Thursday, December 31, 2009

Nøgne-Ø Winter Ale

Nøgne-Ø Winter Ale, Norway, 8.5%

Ah yes, another exciting Nøgne-Ø installment!

This is dark. Very dark. Opaque, with a thick, creamy cappuccino head.
It smells grainy - a little brown sugar. It's got a thick mouthfeel, toasty, caramel, yet some fairly bold hops. Almost like a stout with some American C-hops thrown in. Crazy.

There are some slight phenols, finishes pretty hot. This warms you UP.

I like it.

Orlando Brewing Partners European Pilz

Orlando Brewing European Pilz, Orlando, FL, 5.2%

I'd heard about the Orlando Brewing Partners brewery, but their beers are a little hard to find, even though they're about an hour's drive from here. Luckily, the Whole Foods in Orlando stocks plenty. I grabbed this pilsner with high hopes. And hey, it's organic!

It pours a nice golden yellow, with a monster ice cream scoop head. It smells grassy, with a little spicy hop scent in there.

The taste? Just as it smells, with the spicy, grassy czech hops up front. It's nice and peppery, crisp. Very delicious - we'll have to pick up more of these on our next Orlando run.

Ridgeway Brewing Lump of Coal

Lump of Coal Dark Holiday Stout, Ridgeway Brewing, UK, 8% abv

Well, you're certainly not a bad boy if you receive this lump of coal in your stocking!

This pours a dark, brown-black, with a nice fluffy tan head. There's a big malty smell - fruity and sweet.

The taste is also a big punch of malty sweetness, followed by some alcohol, then gentle toast. It finishes fairly dry. Really yummy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fantôme de Noël

Fantôme de Noël, Belgian Christmas beer, 10%, Belgium.

Fantôme is one of the breweries that I heard ordered a lot by Americans when I was sitting in the Delirium Cafe. I assumed it was pretty hard to get in the States, but with 2000+ choices on the menu, I never got around to it.
Turns out, it's not too rare over here, and I picked up this bottle of their Christmas beer a while back....I think it was from last holiday, but that's ok - for this style, it might actually taste better having aged a bit. Oddly enough, it's both corked and capped for good measure. Always fun to have to use two tools to open a beer!

It pours a nice reddish-brown, with a small, tight head. It smells fruity, slightly funky, with a whisper of spice.
The taste caught me by surprise - tart fruit, cherry, apple, slight cinnamon and spice lingering...but very restrained. It tastes very much like a lambic. I think Cari found it to be too sour, but I thought it was delightful.

Lucky Beer

Lucky Beer from Lucky Drink Company, 4.8%, China.

I bought this for the same reason everyone else does...really the only reason anybody should: the bottle. How can you not love a laughing Buddha filled with beer?

It pours crystal clear - a lovely gold with a head that disappears in seconds. It smells like corn. Maybe some Saaz hops in there...but it's not altogether pleasant.
It tastes kind of like an import version of Budweiser, big corn, a little skunk funkiness, and fairly watery to finish. It's not great, but probably a good way to wash down some Chinese takeout.

Wychwood Hobgoblin

Wychwood's Hobgoblin Dark English Ale, 5.2%, UK.
Nick mentioned he grabbed one of these at the Fermentation Lounge, and I remembered passing this over a few times at our local store, so I had to give it a try.

It pours dark, but fairly clear brown - just a hint of red, with a nice pat of foam on top.
It smells of molasses and fruit, and the taste follows with a big fruity presence, slightly apple-y. The mouthfeel is fairly light. There's some malty biscuit action going on there. Even though there's tons of flavor, it drops away quickly. This is one easy-drinking brew!

Cigar City Big Sound

Cigar City's Big Sound Scotch Ale, 8.5%, Tampa, FL

Another offering from a local-ish brewing company. I'm always excited to spy a new Cigar City style on the shelf...but holy crap, they're expensive! I think this bottle was about 12 bucks.

This pours a light coffee brown with a thin tan head. As you can see in the picture I flubbed the pour and dumped all the yeast in, which is why it's so muddy. I need to remember that these guys bottle-ferment.
It smells malty - molasses, coffee. The taste is slightly toasty, roasty...maybe a little smoky? There's plenty of malt sweetness and some alcohol presence in the background. There's a surprising hop balance, it's not nearly the malt bomb I was expecting.

I only wish this were about half the price, so I could keep some in my fridge at all times.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Stone 13th Anniversary Ale

Stone's 13th Anniversary Ale, 9.5%

Hey, Happy Anniversary! This was another Whole Foods find - expensive, but in spite of its "collectible limited-edition" status, the bottle is printed with instructions not to cellar this beer, but to drink it immediately. Can do!

The color is just beautiful...a nice dark, copper brown, with a nice head.

It smells seriously of some citrusy hops...a little orangey.
The taste is initially a bit bitter, some toastiness, followed by the firm hand of the grapefruity hops. Spicy, heavy mouthfeel...but not quite as hop-heavy. There are some low malty chocolatey notes in the back that tie everything together. Really interesting stuff.

Nøgne-Ø Saison

Nøgne-Ø Saison, 6.5% from Norway.

Ahhh, more Nøgne-Ø... I was extremely pleased to find another variety from my favorite Norwegian brewery at Whole Foods in Orlando. I'm not a huge fan of saisons, but I'm learning to appreciate them.

This one pours a hazy golden orange, with just a light dusting of foam. It smells sweet, yeasty, but doesn't have that barnyard funk a lot of saisons have.

The taste however, POW. It's starts mouth-puckeringly sour, with plenty of horsey funkitude. The hops chime in. This is some complex stuff, but it some how ends clean, and leaves you reaching for the next sip.

Glad to see this one didn't disappoint. Now if I could just find their Imperial Stout...

Cigar City Guava Grove Saison

Cigar City's Guava Grove Saison, 8% abv.

Here's one from a new Tampa brewery, Cigar City.
(Interestingly enough, the head brewer used to brew for the greatly-missed Buckhead Brewery in Tallahassee.)

I allegedly had this before as a sampler at Coaster's, where they had a small keg on hand (that promptly ran out with my order). I think I got served something else with no explanation. I wasn't surprised to find this bottle tasted a little different.

This pours a pleasant red-orange with a massive head. It smells like guava, as it should, since it's fermented with guava. There's some Belgian spice aroma, clove, some funkiness (appropriate for a saison).
The taste is fruity, grainy, spicy...some yeast goodness in there. It ends sweet, but crisp. It's very refreshing, yet very complicated. It's a little champagne-like in some respects.
Exciting stuff from this new brewery. I grabbed both offerings available at Downtown Produce...the Scotch Ale is calling...

Boulder Beer Buffalo Gold

Buffalo Gold golden ale from Boulder Beer, 4.95%

I've had this one before, and couldn't pass up grabbing another sixer for $3.99 on super-sale at Downtown Produce!

It pours a beautiful orange-golden color, with a nice head that dissipates quickly. Extreme sparkling clarity.

It smells a little of green apples, some grain.
The taste is fully of appley-honey sweetness, medium body, with some earthy hop bitterness to ground it all. There's a nice crisp, dry finish, making this really easy-drinking. It's a steal at this price!

Hofbraü Oktoberfest

Hofbraü Oktoberfest - 6% abv, 11.2 oz bottle

Hey it's time for Oktoberfest! Ok, so that was actually last month, but still.

This pours a lovely light golden color with a beautiful head. It smells grassy, maybe a little piney.

First sip gives you some nice spicy hops with plenty of carbonation, some sweet grain, and nice grassy hops in the aftertaste. Some complain that it's not like most Oktoberfest beers, which are a little darker and sweeter, but it's a lovely crisp and satisfying beer. But what's up with the tiny bottles?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hoppin' Frog B.O.R.I.S.

BORIS the Crusher Oatmeal Imperial Stout - 9.4% from Akron Ohio.
Apparently BORIS stands for Bodacious Oatmeal Russian Imperial Stout...cute. Apparently, this was an Imperial Stout winner at the Great American Beer Festival.
I was excited to see this at a recent trip to the Orlando Whole Foods, since nobody seems to carry this brewery locally.

It pours like oil, thick...syrupy, with no head (maybe it's the dishwashing soap we use).
It smells like coffee, maybe some molasses. You definitely taste the dark malts...some good roastiness. Thick mouthfeel with an earthy aftertaste. It's sweet, with some snap and a fairly clean aftertaste. Tasty!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Blue Dawg Wild Blue

Next up is Wild Blue from "Blue Dawg Brewing", an 8% blueberry lager. The brewing company is in quotes because it's another attempt by Anheiser Busch to fool customers into thinking they're purchasing a craft beer from a small-scale brewery. It kind of reminds me of the Red Dawg/Icehouse marketing schemes of the '90's.

It pours a lovely dark reddish-purple, with no head and very few bubbles...probably could have used a more polished glass.
It's a little hazy. The smell is super-fruity. Juicy, almost like Belgian yeast.

The mouthfeel is thick, heavy, syrupy. There's a massive sweet and somewhat sour punch that tweaks your jaws, followed by a sticky GAH! finish.

Cloying, sticky, sweet, fruity...not at all a clean lager flavor anywhere, just something like a really bad grape soda. It's definitely a challenge to finish an entire bottle. I actually like most fruit beers, but this stretches the limits of what can be called beer. It's just ...not really horrible, and you contemplate handing a couple of these to some girl who doesn't like beer...but it leaves you with that horrible end-of-the-drinking-binge-I-might-throw-up feeling.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Andelot Cuvee Euphorique

Andelot's Cuvee Euphorique, Belgian Blonde, 6.5%

This is another find from Total Wine that we don't seem to have in stock locally - a Belgian beer I'd never heard of...and a blonde, one of my favorite styles. I was looking forward to this one.

It pours a beautiful golden orangey sunset color, with a modest head.
The nose is strong - apple, grape, ..very fruit juicy.
There's some fruit taste, but it's drier, some malt sweetness that gives way to a nice crisp finish.

The carbonation is lively - it's good stuff, a nice clean-tasting Belgian that's pretty refreshing.

