Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Quick Sip 015. Flensburger Gold

I picked up a single of this German import from either Spec's Liquor Store in NW Houston, or at World Market. In either case, Flensburger Gold is a decent German lager that falls fairly in the middle of average imports from Deutschland.

This is a one-note beer with a low ABV of 4.6%. It has almost no aroma, but what is there is faintly malty and yeasty with just a few hints of mountain hops (in other words, it's got a very  faint grassy smell). It pours a very clear pale yellow and developed a thin white head that dissipated quickly to a ring that left almost no lace.

The flavor is unremarkable: It's not great and it's not bad. It tastes like the kind of pleasant lager you wouldn't mind drinking on a warm afternoon with your lunch. Since I was drinking it on a cold winter's night, it seemed a little anemic. Still, it had a nice flavor. The malt was balanced with the hops to create a light-tasting beer that was enjoyable, in spite of a slightly bitter hoppy aftertaste that was very refreshing and clean.

The above link is to the German website. BeerAdvocate.com has a few decent mini-reviews in English.

My score: 6.5 out of 10

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Quick Sip 014. Left Hand Brewing Company Oktoberfest

This is the last of my Octoberfest beers -- I found a single bottle of this hiding in my "review me!" shelf in the beer refrigerator. I remember buying it at World Market for about $8 a six-pack. They had a few good looking beers for sale, but I must admit, it was the label that drew me to this one. It features a blue lion (or some kind of big cat) in front of the blue and white Munich flag, and it just caught my eye.

I generally like Marzen Lagers, so it wasn't much of a stretch to predict that I would like this one -- and I did. A lot. This is probably my second-favorite Octoberfest beer of the season (the first being Karbachtoberfest, which I reviewed a while back).

OKTOBERFEST MÄRZEN LAGERTOASTY MALT FLAVORS DOMINATE UP FRONT AND NOBLE HOPS LEAD TO A SPICY AND SUPERBLY CLEAN LAGER FINISH.This is no festivus for the restuvus – on the contrary – we start brewing in the Spring and it takes a full two months to reach lagered perfection. Biscuity, malty goodness dominates upfront while the noble pedigree hops lend a properly spicy, dry finish. Zicke zacke, zicke zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi. Time to roast your chicken and upend your stein before the air gets crisp, the leaves flame and fall and the skies fade to black. Auf geht's!-- From their Website: http://lefthandbrewing.com/beers/oktoberfest/

The aroma is mostly of malt with a hint of yeast and the aromatics of Muich hops. Fortunately, it's not too sweet nor grassy smelling. And the same can be said of the crisp, clean taste. Mostly malt, some hint of bready yeast, and just notes of hops. The carbonation is medium, but the head dissipated faster than I expected, as did the lace. The color is a gorgeous copper brown, and when it warms to a chilly room temperature, other flavors come alive, giving it more depth than you would expect.

I paired this with a pumpkin bread and it was delicious, with no alcohol taste to indicate that this packs an ABV of 6.6%.

My score: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Quick Sip 013. Artigianale Italian Red Ale

The first time I saw beer in a wine bottle, I was surprised. I grew up in Texas, and even though we're known for liking things big, when I first started drinking beer all those years ago things seldom got bigger than a 40 oz. bottle of malt liquor.

Nowadays, though, a 750 ml bottle of wine is fairly common. So when I saw this bottle of Artigianale Italian Red Ale back at the start of summer, I wasn't surprised, but I do recall noting the low price. It was probably around $3 or $4 at my local Spec's Liquor Store in NW Houston. It's been sitting in my refrigerator ever since, waiting for the night when I would finally pop the top and see what's brewing in Italy.

I think I'll stick to their wine.

This is not a horrible beer, but it's not that great, either. The aroma has a little fruit and yeast and maybe a hint of aromatic mountain hops. But not much else. It pours a very hazy copper brown and a moderate pour delivered almost no head. An aggressive pour finally got a 2-finger head that dissipated quickly to a thin ring that deposited more lace than I expected.

My first sips of cold beer were very off-putting. I was not impressed. However, as it warmed up to 48 degrees, the unpleasant bitterness went away (BTW: It is important to note that the bitterness was probably alcohol and not hops -- as I said, this is not a hoppy beer).  The warmer it got, the more nuance I detected, so I actually set it aside and took a break to let it warm up over 50 degrees to see if it would come alive and exceed my already low expectations.

It turns out that 55 degrees is the sweet spot for this beer. And how sweet it is. More nuanced flavors did come to the forefront as the beer warmed up, but it also awoke the sugars and a taste of yeasty caramel. The bitterness retreated and a strong sweetness came forth. It's not bad -- not like some of the overly spiced holiday beers I sometimes encounter -- but it is sweet without relying on malt. So, if you like sweeter beers but don't like malt, this might be something you'll like.

The sweetness did serve to hide the 7.8% ABV alcohol taste that was present at the lower temperatures, but it really wasn't enough to compensate for what was -- in general -- an unremarkable import.

My Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

065. Karbach Krunkin Pumpkin

Thanksgiving is this week, and I'm still trotting out the pumpkin beers from my vault: Karbach Krunkin Pumpkin. At least this one mentions turkey day on the label, so I guess i can save my guilt for seconds on Thursday. I picked this ale up a while back -- it came in a 22 oz bottle that is commonly called a "bomber" at my local Spec's Liquor store. This was the last bottle they had.

Speaking of which, I do think this would be a decent beer to share with guests at a big meal, as I believe it is better consumed in small glasses, rather than downing the entire bottle, as I'm doing tonight. It's just too sweet and spicy for my taste.

