29 December 2007

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale (DE)

It took me a while to figure out that the "Indian" here is a reference to India Pale Ale, and that this is a combination of an IPA and a Brown Ale (as well as a Scotch Ale, according to the brewer).

It's a pretty hefty beer. It pours very dark brown, nearly opaque, and is medium-to-full bodied. Toss in soft carbonation, and you have a nicely creamy brew. The aroma and flavor are quite rich, with aspects of chocolate and brown sugar, mostly. I sensed some nuttiness as well. What I didn't get much of, however, was the IPA style hoppiness. This clocks in at 50 IBUs, but most of it seems to be buried beneath the malts. I am normally wary of how US brewers feel compelled to load Northwestern hops into beers of any style. In this case, however, I think they could have been more aggressive. As is, the beer skews a hair's too much toward the sweet and malty side, but this is a minor criticism of a very tasty beer.

It's over 7% ABV, but doesn't taste it. What might keep me from knocking back a sixer is the general richness of it, as well as the price (I paid $2.50 for one). It's available year-round, but I think now is the best season for it, as it plays out more like a porter or stout than a mild ale.

23 December 2007

Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager (LA)

This is another one new to my local retailer, although I'm not sure if this simply means new since Katrina. As this downbeat AP report details, the long-time New Orleans brewery was apparently struggling before the hurricane battered them. I suppose it's a good sign that they're currently available in western New York.

Based on the name, I thought Blackened Voodoo was a black lager and was planning on having a head-to-head comparison between it and Orlio. Ratebeer indeed classifies it as a schwarzbier, but Beer Advocate calls it a Munich dunkel. Neither seems spot on. It pours coppery-brown with an off-white head. Smells like an ordinary lager. Somewhat light-bodied and pretty fizzy, Blackened Voodoo tastes only slightly sweet and slightly bitter. On the plus side, it doesn't really have any "off" flavors that I can detect. It's fairly crisp, and I can see downing several of these with spicy food.

Among all the fine craft beers out there, this doesn't stand out. Of course, Dixie isn't really a craft brewery, but an old regional brand just trying to hang on. Sympathy for the brewery might push this into the "worth a try" category

22 December 2007

Orlio Organic Black Lager (VT)

I'd never seen this before in my area, and at the time I bought it, was unaware that it was made by a subsidiary of Magic Hat. Orlio brews three organics: a year-round common ale, an IPA for summer, and this black lager for winter. The brewer describes this as:

A rich medium-bodied black lager whose sweet deep malt flavor is balanced by a moderate hop bite and roasted malt tartness that create notes of bitter chocolate and a slight lingering sweetness.

It pours very dark. Only when holding it up to light can I see my fingers on the other side, along with shades of red. The initial waft of aroma reminds me of pork rinds -- not what you'd like to advertise for an organic beer -- but really that's just roastiness and maybe smokiness. The body is fairly rich with restrained carbonation. The taste is what you'd expect from a nice schwarzbier. Roasted malts, more coffee than chocolate to me. It leans more toward sweet than dry or bitter, and the above description of "lingering sweetness" is accurate.

I don't like this quite as much as Sam Adams' take on the style, but I'd still recommend this for those who like the style or for those seeking all things organic. The truth is, that organic beer is closer to, say, organic apples than organic hot dogs. There's no particular reason its quality should suffer.

16 December 2007

Sraranc Oatmeal Stout/Scotch Ale (NY)

The last two from 12 Beers of Winter, which I'm honestly happy to be rid of.

Oatmeal Stout: My point of comparison here is Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout, which for me sets the bar very high. Saranac's take looks comparably appealing, with its very dark body and tan head (although that doesn't stick around). The aroma is promising, but the body lets me down. It's too thin and (again) over-carbonated. The base flavor is roatsed malts, some coffee, and not too sweet. For me, though, it's like a few tablespoons of diet cola have been added to water it down. I don't particularly like it.

Scotch Ale: For this one, I don't have good points of comparison, only having tried a few in the style. The label calls it "a full-bodied, malty sweet ale." It isn't full-bodied; more like medium, although I think Saranac gets the carbonation right this time. Of course it's malty, with caramel sweetness, and there's secondary bitterness as well. In addition, smokiness comes through, as does some booziness (it's 6% ABV). To me, all of this hangs together fairly well until the finish, which is a bit messy. Still, I like this one. In the words of Montgomery Burns: "I know what I hate, and I don’t hate this."

Overall, I wouldn't buy this variety pack again unless it were a necessary compromise with "civilians" (i.e., macro drinkers). I'll probably want to drink the curious Chocolate Amber Lager again (I think I can get singles of that), and maybe the Scotch Ale of Winter Wassail. I could do without the other three.