I even dig the synthetic cork.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Peak Organic Nut Brown Ale

Here's the second in the mix pack of Peak Organic, this time, a nut brown ale. It's interesting to note, they alternate the label photographs, a la Jones Soda.

This one presents itself a clear mahogany with a nice sticky head. It smells slightly nutty & sweet. The taste however, is pretty thin. There's a slight suggestion of toast...maybe a little maple syrup?

In all, it's pretty mild. Not offensive, but nothing special.

Peak Organic Pale Ale

Peak Organic Pale Ale, 5.05% from Portland, ME.

Our local beer place was running a crazy sale on a mixed 12 pack...$7.99? Sure, I'll try them. First up is the pale ale. It pours a nice golden brown, with a nice head. I wasn't expecting this to be bottle-finished, so I accidentally muddied an otherwise clear beer with the yeast in the bottom of the bottle.

It smells sweet, slightly herbal...the taste is fairly light, with sweetness followed by a nice hop punch and slightly citrus notes.
It's an easy drinking little number, with a nice hop presence.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hevelius Kaper

Hevelius Kaper, 8.7%, from Poland.

So far I've really just loved every Polish beer I've I thought I'd give this one a try. It's super cheap, and 8.7%! How bad could it be?

It pours a light red-amber, sparkling clear. There's a decent head that sticks around. It smells a little bit like light beer - corn, faint hops.

The taste, however is nothing like light beer. The hops jump right in with a bitter herbal, thick flavor. There's a slightly dry finish. It's not horrible, but not a standout. Probably won't pick this up again.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Trappistes Rochefort 10

Ah, Rochefort 10...A Belgian quadruple, 11.3% !

This one's in my top five favorite beers of all time. It's pretty similar to the Westvleteren 12, which is perfection. Although this beer can be found all over the place in the States, I can't seem to get my hands on any (though #8 turns up occasionally). Cari ended up ordering some from and had it shipped to us for my birthday. I've been rationing them out slowly.

I'd heard many great things about this brew before my trip to Belgium, so I had this one on my list. When I asked the bartender at the Delirium Cafe if they had any Rochefort 10, he laughed, "I should hope so!". It's like asking Hooters if they have any Bud Light.

This is a pretty small bottle, it pours a dark, opaque brown - kind of cloudy looking, with no head. It smells like sweet dark fruit, with plenty of alcohol and malt coming through.

The taste is sweet, with molasses and sweet malt, followed by some alcohol burn. It numbs the tongue, yet is surprisingly smooth.

This is not beer. It's something bigger, something better, something more important. There's just something different about beer made with love by monks to glorify God, to spread cheer, to fund their operation...whatever the reason, I'm glad they do it.

Baron's Black Wattle Seed Ale

Baron's Black Wattle Superior Ale, 5.8%, Wollahra, Australia.

I must admit, I'd never heard of Baron's or wattle seed before, and Australian beers are pretty scarce around here, so I was pretty excited to find this at Total Wine in Palm Beach Gardens.

It turns out that wattle seed is what Australians call acacia berries...or something. I'm not sure I could identify acacia in a lineup, but I've heard of it, at least.

It pours a deep reddish brown with a thick tan head that disappears quickly. It smells like toffee, maybe some molasses. The taste is surprisingly rich - toffee, some chocolate, a little grain and toasty aftertaste, followed by some coffee flavors. All this, while remaining fairly medium-bodied.
It's hard to believe it's got a slightly higher alcohol punch.
In one word: yum. This was a good find.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Downtown Produce Craft Beer Fest

Last weekend we just happened to be going to our local beer supplier (I guess they have more than just beer), Downtown Produce. As we pulled in, we noticed the parking lot was overflowing.
"What the? Oh! There's a beer tasting going on today! Sweet!"

They had a pretty nice little setup with various brewery reps pouring samples at stations throughout the store.

I managed to try (some for the second time):

Orange Blossom Pilsner - A locally owned beer that's brewed by Thomas Creek in Greenville, SC. Tastes the way an orange blossom smells.

Dogfish Head Midas Touch - wacky stuff, saffron, grapes - supposedly from an ancient beer recipe.

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron - truly strange. A brown ale that smells like sawdust and tastes like cedar. But in a good way.

Abita Satsuma Wit - Mmmm...fruity. Refreshing. Part of their seasonal harvest series.

Abita Amber - Pretty light and non-descript. Not offensive, but nothing to write home about.

Brooklyn Local #2 - A Belgian strong dark ale, very tasty.

Harpoon Summer - This is actually a kolsch, I believe. Seemed kind of flavorless next to the other selections.

Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yella Pils - Nothing too special. Standard pils, but without much hop bite.

Oskar Blues Old Chub - Great Scottish ale, with a hint of smokiness.

Sierra Nevada Porter - solid porter, very tasty.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nøgne Ø Pale Ale

Another offering from Nøgne Ø, this time the Pale Ale, 6% abv from Grimstad, Norway.

After trying the brown ale, I was pretty excited to see what else Nøgne Ø has available. Unfortunately, this is the only other style I can get around here at the moment, which is probably a good thing, since this 500ml bottle is $5.50.

The glass pours a hazy reddish brown with a nice off-white head that fades to a thin coating.

The nose is pretty floral, with some grassiness and malt sweetness peeking through.

The hops are right up front in the taste, but there's a surprising balance of malt. You kind of expect this to assault your palate, but it immediately eases up with some nice breadiness. The Northern Brewer hops add some earthiness, while the Centennial hits you with some citrus tartness. It finishes fairly crisp, with some slight puckering grapefruit at the very end.

Tasty stuff, and the more you drink, the more subdued the bitterness becomes.
It's really an interesting variation of the American Pale Ale.

Victory Golden Monkey

Golden Monkey Tripel from Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, PA, 9.5%

Pours a hazy golden yellow with a slight reddish tint and a modest head that quickly disappears.
It smells pretty spicy, with yeast and maybe some orange - the alcohol is pretty obvious from the scent.

The taste is pretty spicy, too, with some good hops up front, and a pleasant fruity/hoppy aftertaste. The alcohol warmth is throughout, but there's a nice crisp peppery & earthy phenolic finish.

Very drinkable, especially for such a high alcohol content.
I certainly wouldn't turn down one (or two) of these again.

New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale

Fat Tire Amber Ale, and American amber ale, 5.2% from New Belgium Brewing Inc, in Fort Collins, CO.

I was pretty excited to try this one, since we don't get New Belgium stuff in Florida yet...but Georgia has it! So when we went to Cari's uncle's lake house in Georgia last week, I was able to try a commemorative Georgia 22oz bottle (basically the same label, but with a "Georgia" banner slapped on it).

This beer is pretty famous as kind of a gateway craft beer...the beer that new craft beer drinkers list as their favorite, and old beer snobs dismiss as overrated.
My expectations may have been a little high.

The beer pours a deep red/copper color, with a nice thick head, and crystal clarity. The smell? Hmm. I thought it might be somewhat Belgian-y, what with the company name and all. Nope. "This smells like a dirty bathroom," Cari said.
It's a little grassy, a bit peppery... and yeah, some urinal cake smells going on there. Not super-pleasant.

The taste? Pretty biscuity. Usually the maltiness of a beer is described in a range from bready to biscuity to toasty and so forth. This is a pretty good example of biscuit flavors.
Mouthfeel is a little thin - there's some toastiness, but also some veggie/corn business, with a slight metallic edge.

I gotta say I'm not a big fan. I drank a few, and it wasn't completely unpleasant, but I'm hoping some of their other offerings are a little better.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Southampton Publick House Altbier

Altbier Düsseldorf-Style Ale from Southampton Publick House (NY) - 5% abv.
I was extremely excited to find an altbier when I took a side trip to ABC Wine & Spirits recently...they're impossible to find! Plus, I had just read a blurb somewhere about Southampton Publick House, so I was anxious to try one of their brews for the first time.
Not to mention this is a style I'm hoping to brew next, since it traditionally features Spalt hops (from the village my family comes from).
What's an altbier, anyway? It's a German brown ale, translating literally to "old beer"... referring to the long period of conditioning, which mellows out ale's fruitier flavors. Marketing folks don't really want to put something out as an "old beer", so a few examples exist as a "Copper Ale" or "Amber Ale" in the States.
This particular example pours a deep copper/amber/brown, with crystal clarity.
It smells like ... a honey graham cracker, maybe a little grapey? It's super-sweet.
The taste is pretty much in line with the smell - sweet, sweet, sweet caramel malt with bready light hops way in the background. The aftertaste is delicious.
Cari took one sip and declared, "Oh, that's good. That's really good."
It may be a little on the sweet side for the style, but it still remains fairly crisp and refreshing.
I think Cari and I will be fighting over the last one in the six pack.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cuvée des Trolls

Cuvée des Trolls, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, 7%, from Dubuisson.

This one of my favorite beers.
I'll just start by saying that.

It was also one of the last beers I had in Belgium before our honeymoon ended. Sitting in the Delirium Cafe, flipping through the giant menu book, I couldn't resist the cute little hop-hat wearing troll logo. It was one of the featured beers on the menu, and overwhelmed by choices, I decided to give it a shot, and I was glad I did.

Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to find this in the States (or completely impossible so far). But for my birthday Cari was nice enough to order a little 6-pack gift pack that includes the frosted Trolls glass from Belgian Shop, a great online store for some of the most obscure Belgian beers...yes, you can even order Westvleteren. Just be prepared to pay about 10x the amount of shipping costs you'd expect.

So..what's it like?
Unfortunately, the bottles are tiny... 25 cl, or about 8 1/2 oz. But maybe a big bottle is too much goodness at once.
It's pale orangey-yellow, virtually no head, with light carbonation.
The smell is extremely fruity - some apple, pear, orange...maybe some honey.
The taste is just as sweet, fruity, with some light hops in the aftertaste. But in spite of all the sweetness, it's still fairly crisp. It's just a nice, sweet, clean, refreshing beverage (with a deceptive amount of alcohol).

Most reviews I've read have been pretty mediocre, but for me, it's a real treat.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

De Proef Collaboration/Signature Ale

De Proef Brouwerij's Brewmaster's Collaboration: Signature Ale (with Tomme Arthur of Port Brewing). 750ml 8.5%

This is an interesting bottle - a collaboration between the American Port Brewing Company and The Belgian brewers De Proef. The goal was to make an ale with American hops and Belgian yeast. The result is a hybrid with Amarillo, UK Phoenix and German Brewer's Gold hops, fermented with traditional yeast as well as brettanomyces (funky, wild stuff).

The ale pours a nice light coppery brown...pretty hazy. Big fluffy head that punches down pretty quickly, but leaves some nice lacing.

The smell is big sweet cotton candy, some malt, apples, a little bit of brett mustiness. Not at all what I was expecting. It smells like dessert.

I'm ready to get hit by some major saison-like funkiness in the taste, but it's far from it. Pretty well-tempered, fairly sweet at first, with some strong carbonation. There's a little bit of bready-ness, some yeast fruity/spiciness...followed by some pretty assertive earthy hops in the aftertaste ("Yuck, too much!" says Cari - I disagree.). Halfway through the glass, there's some alcohol warmth, but it remains pretty drinkable. It's kind of an interesting ride from sweet to earthy on the tongue. The finish is very dry.
Very tasty, but at about $16 a bottle, it's a little pricey. Still, a very interesting experiment.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Aventinus Weizen Eisbock

Aventinus Weizen Eisbock, from G.Schneider & Sohn, approx. 12% abv.
I've read a lot about Eisbocks recently, and decided to pick one up. Apparently, back in the days before temperature-controlled shipping, beer would occasionaly freeze in transport. When separated from the layer of ice, the beer would become more concentrated and more complex in flavor. Today, modern brewers recreate this accidental style with controlled methods.
The Aventinus pours dark brown - almost cola-like in appearance, with zero head. The aroma is pretty interesting - some faint sweetness, then some fruitiness at the back end. (Is there such a thing as "after-smell"?) Some hints of molasses.
The taste is a little surprising - I think I was expecting something wheaty - but instead, it's almost like port wine...or a Belgian quad. Wading through the alcohol, there's some serious toffee and caramel flavors, with a little raisin in the finish...and some lingering maltiness.
It's really tasty stuff that sneaks up on you. I was really pleasantly surprised with this one.

Guinness 250th Anniversary Stout

A new Guinness! Released for the company's 250th anniversary, this 5% dry Irish stout hit the shelves for a limited time back in April.

Our local Irish bar, Meg O'Malley's has it on tap, so I had to try it (a few times).

First off, it arrives without the dramatic nitrogen cascading bubbles and virtually no head. It seems much lighter & less carbonated than the traditional pint.

Lots of coffee flavors...and cola? First impressions lead me to believe it's a new half stout-half cola concoction. It's much thinner and lighter than its sibling. There's a little bit of bitterness and slightly sour taste you'd expect, but it's a very pleasant beer.

I think I actually prefer this to the original.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Nøgne Ø Brown Ale

The Nøgne Ø brewery from Norway has been getting a lot of attention in the craft beer world lately. I kind of figured this would be one brewer I'd have to hunt down online or something, but Downtown Produce came through for me again! Turns out, I'd been passing by the mysterious and unassuming "Ø" bottles for some time without realizing it.

Nøgne Ø (pronounced something like "NIRG-nuh IR") means "naked island" from a Henrik Ibsen line, by the way.

I selected the Brown Ale, 4.5% abv.

It pours with a minimal head, high carbonation, and a sweet, toasty coffee smell. Mmmm...

The tast is all that and more, with amazing coffee, chocolate, and toastier than most brown flavors. It has a looooong roasted finish.

Truly amazing. This is one of my favorite styles, brewed in my favorite way. Love it.

BJ's Pook's Pilsner

Second round from a trip to BJ's Restaurant and Brewery in Orlando yields a Pook's Pilsner.

BJ's brews (contract brewed by St. Arnold) are all pretty nice, so I thought I'd try the pilsner to wash down the rest of my buffalo chicken pizza.

Not much to say - super clear yellow, with pretty good carbonation, but lacking in any sort of head (maybe the glass isn't the cleanest).

Still, the taste is pleasant, with some nice grassy hops and a clean finish. Very refreshing - I'd order it again, but it's hard not to constantly rotate between all the brews on tap there.

Cari would love this one.

BJ's Nit Wit

Next up are a pair of beers from Bj's Restaurant and Brewery in Orlando (contract brewed by St. Arnold's).

First is Nit Wit, a Belgian Wit (or "white") beer, 4.5% abv, part of their 2009 seasonal beer series.

As you can see, it pours a nice hazy light yellow-orange, but without much head. There's a nice, fruity, yeasty nose.

The wheat taste comes through, along with orange peel and coriander, maybe some faint lemon. It's pretty tasty - light and refreshing but full of complex flavors.

Stone Imperial Russian Stout

Stone Imperial Russian Stout, 10.5%, Limited Release for Spring 2009.

I've really been enjoying the offerings from Stone Brewing Company since they made their Florida appearance this year, and I've been drinking a lot of Russian Imperial Stouts recently, so I was especially excited to try this beer.