First Pour
Popping the top is like breaking the seal on the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The moment you do, aromas start swirling out of the bottle, almost spinning around the top seeking release. And they are pleasing. Spice, malt, a hint of hops, an undercurrent of yeast and the promise of pumpkin pie. The pie is definitely a portent of the sweetness to come.

The pour yielded a respectable one-finger head that was surprising consistent as it sat atop a rich chocolate brown ale that could stand next to a Guinness without being embarrassed -- yup, it's that dark. The first sip was pretty cold, and it was almost cloyingly sweet with a generous amount of pumpkin flowing through. It was good, but I could tell right away that this was not nuanced enough to be from Karbach Brewing Co., so I would need to let it warm up a bit so the other flavors could come alive.

So wait I did, and was rewarded for my patience. Even a few degrees allowed some of the dormant flavors to awaken and swarm forth, delivering more spice and subtlety as the brew warmed above 50 degrees. I began detecting pepper, pumpkin spice and hops -- in other words, the flavors promised by the pleasing noseful I got when I opened the bottle.
1.  Take pale, Munic and crystal malts and mash for 90 minutes.2.  Lauter with sugar pumpkins baked for 60 minutes at 420 degrees and boil wort for 70 minutes.3.  Add hops at beginning and end of boil and add a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice at very end of the boil.4.  Ferment with yeast, cold condition and bottle.*Best served chilled in goblet-style glass to goblins, ghouls or naughty nurses at your favorite Halloween party or uptight in-laws at Thanksgiving dinner.*-- From the label
If you like more bitter flavors, drink this warm and you will find a nice counterbalance to the sweetness. Well... probably not enough for the true hops whores out there. If you love IPAs, then this is not the beer for you.

Fortunately, this is a limited release and kind of hard to get, so there is no chance it will become part of your everyday larder. But, as a once-in-a-while fall treat, this is a treasure that even  Indy could enjoy.

Closing Thoughts
This is a really good pumpkin ale; in fact, it is probably the best one I've ever had. That being said, I don't love pumpkin ales all that much. But if they were all this good, I would consider trying more of them. This is a dark ale suited for winter. I think it would pair will with turkey or other food, but is probably way too sweet to pair with dessert.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: Pumpkin Ale
Color: Rich chocolate brown
Aroma: Spices, pumpkin, hops, yeast & sweet malt
Hops: Present, but not as pronounced as expected
Malt: A sweet foundation
Head: One-finger head that shrinks to a thin ring that never quite fades completely
Lace: Almost none.
Bitterness: Not really -- this is a fairly sweet ale
Carbonation: Medium to light
Mouthfeel:  Refreshing, but the yeast does get a little cloying after drinking a lot
Temeprature Sweet Spot: 50 - 55 degrees
ABV: 8.5%
My Rating: 7 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
Mostly positive reviews at Beer Advocate. A few didn't get it, but those that did really enjoyed it a lot.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Quick Sip 012. Saint Arnold Boiler Room

Sometimes there's a reason something is on sale. I was at a Spec's Liquor Store in NW Houston and they had a large bottle of Saint Arnold Boiler Room beer that was marked about half off; it was only $4.99 for a 22 oz. bottle.

I usually like the stuff produced by one of our local breweries, so I grabbed it on the run. I should have spent more time reading the label because this is a wheat beer. As I said a while back, I'm trying to cut out wheat beers because I turn bright red when I drink them. So far I don't have any other symptoms, but why push my luck -- allergies tend to get worse over time with exposure, not better.

When I first sipped this ice cold beer, I had a MAJOR pucker reaction and was about to give it a scathing review. Fortunately, I let it warm up and was pleasantly surprised at the results.

But let's back up a bit.

The color was wheat yellow with a very generous two-finger head. Not as much lace as I would expect, though. When it was cold, I would have described this as a medium to heavy. When it was warm, though, it was almost gone. Still, the sour flavor compensated for the lack of bubbles, so nothing much was lost.  The aroma was mildly citrus with hints of aromatic hops.

COLD - 35-45 degrees
This was horrible. It tasted like drinking a beer-flavored Sour Patch Kids candy. Honestly, it was just sourness for the sake of sourness. I really don't have much good to say about it at this temperature.

WARM - 60-65 degrees
It's still sour, but it's actually drinkable. There are actually nuances to the beer that were completely hidden at the lower temperatures. The nose, as you would expect, also came alive, revealing the hint of malt and bringing even more citrus to the forefront. However, and this could be due to the length of time the beer sat out warming, the aroma was much less pronounced.

The sour aspects were much less annoying because the other flavors emerged in the warmer beer.

"Boiler Room is a light bodied but surprisingly flavorful sour wheat beer. The sourness is created by souring the wort prior to boiling and fermentation (unlike Belgian-style sours which sour during fermentation and have active bacteria in them when packaged). The nose of the beer has a light Hersbrucker hop note and a distinct funkiness. The taste is sweet malt quickly going into a tart body and finish. The sour and malt flavors balance well all the way through creating a very refreshing beverage, akin to drinking a tart lemonade or limeade. For a beer with just over 3.5%, it creates a big experience for the palate.

Traditionally this beer is enjoyed either straight or with raspberry or woodruff syrup to sweeten it (and turn it red or green, respectively).

Our Boiler Room is pure, with no additives or preservatives. In order to maintain the freshest flavor possible, we do not pasteurize our beer. Many of its subtle flavors are delicate and would not stand up to the heat of pasteurization. We recommend that this product be stored cold to avoid any degradation in flavor.

--From their Website

Even if this were not a wheat beer, it would not make it back into my beer fridge. I'm just not a fan of sours, and even if this is a decent sour, I'm just not the person they brewed this for. Nevertheless, if you ARE a fan of sours, then give this a try. Just make sure you let it warm up a bit before you sip.

My rating -- Cold: 3 out of 10
My rating -- Warm: 6 out of 10

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Quick Sip 011. Spaten Oktoberfest

Bready malt wafts to those nose when you pop the top on this seasonal classic. It's followed by a delicious taste that perfectly suits the Marzen style beer. It's refreshingly light but strong. That should be an oxymoron, but it really works. I appreciate the lack of hoppiness (not always, but this time I definitely don't miss the overt bitterness that hops bring).

The Spaten website lists this as the first Oktoberfest beer, and while I've no idea if that's true, but I'm in love with it and would happily enjoy it all year round. However, ignore their website's claim that says this is golden -- it's pure brown. A nice chocolate/caramel brown that definitely hints at the richness and nuances of the flavor it holds.

Bread and yeast are at the forefront, along with a sweet malt. I detect some faint spices and a hint of pepper. I drank it ice cold on an ice cold night, which kept the head to a minimum and pretty much killed the lace. At a warmer temp it reveals more spices, but oddly enough, that's not what I wanted tonight. Tonight, it's time for a cheesy holiday movie and a sweet Marzen.

The guys at Beer Advocate really don't like this, but that's not surprising since they seem to be mostly hops whores over there -- drinking beer for the bitterness of hops as though it's some macho rite of passage to find the most bitter fluid on the planet. I like hops, but I'm not standing on a street corner peddling my taste buds to every bitter brew that comes along. You need to bring me some sweet stuff before I invite you back to my room to stay for the weekend.

My score: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Quick Sip 010. Blue Moon Gingerbread Spiced Ale

Wow. This actually smells like gingerbread. It is amazing. The spice is so present. I was concerned that this was going to be overpowering, but it wasn't. This has the right balance of beer and flavor: the hops are not overpowering, but actually blended with the malt.

And this paired SO WELL with the key lime pie we had for dessert.

Once again, thanks to Lynn & Root for another great evening with Blue Moon beer.

My rating: 7.5 out of 10

Saturday, November 1, 2014

064.Fort Bend Brewing Co. Texas Farmhouse Ale

The doorbell rang last night to tell me that Halloween was gone and November was already here. Okay, it didn't ring all that much -- I was sitting by the door with the candy, handing out goodies to about 128 trick-or-treaters. But those details don't change a thing; I'm not even finished reviewing all the great Octoberfest beers in my fridge and already it's time to say hello to the great end-of-year seasonals coming out.

Well, dang it, I ain't ready to go, yet. So I'm going to hold on to the harvest season a little longer by reviewing a new Texas brewery and a new harvest beer: Texas Farmhouse Ale by the Fort Bend Brewing Co.

Now, this is the second Farmhouse Ale I've reviewed this year (the first being review number 061 back in June: Blue Moon Short Straw Farmhouse Red Ale ), and although they do compare favorably to one one another, I still prefer the smoothness of the Blue Moon ale. Nevertheless, this is definitely a worthy contender if ever the two were to duke it out in the barnyard to see who is cock of the walk.

But enough Green Acres homilies.

First (& Second) Pour
This ale has a very spicy nose. I detected a lot of spices and citrus. The label lists Pear and Banana, and I might be tempted to agree with the pear notes, but not the banana. The hops are pleasing on the nose and not as strong as I expected.

The pour was very disappointing. The first glass had almost no head at all from a conservative pour. A second bottle poured later yielded a decent 1-finger head from a very aggressive pour, but all but a flat beer will give you that. And that's the surprising thing: I was expecting low carbonation, but that's not what I found. It's actually got some tiny bubbles dancing around inside it. They actually helped make the sour aftertaste pleasing, but I'm ahead of myself.

When I took a sip of the hazy brownish/yellowish brew, I was delighted to find about what I expect in a farmhouse ale: a slightly sour seasonal that has aromatic hops with a hint of refreshing bitterness. A Flemish Sour definitely comes to mind when I drink this. And I admit that's a category I'm not all that familiar with, so more research -- and thus more bottles of beer -- will be required!

"Our Belgian-style Farmhouse is a full-flavored, golden ale with wonderful aromatic hints of fruit and spice. An initial scent of banana, pepper and herb are blended with flavors of crisp fruit and mild citrus with a sweet, lingering backbone. The full mouthfeel finishes pleasingly tart and ever-so slightly dry."
Unfiltered; Banana, Pepper, Citrus, Pear – all from Belgian Yeast

-- From the label
A few notes from their Website: www.fortbendbrewing.com/beers/ 
Malt: Pils, Munich, Wheat, Crystal 10
Hops: GR Perle, Hallertauer
Yeast: Belgian Yeast
ABV: 5.4%
IBUs: 24
SRM: 6

Closing Thoughts
This is a decent farmhouse ale. It has the right hints of citrus, pepper and other notes to make it a pleasant way to kill an evening as the harvest moon rises above in the starry, starry night. As it uses a what malt, I probably won't be buying this again (longtime readers will remember that wheat beer turns my face red, so I've stopped drinking it because I don't want it to contribute to me developing a wheat allergy). However, I'm not worried enough that I'm going to gift the remaining four bottles to family and friends.

Oh, and that brings up an odd thing about this beer. The packaging. As you'll see in the photo above, this beer does not come in a cardboard six-pack, but rather with a plastic holder that slips around the necks of the bottles. I don't care if this is "green" or cheaper. This is dangerous. Whenever I picked it up from the top, the bottles would clink together VERY LOUDLY. And I had to cradle the bottles by their bottoms because the whole thing felt so precarious. Even the checkout lady at Spec's agreed and said no one in the store likes bottles packaged that way.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: Farmhouse Ale
Color: Hazy Brownish Yellow
Aroma: Spices, pepper, hops
Hops: Nicely bitter and not as strong as expected
Malt: Provides a foundation of sweetness for the sour to play off of
Head: Depends on your pour: Aggressive pour gets a 1-finger head, a soft pour gets almost nothing
Lace: Surprisingly strong for such a weak head
Bitterness: Present, but plays well with the sour notes
Carbonation: Medium, tiny, tiny bubbles that contribute to the haziness
Mouthfeel:  Dry with sour finish
Temeprature Sweet Spot: 55-ish degrees
ABV: 5.4%
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
Beer Advocate and Rate Beer were not overly kind to this beer. Some didn't care for the aroma at all, even describing it as sulfur and rotten eggs. Since this is the most extreme negative review, I'm thinking it's him, not the beer. The aroma has some sour notes, but nothing like that.

Friday, October 17, 2014

063. Karbachtoberfest

The leaves have begun to turn -- well, as much as they do here in this part of Texas. Which is to say, not a lot. But still, the heat has broken for the most part (it only got up to the low 80s today). Which means I'm slowly getting ready to transition from the lighter beers of summer to the heartier fare of fall and winter.

But, of course, before I start chugging porters and stouts, it's time for the autumnal bacchanal that is OCTOBERFEST. Yup, that time of year when even the casual beer drinker sets aside his Bud Light and tries something with a German name.

And for me, it's high time to dive into the plethora of seasonal offerings that bridge the seasons.

The first offering of the year is a definite winner for me. And it's surprising in two ways:

  • It's lighter than I usually prefer in an autumn beer (5.5% ABV)
  • It's by the same people who made my summer favorite, Love Street
Yup, I'm talking about the great hometown brewers at Karbach Brewing Co., and the brew of the hour is their seasonal Marzen-style beer, Karbachtoberfest. Okay, they get me with the name right off the bat. Anyone who knows me in person has probably spent serious time developing the mental skills necessary to filter out the almost non-stop string of puns and word play that streams from my mouth while I'm drinking. I make no apologies for it -- I am who I am. And, who I am at the moment loves this beer.

I'm on my second six-pack. Yup. I'm enjoying it that much and this could well be my go-to beer for the season. Of course, I've only tried a handful of other beers lately (some of which don't warrant reviews, a few others that will (one of them being Sam Adams Octoberfest, which will make the list soon). 

Pour me another, please
I'm not gonna lie -- I'm on my second Karbachtoberfest tonight. It's light, it's late, and I don't have to get to work until after 10 am tomorrow. So I'm good to relax and enjoy the pleasant tart notes that play around with citrus and hops, but lets the sweet malt take center stage and belt out the high notes in a power ballad of flavor. In most ways, this is an atypical Marzen, which I must admit is a beer I like but am not an expert on.

Marzen is German for the month of March. Here's the lowdown from BeerAdvocate.com:

Before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring, and began again in the fall. Most were brewed in March (Märzen). These brews were kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months, or brewed at a higher gravity, so they’d keep. Märzenbier is full-bodied, rich, toasty, typically dark copper in color with a medium to high alcohol content. 
The common Munich Oktoberfest beer served at Wies'n (the location at which Munich celebrates its Oktoberfest) contains roughly 5.0-6.0% alcohol by volume, is dark/copper in color, has a mild hop profile and is typically labeled as a Bavarian Märzenbier in style.

Now, this beer is not a standard Marzen. In fact, it reminds me much more of a summer beer -- and considering that it's still very warm here, its not surprising that I'm enjoying this so much. As I mentioned above, this is tart, but not bitter. This reminds me of citrus, but maybe it's spice. No, not that either. One guy at BeerAdvocate.com said this had pepper notes, but I'm not getting that. Nor do I see the color they describe: Copper. There is no read in any of the cans I've popped over the past week or so. In fact, the color is just a hazy sort of yellow that really doesn't impress me. It's not bad, but it's certainly no Moylan's Danny's Irish Style Red Ale

From the can:
Every year in Munich a little party is thrown.  If you've ever been, there are some things you may or may not remember: Lederhosen envy, oompah music, dirndls, and rolling down the hill.  One thing you surely haven't forgotten is the extremely quaffable beer.  While you may not be able to attend Oktoberfest this year, you can experience the world's biggest beer fest right here with Karbachtoberfest.  An authentic, Bavarian-style Marzen, decotion mashed with Vienna and Munich malts, cold fermented and aged for six weeks, this beer pairs well with pretzels and sausage, but it tastes mighty fine on its own.  Eins, Zwei, G'suffa!

Closing Thoughts
I don't think this is a remarkable Marzen for Oktoberfest. But I'm really enjoying it. I will review a few more beers to make sure I'm not passing up on something else that's awesome, but I predict that I'm going to go out and stock up on case of this to get me through to Thanksgiving.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: Marzen Lager
Color: Hazy Yellow
Aroma: Malt & faint hops
Hops: A bit strong for this type of beer, but not too strong
Malt: Key performer -- up front and sweet, but not dominating
Head: Thick, white, and temporary
Lace: Almost none
Bitterness: Faintly in the aftertaste
Carbonation: Light; vanishes quickly
Mouthfeel:  Crisp with dry finish
Temeprature Sweet Spot: 40-55 degrees (wide range: crisper when colder, more complex hopes when warmer)
ABV: 7%
My Rating: 8 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
The BeerAdvocate.com guys were all over the map with this one. Most thought it was a bit weak for an Oktoberfest, and I can't argue with that. But those who enjoyed it really sang its praises. www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/26762/85078/ 

Friday, September 26, 2014

062. Abita SOS (Save Our Shores) Pilsner

This is probably the last wheat beer I'll review. I may have mentioned this before, but my face turns beet red when I drink wheat beers. I don't have any other symptoms from it (other than a pleasant buzz if I drink enough), so I don't think I have a wheat allergy. But why push my luck? Now, this is not specifically a WHEAT BEER. It has Wheat Malt, so we'll see if the results are the same.

SOS (Save Our Shores) was a limited edition beer designed to raise money and awareness. From the bottle (and their Website: abita.com/brews/our_brews/s.o.s

"Abita S.O.S.® (Save Our Shore) — a charitable pilsner is a message in a bottle...a distress signal for the troubled waters of our Gulf Coast. For every bottle sold Abita donates 75¢ to the rescue and restoration of the environment, industry and individuals fighting to survive the disastrous gulf oil spill. This unfiltered Weizen Pils is made with pilsner and wheat malts. It is hopped and dry hopped with Sterling and German Perle hops. It has a brilliant gold color, a sweet malt flavor, and a pleasant bitterness and aroma."
First Pour
So, let's start by admitting that I don't know how old this beer is. It's been in my refrigerator, chilled, for what seems like forever. It's one of those beers that I kept putting off -- I'll review it next week. Or the next. Or the next... It's a big bottle (1 pt 6 oz) and, since I probably paid about $5 - $10 for it, I feel obligated to give it a proper review. So, it's been sitting there forever, just waiting for me to grab it and add culmination to its existence.

Well, tonight -- on a whim -- I decided it was time. I grabbed it out of the door of the fridge and gave it a pour.

My first thought was that it smells like a pilsner. Kind of aromatic, nothing strong or off-putting. I detect hints of grass (reminds me of Saint Arnold's Lawnmower -- which, for me, is not a great thing). Definitely no citrus or spice notes.

The head was disappointing -- I had to practically slap it around to get a rise out of it. But, considering that it's probably 1-2 years old, that's not surprising and I won't hold that against it. Lace was respectable, once I got it to a head.

The flavor was okay on its own, although a bit grassy and bitter for my taste. Not bad, but not remarkable. There were elements of grassy mountain hops, a pleasant but-definitely-in-the-background presence of malt. As I let it warm from 40 to 55 degrees, the aromatics became stronger, but that didn't really affect my enjoyment one way or the other. However, as I drank more I also became more aware of its alcohol content (at 7%, it's not too shabby). This also revealed an alcohol taste that grew stronger the more I drank.

Then the pizza arrived.

I had a supreme with jalapenos -- and suddenly the beer came alive. Pared with this classic chow of Friday nights, the beer really stepped forward in my estimation. The bitterness played remarkably well off the spicy ingredients in my pizza, and I found myself enjoying it quite a bit.

Closing Thoughts
Okay but not remarkable pilsner. I suspect many people who like IPAs will really appreciate the bitterness in this bottle. It's not too strong, but it is there. Pared with pizza, though, it was a rare treat. I really enjoyed it.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: Pilsner
Color: Hazy Gold
Aroma: Grass and hay
Hops: Bitter and strong, but not IPA strong
Malt: Present, but definitely dancing in the background
Head: Not sure -- 2 fingers with aggressive pour, but that could be related to the age of the beer
Lace: Respectable at first, but fades as the glass goes dry
Bitterness: Bitter
Carbonation: Medium, but dissipates quickly (see note above)
Mouthfeel:  A little dry for my taste, but okay
Temeprature Sweet Spot: 45-55 degrees
ABV: 7%
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Paired with Pizza: 8 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
A lot of guys at RateBeer.com liked this, but they detected a hint of orange that was completely missing from my experience.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Quick Sip 009. Karbach Love Street

I feel like I should write a love letter to this beer. At first, I was not overly impressed with this beer. I drank it, enjoyed it, and thought I'd move on. But as the summer wore on, I became more like Archie Andrews (if he were old enough to drink that is -- unbelievably, the dude is pushing 73 and he's still in high school and can't buy a beer!); even though I was infatuated with darker, more exotic fare like Veronica Lodge, I kept being drawn back to good old reliable Love Street, which was as light and breezy as Betty Cooper, the girl next door.

Copyright 2014 Archie Comics
All rights reserved. Hey, I'm a subscriber, so please
don't make me delete this.

I can't say wonderful things about this beer. It's light. Pleasant color, pleasant aroma... nothing remarkable. But there's something relatable about it that kept drawing me back to it. Over and over again. Over the course of the entire summer, I bought (and consumed) two cases of this stuff. I think I was into my third six-pack before I realized that this was, at least for now, my "go-to" beer when I wanted to drink something light (ABV 4.9%) while chilling at night with my wife and dog,

So, here's my ode to Love Street, something local that I thought would be a passing fancy, but something that kept me coming back for more.

This is a light-colored, pleasant Kölsch-Style beer. It has a caramel aroma with hints of the sweet malt to come. It has a nice white head and a pleasing mouthfeel. This beer has more complexity than you first suspect, with citrus undertones and a dash of pleasing aromatic hops.

From www.karbach.com:

In the 1960's on Allen's Landing sat Love Street; a hot spot of music and social impact.  The venue hosted eclectic characters ranging from open mic'ers to the Lizard King himself.  Love Street was not only a place, but a state of mind.  A place to unwind and let the music refresh your soul.
Likewise, Love Street Summer Seasonal is a state of mind.  Brewed in the Kolsch-style and hopped delicately with floral German hops, this beer boasts a clean malt proile that refreshes to the core, without sacrificing character.  So crack one open and find your own Love Street.

My Rating: 7 out of 10
One of my favorites

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Quick Sip 008. Unibroue La Terrible

When you look at the photo for this week's pour, you may wonder why I only went with half a glass. The answer is simple: La Terrible by Unibroue has an Alcohol By Volume (ABV) of 10.5%. Since I still have work to do tonight (for a peak of what I'm up to, take a look at the various projects over at my other blog, mikemitchellonline.blogspot.com), I didn't think it wise to consume more than half a glass.

I have heard of this beer before. And, truthfully, it's been sitting in the beer fridge for a long time. Since it's such a big bottle, I was reluctant to open it. But, I've recently decided I need to drink some of my back-shelf stock before it sours, so I'm going through things I normally would drink in the winter, not the summer. That is to say, heavier fare, like this midnight-black concoction. Honestly, when I poured this into the glass, I wondered if I shouldn't call NASA and tell them that I've isolated dark matter right here on earth.

Yup, it's black.

I mean really black. It is as dark as Guinness from the bottom of the keg. I've only seen one or two other beers this dark, and one of those would include Storm King, which might be darker than this. I would have to put them side-by-side to be sure.

Anyway, the aroma didn't thrill me.  It was malty and fruity... sweet notes dominated the nose. The head was a generous, but slow-to-rise tan that left decent lacing. I drank it at about 50-55 degrees F, and found it to be much more pleasant than I had expected. In the past, most beers of that strength kick like a mule and taste like mule hooves that have been prancing in the field. In other words, they taste like rotgut that someone has cut with beer.

This wasn't bad, though. I actually enjoyed the fruitiness and it came off lighter than I expected (of course, my expectations were just this side of molasses, based as they were on its appearance). Not sure of the fruit: Cherries or plums? Slight hint of chocolate, and more than an aftertaste of yeast. But not in an entirely bad way.

If I'd been drinking this in the winter, I would be curled up under a blanket and marathon re-watching the last season of Community. As it is, I've had half a glass tonight and put a wine stopper in it for another night. I know someone who I think would like this, so I'll save it for the next time I see Josh B. I'll let you know what he thinks of it.

La Terrible is a dark brown beer on lees and is part of a collection of exotic and refined Unibroue beers brewed using 100% natural raw materials. It may be drunk as an aperitif or as an after dinner digestive. It is equally a perfect accompaniment to the above-mentioned dishes or a pleasant alternative to coffee.
-- From their Website:  www.unibroue.com 

ABV: 10.5%
My Rating: 7 out of 10

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Quick Sip 007. Goose Island Sofie - Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale

With this Quick Sip having the number 007, I was tempted to find something with a spy theme, or perhaps to try to force some heavy-handed metaphor about something hiding beneath the surface. But after taking one sip of Goose Island Sofie Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale, I decided that wasn't going to work. You see, this is a good, nicely spiced farmhouse ale, but I don't think it has a lot of lurking nuance to report back to the home office.

This bottle was actually made in 2013 and has been sitting in my beer fridge -- nice and cold, only occasionally agitated by the opening and closing of the door -- since I bought it some time last year. When that was, I cannot say. I do know this is a large bottle (750 ml) and I don't buy them often, but I seldom pay more than $15 for a bottle this size ($10 being far more common).

This is a good farmhouse ale -- appropriately light and spiced for the summer. Opening it, I actually had to do an emergency suck at the mouth to catch the ample head as it foamed over. I didn't really agitate it much carrying it to my desk, so perhaps it was the extra time spent aging? Unless I find another (more recent) bottle, then there's no way for me to no. But as i was sucking suds from the neck, I was greeted by pleasant citrus notes with hints of pepper and perhaps some coriander. Pleasing, to say the least.

The pour was a light yellow color with a huge head (as to be expected). lacing was lighter than expected from such a glorious 3-finger head. Carbonation was medium but persistent. It's still got bubble after 10 minutes. Again, as to be expected, it's very cloudy.

"80% Belgian Style Ale Blended with 20% Belgian Style Ale Aged in wine barrels with orange peel."
-- From the label

I think fans of farmhouse ales (also known as Saisons) will like this, but it was a little too sour for me. In fact, this borders on a shandy and the sour notes give me the impression of drinking a tart lemonade, but without the lemon flavor. I will say this, though, it has a relatively dry mouthfeel that I expected to increase the bitterness, but that didn't happen. It didn't get more sour the longer I drank it (and since it was such a big bottle, there was a lot to drink). Another thing I expected was a strong presence of hops, but they were nicely in balance with the understated malt and managed to play nicely with the spices and aromatics.

This is a good summer beer and I might actually like to try a more recent vintage so I can decide whether the faint yeast taste and persistent carbonation are intended, or just by-products of staying on the shelf too long. The next time I try it, I would like to try it with some pork barbeque and a good, vinegary cole slaw to see how it pairs. If I get the chance, I'll post an update.

ABV: 6.5%
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Summer fun in the sun rating: 8

Monday, June 30, 2014

061. Blue Moon Short Straw Farmhouse Red Ale

I first tried this beer about two weeks ago and very quickly drank 5 out of 6 bottles, saving the last one for my review. I also spent that time looking for another six pack -- and failed. For whatever reason (out of stock, out of season, just don't care enough brands), I couldn't find another six pack of Blue Moon Short Straw Farmhouse Red Ale.

Which is odd, considering their Website reports that this is available year round: http://www.bluemoonbrewingcompany.com/OurBeers/product/Short-Straw-Farmhouse-Red-Ale  I don't care what their site says, though, I'm pretty darned sure this is a summer seasonal.