12 December 2007

25 Best American Microbreweries

TravelHacker -- the blog of airlinescreditcard.com, of all places -- has a list of the 25 best microbreweries in the U.S. I don't put too much stake in these rankings, but they can be interesting, so I figured I'd post it. Lots of usual suspects on the list, but, alas, none of the top NYS breweries made it (Ommegang, Southern Tier, Brooklyn, Southampton).

09 December 2007

Southern Tier Raspberry Porter (NY)

I've never had Southern Tier's Porter or Raspberry Wheat beers. Perhaps the Raspberry Porter is just a blend of the two. It pours very dark, nearly opaque, and only by holding it up to the light can I see any shades of red. The smell is definitely of raspberries. Specifcally, rapsberry seltzer water. That's okay; I don't really expect bottled beer to smell like a pint of fresh raspberries.

The taste is predominantly rapsberry too, nicely balanced between sweet and tart, with some roasted malt in the background. The finish tries to pull back with some dryness, but it's still mostly berries. About their porter, Southern Tier cautions that dark beers are not necessarily strong, and that's true of Raspebrry Porter. The alcohol isn't high, the body is medium at most, and the malts aren't really rich. It's extremely drinkable, though. I really like it, but shouldn't have waited until winter to try it.

I think this is one for those who complain that fruit beers are too light or inspid. It might not convince porter purists, dark beer fanatics, or those who can't abide berries in their beer.

06 December 2007

Rohrbach Brewing Kasey's Kristmas Ale (NY)

Due to either forgetfulness or lack of ideas about the topic, I have yet to participate in The Session. This month, Barley Vine chose the straightforward Winter Seasonal as the topic, and I figured I'd join in.

I chose something local: Rohrbach's is a brewery and restaurant located in Rochester, NY. I went with them because the upside of championing someone local exceeded, in my mind, the downside of writing about a beer most of you can't obtain. Rohrbach's doesn't bottle, but their beer can be found on tap in local bars and other spots (such as at minor league baseball games), as well as in growlers, both at the brewery and in a few stores.

Kasey's Kristmas Ale is "a holiday ale made with chocolate malt and real cherries." That's pretty much it. It smells like chocolate-covered cherries and tastes like them too. The ale pours dark brown with red shading that shows up when you hold it to the light. Foamy white head, some lacing. The scent isn't overwhelming, as though you stuck your nose right in a Valentine's Day candy box, but it's clearly in that direction. The taste follows with sweet, very slightly tart, cherries. If I didn't know what it was, I might think it was chocolate-covered raisins. There are dabs of hops to keep it in check, but it isn't at all bitter. Sweet, but not quite cloying.

For me, the downside is the body. It has the small bubble carbonation I like, but it's kind of watery. I don't know what the alcohol content is, but it doesn't seem high. This isn't a hefty, warming winter beer; in fact, it's a guzzler.

So, ultimately, what's the difference between this and Saranac Caramel Porter which I recently panned for being sweet and thin? I guess I just like the taste of Rohrbach's seasonal better, it's less fizzy, and perhaps I count the fact that Saranac calls its beer a porter against it. That being said, I suspect there are those who would find that the Rohrbach isn't their thing. Kaseys Kristmas Ale's is worth a try if you're in the area. If you aren't, find your hometown brewer's local seasonal and try that instead.

01 December 2007

Saranac Caramel Porter/Winter Wassail (NY)

Two more from the Saranac Beers of Winter 12-pack.

Caramel Porter: This certainly does smell like caramel, but more like those cubes in plastic wrappers rather than something fresh and rich. It looks okay: clear dark brown with ruby tones and a tan head. Taste wise, I'm not one to flinch at the slightest bit of sweetness in a beer, but this is too much for me. The label promises "Fuggles & East Kent Goldings hops for a smooth, yet slightly bitter, roasted flavor." Well, I don't detect much other than caramel. It isn't rich enough in taste for a porter, and the body is too thin. I thought Southern Tier's Pumking was over the top as well, but at least that was big and rich.

Mark at Beercraft blog says drinking this beer is "like licking peanut butter out of a dog's ass." It really isn't (don't ask). On the other hand, it receives fairly decent ratings at ratebeer compared with other Saranacs. I'm not crazy about it, although I didn't pour either bottle down the drain. If I bought this mixed pack again, I'd either cook with Caramel Porter or try to mix it with something else.

Winter Wassail: This is, in my opinion, a bit more successful. It's a crystal clear brown/amber color with a white head. "Look for hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, orange and allspice," says the guy who wrote the label text. The warm spices come through nicely, along with some fruit and some hops that attempt to balance it. My main complaint is the body: it's slightly watery and (again) has too much carbonation. A winter brew in particular should be heftier. Still, this one's fairly decent.