It pours thick, like motor oil with a massive root beer float head. The smell of dark fruit, coffee, and malt makes my mouth water.

The taste is somewhat aggressive...heavy on the palate, but tapers to a smooth chocolate. It's incredibly thick.

I can't help but think this would taste much better in about a year. I think I sampled this way too young - it really needs to mellow and let the flavors blend a bit.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Moinette Blonde

Another tough day at work, another excuse for a world-class glass of Belgian beer. This time it's Brasserie Dupont's Moinette Blonde, a 8.5% abv ale in a 750ml corked bottle. Most people are pretty familiar with their Saison, but I thought I'd try the blonde, since it's definitely turning out to be one of my favorite styles.

This one fills up the glass with an enormous pillowy head that eventually punches down into nothing. The color is quite a bit lighter than in the picture- more hazy orange than brown.

The aroma is nothing short of wild. Lots of funky hay with some raisin and citrus. Sorta smells like it was made in a barn.

That untamed aroma makes the taste all the more surprising - there's some peppery hops up front, but that gives way to some alcohol phenols, coriander, pears...light sweetness underneath. The body is fairly light, and the finish is pretty dry. Going back to the glass, you're hit by that powerful nose again. This beer takes over your senses of smell and taste, and numbs the rest. Really top-notch and a must try.

Abita Purple Haze

We had a great time with the in-law's at Jensen Beach's Cajun restaurant Crawdaddy's. When eating Louisiana food, you've got to drink Louisiana beer, right?
Crawdaddy's didn't have a huge selection, but they had a couple of Abita selections, which gave me a chance to re-try Purple Haze, their 4.2% Raspberry Wheat beer.
Sadly, mine was served just like this - in the bottle. Color? Aroma? Oh well. I wasn't going to be a complete beer nerd and demand a glass.
I took a swig from the bottle to find...hmmm, not bad. But where's the raspberry I was promised? You can't really find it. There's some nice wheat character, and some faint orangey-ness, but that's about it.
Still, it's not a bad choice for washing down your food if you want a beer that doesn't get in your way. It's not too exciting, though. Next time I think I'd skip over this one.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bell's Two Hearted Ale

Here's an American IPA I had the chance to sample again this weekend at the Melbourne Arts Festival at Matt's Casbah, a pretty nice place to eat downtown. Fortunately, it's one of their draught selections, but unfortunately, it was served in a plastic cup (no doubt due to the high traffic expected for the day).
Bell's Two Hearted Ale (7% abv) is one of those love-it-or-hate-it beers. As an American IPA, there's not much balance here - it's all about hops.
It's a pleasing orangey-apricot color with a creamy head that sticks around. It smells beautiful, lots of floral, fruity hops - but the taste is even more powerful than the aroma...extremely overloaded hoppiness that leans more to the citrus/fruity side. Even with the tongue-melting flavors, it never becomes overly bitter, and finishes fairly dry.
It's not the best thing to pair with food, since its taste will overwhelm pretty much everything around it, but it's not a bad selection for a night of drinkin'.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ommegang Three Philosophers

Here's the third and final beer from the Ommegang 3-pack: Three Philosophers, a Belgian quadruple blend, 9.8%abv.

I think this has always been my favorite in the Ommegang lineup. It's kind of interesting - a blend of 98% ale (quadruple) and 2% Kriek (a cherry lambic)...a very subtle way of adding complexity.

It pours a hazy dark reddish-brown, with minimal head that dissipates quickly. The first sniff makes me recoil in surprise a little - it's overpoweringly fruity. Cherries, plum, fig, some sweet syrupy malt...amazing.

The promise of cherry on the label and in the nose has you searching for the fruit in the first sip - but instead you get powerful malt, some coffee, and some surprising chocolatey toastiness. It's crazy - it smells like jam but tastes like toast (in a good way). There's a little bit of cherry in there, but the alcohol presence burns it away.

It's delicious, spicy, sweet, complex... relaxing with a bottle of Three Philosophers is a very enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Frank's Mystery Beer

We got this beer in the mail from our good friend Frank - his first venture into homebrewing. No labels, no info - just a challenge to guess the style. I can already tell this is going to require a lot of research. I may need more samples.
The bottles were pretty shaken up by the time the mailman dropped them off, so I let them sit in the fridge for a while to let the yeast settle out. As I poured the first bottle, I couldn't believe the clarity - a beautiful sparkling amber-brown...which I then muddied by accidentally pouring a bit of yeast from the bottle. Oh's good for you!
The head is fantastic. Thick, creamy, and with good retention. The aroma is sweet and malty, but I'm getting some clove from the yeast, maybe.
The taste is a little nutty at first, followed by a light maltiness, then a pretty firm hop assertion, finishing with some clove and light toast? It's a pretty dry finish, leaving me reaching for the glass again.
It's amazing - especially for a first brew (or a 20th). Great job, Frank. If I had to nail it to a style, I'd guess...Pale Ale, maybe? Can't wait for the next batch!

