Saturday, October 20, 2012

048. Samuel Adams Octoberfest

On tap at the Movie Tavern! There is a hint of Autumn in the air and ghosts dance on the edge of my peripheral vision. This makes it the perfect time to embrace the chills of the season and went to The Movie Tavern to see Paranormal Activity 4. I love the Movie Tavern. A movie and a beer? Toss in the fried pickles and I'm in heaven. Well... considering the movie on tap, that might not be the best analogy. But I'm most certainly not in hell. I'VE GOT BEER! I've been enjoying this beer for about two weeks now and have really been enjoying it. I'm not sure, but I think I've had about three six packs and it's becoming one of my signature Brews of the Season.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

046. Magic Hat Hex Ourtoberfest

There's something about autumn that puts me more in mind of magic. Not just Halloween with witches riding brooms and devil-cats caterwauling in the night as tribute to their dark master. No, there's something about the lengthening shadows and longer nights that make the supernatural seem more likely, somehow.

With that spirit in mind, I almost want to crack open an old copy of Shakespeare and join the witches in their cant:

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Instead, I got out my trusty beer glass and readied to pour my own brew this October's eve.

Diving into the Bottle
The aroma almost put a spell on me the second I opened the bottle. I was greeted with an alluring scent of pepper riding atop sweet malt with some caramel sashaying around for good measure. It was like there was a secret lingering beneath the bottle cap, waiting to be told with my tongue. I quickly poured the glass and it was obvious about halfway through that I was being too gentle -- the hazy light brown (almost a cross between dun and chestnut, if you know your horses) brew was not offering up much of a head. I quickly switched to a very aggressive pour, almost slamming it into the glass and not coming anywhere near the edges. This rough treatment got me the results I was looking for -- more than two fingers of biscuity brown head that looked firm and inviting.

Now that the beer was safely in the glass, I took a good look at the color. It's brownish-golden with a faint haze in it. Note the order of those colors. It's not like a golden-brown wood where the primary color is being warmed, as though by the sun. No, this is more like a dull gold that has been tainted with a duller brown. There's nothing wrong with the color, but it's just not remarkable or particularly enticing.

The taste, however, more than makes up for this in many ways. Pepper and spices were almost dancing on my tongue, carried by sweet roasted malt that had a depth and body that I usually only experience in much darker beers. I started it cold (about 45) and really enjoyed it there, but around 50 degrees the hops came out to dance beneath the harvest moon. They also brought some toffee notes along to join them in the bonfire's glow. At this temperature range, I really found the hops to provide a welcome bitterness to counter the very sweet start. Along with the hops I found a few more aromatic notes and a surprising hint of smoke. In fact, the smokey finish made me wonder if that wasn't the "pepper" smell I detected at the start of the beer.

From the Label:
A performance in every bottle
The Ancient Ritual of brewing a distinctly rich and flavorful beer is nothing short of magic. Our mysterious mix of time-honored ingredients, chaotic chemistry, humble patience, and blind faith age into the secret brew we share in the rousing company of good spirits.

Some closing thoughts
I bought this at World Market strictly because it fit my theme for the month: Halloween. They were selling it as singles for, I believe, $1.99. I just expected this to be a novelty brew, so the steep price tag (not outrageous, but still a trifle steep for a 12-ounce bottle) didn't phase me. Now that this is one of my new favorites, I'm hoping to find it in a six-pack so I can stock up before it goes out of production for the year.

According to Magic Hat's Website, this is only available from Aug. - October 15. I went to the Spec's Liquor store downtown earlier today and did not see it (it was before I drank this wonderful beer, so I didn't ask anyone if they had it). I'll check my local stores next week and see if I can't grab a few six-packs to get me through the cold winter months ahead.

I'll keep you posted!

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: Ale (Red Ale)
Color: Dullish golden brown
Aroma: Pepper, malt, caramel and a distant whiff of smoke
Hops: Mild and wonderfully balanced
Malt: Proudly in the forefront, bringing sweetness and smoke
Head: Hit or miss -- either non-existant (conservative pour) or bold and solid (aggressive pour)
Lace: Strong, well definied and lingered longer than expected
Carbonation: Medium
Mouthfeel:  Really good -- a nice combination of sweet, hops and smoke
Temprature Sweet Spot: All temps were good, but over 50 was best
ABV: 5.4%
My Rating: 9 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
The guys at the Beer Advocate did not agree with me, but "The Bros" did. Whereas the Bros. gave it a 90 and an excellent rating, the hop-heads there didn't fall under its charms, giving it only an average rating. check them out (and scroll down to find my review -- I discuss this beer in slightly different terms there, but still rave about it).

Another bit of interesting info about Magic Hat can be found over at this very cool blog by Lonnie Best:

Beer TV: 

A few miles down the road, this fella in Louisiana wasn't as impressed as I was, but he still gave it a B+.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Beer Talk: Wychwood's Web Site...

I seldom mention marketing in my reviews because, to be honest, it doesn't influence my purchasing decisions very much. I usually go to stores and pick up new things that look interesting to me (or hat have been recommended by someone I know). I also don't look at brewery Web sites until after I've tasted the beer and have made my initial (and sometimes complete) impressions.

But I really think that Wychwood Brewery has a really cool Web site.

As you may recall from a few weeks ago, Wychwood makes one of my favorite beers: 044. Wychwood Hobgoblin Dark English Ale.

One thing I love about the Website is that it's got a lot of humor that is very appropriate for their branding. For example, there is a splash screen that required you to enter your birth date before letting you log in. I entered my birthday and it responded with this reply before redirecting me to the cool Website (actually, it asks if you want to go to the full Flash site or to a light site -- both of them are pretty cool, but the full site is much more fun):

Hmmmm. Tough old meat, but the wolves aren't choosy!

I like that bit of humor, which is carried through elsewhere in the site.

I also like the solid design that actually conveys information in a fun and attractive way. For example, there are animated books in the site so you can flip between the pages to read about beer stats, legends, history, and so on.

This screenshot from the Website demonstrates the fun ways in which they share info about their beers.

I also like the fun animation they have running across the top of the site. It features their Hobgoblin sharpening his axe as various other creatures pop in and out around him.

This is just a bit of fun, but coupled with a looped soundtrack (a very unobtrusive sound of wind blowing), it has a nice element of fun that makes this site a pleasure to visit. If you have a few minutes to kill, I strongly suggest visiting them: