platinum comes in at 6%. So it's got that going for it, which is nice. Anyways, let's move on to the really important part: the tasting.

Bud Light Platinum pours a very pale and clear color with a thin white head that disappears pretty much as soon as it forms. The smell was similar to Bud Light, but a lot sweeter. I picked up a lot of grain and boiled corn along with some corn flakes. To me, it kind of smelled more like a malt liquor than a beer.

The taste is pretty similar to the smell, with a lot of grainy sweetness. There wasn't any real hint of hop flavor to speak of, so the flavor was very malt and grain dominated. I picked up some boiled corn and grain throughout with a bready yeast flavor on the finish that grew more buttery as the beer warmed. Again, I was definitely reminded of malt liquor.

Not surprisingly, this beer is pretty crappy. But it's not close to challenging beers like Wild Blue for the title of crappiest beer out there. And if you have to drink crappy beer, you might as well drink Bud Light Platinum over regular Bud Light because at least you'll have to consume less crappy beer than normal to get drunk. Unless you're in the worst of circumstances though, I would stay away from this one.

Final Grade: D

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 37