Friday, April 10, 2009


With a name like Amadeus, it has to be good, right?
This witbier/white beer/biere blanche from Les Brasseurs de Gayant in Douai, France is 4.5% abv. Brewed with spices with natural flavor added...hmm...what spices & flavors, I wonder?
I uncorked this 750ml bottle and poured it into my Duvel glass (although a thick-walled tumbler is preferred for this style). Monster tight-bubbled head that quickly disappears over a hazy straw yellow body.
The first sniff is overpowering. WOW...smells like candy! All kinds of fruit, something I can't place my finger on. Ah yes, duh...LEMONS. Wait, lemons? Seriously? It smells delicious.
I take the first gulp and recoil in surprise. It tastes like a slightly alcoholic lemonade/beer mixture. Kind of reminds me of a radler or a shandy or something. There might be a bit of coriander and orange peeking through. The swallow seems almost too easy, it's incredibly thin. The aftertaste is all watery, sugary lemon. It's the perfect beer for the 85° weather that's returned...extremely refreshing.
I can't help but think my wife would love this. People who barely like beer would go crazy for this. I feel like I should be gulping this by the gallon on the back porch.
Now if only I can get that Falco song out of my head...

Stoudt's Pils

The second round at Mellow Mushroom is one of Stoudt's flagship beers, the Pils, a "German Style Pilsener" (5.4%)
I'd tried their very expensive Imperial Stout before, and was extremely underwhelmed, but I thought I'd give this one a shot.
It certainly looked refreshing - clean, clear & golden.
I took a deep whiff or 10 ...not much aroma at all. I passed it to Cari for confirmation. "Yeah, it smells like a Budweiser!"....really? I get nothin'...maybe a faint grassiness. Oh well.
The taste was pretty refreshing after my Human Blockhead...light, crisp grain with some grassy hops -smooth carbonation - just as expected.
A nice flavorful but easy drinking beer. It happens to go nicely with a buffalo chicken pizza, too.

Coney Island Human Blockhead

Another trip to the Mellow Mushroom in Winter Park yields a pair of beers to add to the list. First up: Coney Island Human Blockhead from Shmaltz Brewing Company, part of their Freak Beers series, and a new one for 2009. I'd just read a review of it in Beer Advocate, so I was anxious to try it out.
Shmaltz describes it as a "tough-as-nails lager", but BA describes it as a doppelbock. At 10%abv, it's a bit on the extreme side, with 7 different kinds of malt and 6 different hops.
As seen in the photo, it's a pretty deep amber-brown, but fairly clear. There wasn't much head on it when it was served to me, but there was a bit of lacing all the way down. Huge malty sweet aroma, with a little bit of alcohol aroma.
The first sip was pretty shocking - an all-out assault of heavy malt, hop bitterness, and heat from the alcohol. There's a little bit of sweetness if you search for it, big chewy mouthfeel, but the hops pound everything out with an almost numbing aftertaste.
It's not entirely unpleasant, I'm just not sure it's one I'd reorder. On the next round, I had to switch things up (see next review).

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ommegang Hennepin

Ommegang Hennepin - a 7.7% saison poured from a corked 25.4oz bottle.
This is the next beer from the Ommegang 3 pack I bought (featuring the glass shown here). I've had this one before, but it goes on record now.

Apparently, this beer was named for Father Hennepin, the Belgian missionary who discovered Niagara Falls...nice tie-in for a New York brewery that makes Belgian-style beers.

I'm not a fan of saisons, usually - they're either quite nice, or just undrinkable. This one falls in the former category.
The smell is a crazy mixture of fruity yeast, spices, and alcohol, with just a hint of wildness - maybe a little barnyard. This is a farmhouse style ale, afterall.
The aroma alone gets my mouth watering...can something smell tart?

The color is amazingly light and crystal clear, with huge mounds of foam that quickly dies down. It almost looks like a Bud, with a slight reddish tint.

The first sip is packed with lively carbonation. It's crisp, hoppy, but not bitter. This ale is SNAPPY. There's a good deal of peppery apple, and the alcohol isn't hiding at all.
The mouthfeel is very champagne-like. The aftertaste is a hint of spice, lots more apple...a little bit of earthy funk. Everything a rustic ale should be.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Red Brick Ale - A1A Aleworks

We enjoyed a nice lunch with our friend Jeff in St. Augustine this weekend at the A1A Aleworks, where they serve this house amber.

The color is a nice reddish brown with a tan head- it appears a little darker in the picture.