Nevertheless, the reason I checked out about six stores for it was not because it's a super amazing beer, but it just a really solid red ale with a hint of citrus and just a few nice notes of hops to make it a very pleasing summer beer that won't weigh you down.

"Farmhouse Ales were brewed for the diligent farmhands who drew the short straw and had to work the arduous harvest. Our brewmaster’s expression blends the spiciness of a Farmhouse Ale with the tartness of a Flanders Red for a remarkably refreshing finish."
-- From the label (and their Website)

Pour & Nose
The pour was, honestly, unremarkable. Two fingers of white head that was washed away by a quick rise of bubbles. I thought this was going to be an aggressively carbonated beer, but that's not the case. The bubbles came and went quickly, leaving almost no trace of lace. The color was nice, though: a crisp, clear copper with just the right color for something daring to call itself a "red ale."

The nose was even better. Spices, citrus (I'd say pepper and hibiscus) with subtle hops notes. Pleasing, but not attention grabbing. Still, it has a nice, earthy honesty that I found refreshing.

Savor the Flavor
I'm not a big fan of Flemish sours, but this one has just enough bitterness from the hops and just a hint of sweet from the spices, citrus and malt to make this a very pleasing drink for these dragon's breath days of summer. I think what appeals to me is the crispness. There's something about it that reminds me of biting into a crisp, really bitter Granny Smith apple. Now, don't get me wrong. I am not suggesting that this has any sort of apple flavor or any underlying apple sweetness. It's just that this combo reminds me of the experience of biting into a really bitter apple.

And I like it.

Closing Thoughts
Not bad, not good. A bit above average, which is why I didn't give it a 5 rating. The color and light taste seem perfect for summer by the pool or chilling with friends. It's not something I can imagine taking up permanent residence in my beer fridge, but it wouldn't be unwelcome if I found it in a cooler at a barbecue. Of course, I would let it warm up significantly before drinking it.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: Red Ale
Color: Clearly Copper
Aroma: Citrus, hibiscus, pepper, hint of hops
Hops: Mild, but aromatic
Malt: Subtle, but it does its job in the chorus supporting the main performers
Head: White but leaves the party early
Lace: Almost none
Bitterness: Nicely sour
Carbonation: Heavy, but dissipates quickly
Mouthfeel:  Crisp, but with an odd bready quality as you near the bottom of the bottle
Temeprature Sweet Spot: N/A (I liked it cold and warmer, so 36-56 degrees)
ABV: 5.8%
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Summer fun in the sun rating: 9

Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
Most of the guys over at RateBeer.com hated this. They were really bitchy about the sourness and just seemed pissed that it wasn't a stronger version of some other type of beer. This is one of the only times I've found their reviews to be so out of synch with mine that they are utterly useless to me.

For more about Farmhouse Ales in general, check out this page over at BeerAdvocate.com.

Friday, June 13, 2014

060. Goose Island 312 Urban Pale Ale

Summer is here -- at least in temperature and humidity, if not in date. Dog walking is now and after midnight activity. And even then the humidity can be oppressive. To shake off these early summertime blues, sometimes I like to come home and pop the top on a nice cold one. And the beer in this bottle is a lot lighter in color than what I prefer in the dark nights of winter.
Tonight's lucky bottle is from the Goose Island Beer Company.

I'll be honest, I am not be a fan of the politics that have seeped out of Chicago, but I am a fan of this brewery. I've had a couple of their beers that I have enjoyed quite a bit. This one is no different, in that regard: 312 Urban Pale Ale is a solid beer that has the right mix of flavor and crispness that I look for in a summer beer.

From Popped Top to Glass
The beer has almost no aroma when cold, but when allowed to warm up a bit, floral notes and citrus become apparent. There's a hint of sweetness hiding under the mountain hops aroma... but that sweetness doesn't make it into the glass itself.

Colorwise, this is an unusual beer. In one light, it looked rather dull and almost yellow. But, when photographed against a dark cloth, suddenly it turned into a pleasing golden color with hints of copper. The Goose Island web site lists the color as "Marigold," but I don't agree with that. It's really just a pleasing golden color.

Poured with a gentle slope and care into the glass, it generated a heady two-finger layer of foam that was a bright white. Just judging this beer by its looks, this brew looked like it had a lot to offer. That did not immediately translate into the glass. My first taste left me with the impression that this is a nice beer -- but almost completely unremarkable.  In fact, if this review were based on a 2-3 ounce sample, I would have given it a 5 out of 10.

But, being mindful of my responsibility to you, the reader, I didn't stop at just a few sips. I kept on drinking the bottle, just to make sure I was being thorough. After all, I do need to maintain some levels of journalistic integrity, don't I? So, braving on, I began to detect more subtle notes in the beer that I found both surprising and pleasing.

As I said, there are floral and citrus notes in the nose and the body. The light carbonation is pleasing, but it and the head seemed to fade faster than I expected. It did leave a lot of lace in the glass, however. And who doesn't like lace-lined beer glasses?

"We are from the city that invented the skyscraper. We constructed our Urban Pale Ale on a balanced malt backbone, so the citrus hop aroma and crisp flavor can stand tall."
--From their Website, www.gooseisland.com
The mouthfeel is good -- not overly dry or sweet. As the beer warmed, the malt did seem to release more sweetness, but on the whole, this beer was a little bitter... but in a good, citrus way, not in an overly hopped or way.