The aroma is a little sweet, with some citrus - but POW! Not much sweetness in the taste, just some fairly assertive hops. Still, the result is not overpowering, making this a mighty refreshing choice to go with my sandwich. It's easy to see why this is their most popular house brand selection.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Okocim Palone

Okocim Palone - a "fire-brewed dark beer" from Poland, 5.5% abv, 500 ml bottle.
This beer is one of the reasons I love to go to our local Polish restaurant, Salt & Sweet. How can you not order a beer with a label like that? Plus, Okocim Palone is fun to say...once you get the waiter to help you pronounce it. I still think I say it wrong.
This beer pours a dark, black-brown with ruby highlights - completely opaque. There's virtually no head, even with a hard pour.
The aroma has sweet cherries? Maybe some licorice?
The first sip slams you with malty sweetness, a slight fruitiness - kind of unexpected from such a dark beverage - but then it finishes with a slight toastiness. Any hops are pushed way to the back. Even though there's some lingering toasty sweetness, the overall impression is that it's clean, not cloying. It's almost like a half & half blend of a lager and a porter. Very delicious, and compliments a big plate of kielbasa and cabbage nicely.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Chocolate Indulgence

Chocolate Indulgence by Ommegange brewery (7% abv)..."Belgian-Style Chocolate Stout"

This is a beer I've been wanting to try for a long time. Well, it first came out in 2007 as a 10th anniversary special brew, so it hasn't been that long. Ommegang is an interesting brewery. Based in Cooperstown, NY, it brews Belgian-style ales exclusively. This beer was part of a gift pack that included 2 of their other beers, as well as a spiffy glass (not pictured). Speaking of glasses, this should probably be poured into a chalice, but mine are in storage, I think - so forgive my pint glass.

On to the beer: It's black. Deep black. Yet somehow it still looks brown to me. The head on this thing is huge, pillowy. It's subsided quite a bit, now that I'm halfway through the glass, but the lacing is impressive.

I took a big whiff..."this smells like something...but what?" "Dark beer," was Cari's answer. There's a little bit of cocoa, roasted malt, some fruity Belgian yeast. The taste is a punch of melanoidins (burnt toast?), but velvety texture. Where's the chocolate? Oh, there it is - hiding in the back, a nice cocoa aftertaste. Taking a sip is like riding a wave of toasty to sweet, bitter to chocolate.

While completely enjoyable, this beer didn't really deliver on the promise of a chocolate "indulgence". I can't help but compare it to something like Young's Double Chocolate Stout ("holy crap, this is liquid dessert!") - and it comes up short. Maybe it's just the marketing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rufus and the Giant Peach Wheat

This is a very exclusive limited-production beer from the Hammer & Key Brewery in Palm Bay, FL (ok, so I made it).
It's approximately 6% abv, is a reddish golden color (lighter than the picture) with a nice frothy head.

The aroma has some nice yeast notes, faint peachiness - hinting of the sweetness to come.

The carbonation is pretty lively, and there's some wheat character, but very little peach flavor - just a little bit of initial sweetness, but a fairly dry finish.

It's pretty refreshing - not as much fruit character as I was expecting, but not bad as a wheat beer. It's not my finest creation, but pretty enjoyable.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Goliath, a 9% offering from Brasserie des Geants in Ath, Belgium is brewed in the castle of Irchonwelz...according to the label. It also describes itself as a blonde, but I think it's actually considered a tripel.

It pours a nice hazy golden color with a pretty enormous head that dissipated slightly soon after. Inhaling deeply, I get lots of apple aroma - a bit of sweet cotton candy? The taste is crisp, initially sweet like honey, with a bit of spiciness...followed by a distinct grassiness that's quite pleasant. The finish is bone dry.

It's pretty nice, nothing too overpowering - very easy drinking, but not incredibly memorable.

I'm really trying to explore some blondes -but I don't think this is exactly what I was looking for.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Black Albert

Why not start at the top? Black Albert was last year's #1 Beer On Planet Earth as rated by Beer Advocate members. It's a strange beer - a Russian Imperial Stout brewed by Belgians for a small pub in Lovell, Maine? And it's really hard to find...but a few weeks ago, we paid a visit to our local beer haven, Coasters of Melbourne - and behind the glass case, lo and behold: BLACK ALBERT. I almost peed my pants. I took a bottle to go (at $25 for 11.2oz, this may be the most expensive beer I've purchased), and have been waiting for the dust to settle on our move to crack it open.
The brewers call it a "Belgian Royal Stout" - 13% abv (whoa).
It pours a deep brown/black with a cappuccino head. I wasn't quite sure if there'd be a bunch of yeast in the bottom (there was), since I couldn't quite see through the bottle - so I flubbed the pour a bit, and chucked a bunch of floating yeast globules into the mix. No matter - it's good for you, right?
The taste is out of this world. Velvety, chocolate milkshake, with a bit of alcohol warming at the swallow, followed by a big hit of roastiness...maybe some licorice, slight coffee. It's amazing, but pretty light mouthfeel, which lends itself to the drinkability. This beer is incredibly drinkable. There's almost no hint of its strength. It's chocolatey and delicious. It's a shame this beer is so expensive, and difficult to find (only 500 cases imported to the US, allegedly).
It would be interesting to put this beer up against a few other Russian Imperials in a blind taste test (I admit I'm obsessed with blind taste tests, even though I've only participated in one) it the hype or the beer? It's not as complex as some other strong stouts, but it is flat-out tasty, and my curiousity is satisfied, so I consider this one money well spent.

And so it begins...about 15 years too late.

My wife Cari convinced me to start an online journal (that's not the same thing as a blog!) chronicling all the beers I drink. I try to order or buy something new every time - but I can't keep track of what I've tried, what I like, and so on. So today I start taking pictures, writing notes, maybe going back and tasting some old favorites with a fresh perspective.