Some Like it Hot  -- Or at least warm...
I found the bitterness to be very strong when I tasted it cold. Under 40 degrees, this is an almost disagreeable beer. But when allowed to thaw out a bit, it gets downright pleasant around 57-60 degrees. This is a good beer, but I don't think it's going to come home again this summer... or next. Oh, I wouldn't snub it at a party, and I might actually recommend it to good ole Cousin Josh as something he might like. He tends to like beers with strong hops or more bitter flavors. I think this might be the sort of thing he'll enjoy, so I'll save a few bottles for him and see what he thinks of it.  I'll let you know what he thinks.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: Pale Ale
Color: Gold with whispers of copper
Aroma: Citrus and mountain hops
Hops: Aromatic mountain hops with hints of floral
Malt: Solid and dependable, but it's working in the chorus, not taking the lead
Head: Super white and fluffy -- two fingers thick
Lace: Heavy -- more impressive than I was expecting
Carbonation: Light
Mouthfeel:  Crisp, hints of citrus, not too much alcohol
Temeprature Sweet Spot: 57-60 degrees
ABV: 5.4%
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Worth a sip when the heat is on

Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
Most of the guys over at BeerAdvocate.com did not, for the most part, like this beer. Most of the comments focused on the bitterness and more than one guy mentioned that it looked thin and had a poor head. I'm betting these guys tried to drink it cold. At

Monday, May 26, 2014

Quick Sip 006. Smithwick's Premium Irish Ale

Even the rain cannot dance in my spirit this Memorial Day. I've got burgers on the grill and a cold beer in my hand. And yes, I am thinking about those who died to make this possible for me and everyone else. One of the men I am thinking of most today is my uncle Harry. He passed away this past week after a very long and painful illness.

He had served in the US Air Force and had been stationed in Greenland in the late 1960s. So, even though he didn't fall in battle, I'm still remembering him today. I have many wonderful memories and stories about my uncle Hoppy, as we called him. But to be honest, must of them are not really suitable for mixed company. Yup. He was that kind of guy -- funny as hell... especially when he was with "just us guys." So, I'm going to keep the stories to myself.

My first beer of the day is poured in his honor. Other beers shall honor others. This beer is a pleasant malty Irish brew from those fine folks at Guinness. It's Smithwick's Premium Irish Ale. This is a very malty beer with a sweet taste of a wonderful, clear color. It has a hint of caramel sweetness and a thick head. I find this to be a very refreshing beer with a wonderful mouthfeel and very little bitter aftertaste (perhaps stemming from the fact that it only has 4.5% ABV?).

I first had this back at St Patrick's Day end of this loan bottle has been hiding in my refrigerator ever since. I have yet to find a food that I really think pairs well with it, but on its own it is a real refreshing treat.

 My rating: 8 out of 10

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

059. Miller Fortune

A late night ice cream run for me and the wife netted a little something extra for me. I was at a CVS Pharmacy in NW Houston to pick up some Blue Bell Ice Cream (Vanilla for the wife, Rocky Road for me) and I saw a new beer on sale. Miller Fortune for only $6.49. It was a good price, so I tossed it in the basket and, after TV and ice cream were finished, I decided to end the night with a nightcap.

Even though the beer had chilled for more than an hour, when I grabbed a pair of bottles and headed upstairs, I was concerned that they weren't chilled enough. I think that initial though is correct, as when I poured my first glass the old digital thermometer read it at 60 degrees. Not bad for an English Ale, but probably too warm for this decidedly American concoction.  So I put the second bottle in the freezer to chill it for a second taste, which I'll report on shortly.

The Basics
The bottle is drop-dead sexy. Narrow at the waist, dark color (if you look through it, it is actually dark brown, but looking at it you'd swear it's black). The label just says "Miller Fortune" and has an oh-so-cool Ace of Spades on the neck with a smoking red "M" in it. If I were still young and frequenting pool halls with my buddies, this would be in my hand between shots (at the pool table, that is -- I gave up shots in bars after the night that ended in the bar fight and my broken nose). But I digress.

Popping the top, I was hit with the aroma from a few inches away. Strong, sweet, malty and more hops than would actually turn up in the glass. A closer sniff yielded hints of yeast that, thankfully, were not in the brew itself. The pour was very pleasing to the eyes. A crisp, yellow liquid with a generous bounty of fluffy white head that sprouted in abundance from the hyperactive little bubbles that filled my glass. Photo op-wise, this was everything you hope for in a lager.

Miller Fortune is a premium golden lager undistilled at 6.9% abv. It boasts a rich, malty aroma, a light body, and a crisp, clean finish. Balanced, yet unexpectedly bold. Designed for a balanced taste and smooth finish. Crafted to have a deep golden color.
-- From their Web Site

The beer being a bit warm, I was not surprised that my first sip was very strong and flavorful. Thinking back, the aroma had led me to expect some type of strong IPA experience, but that was not what I encountered. I was drinking a decent lager with a strong taste of malt, a hint of aromatic hops and a whispered promise of pepper and spices.

In short, it's an okay beer. I honestly can't say that it would remind me of Miller High Life if it weren't for the Miller name on the label, but it does so I can't help but think of this as a more robust Miller High Life, which is not a bad thing. It's just not great. There's no single taste that dominates this. Normally, I like my beers to be very balanced, but this is balanced to the point of being unremarkable, and that's not a good thing. On the other hand, it's not a bad thing, either.

A few other notes are worth mentioning. After writing my review, I check out the other reviews at sites and compare mine, mainly to correct factual errors (such as beer type, brewery info, etc.). This time around I was surprised to find that Rate Beer is listing this as Malt Liquor. That was a surprise because millerfortune.com lists it as Golden Lager. There were also some posts mentioning that this is actually a reconfigured formula of an old malt liquor brew that they used to produce. I really don't know anything about this, but thought it interesting enough to mention.

Chilling with my Second Bottle
As noted previously, I let my second bottle chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes while I wrote down my first impressions. I expected the aroma to be smaller, but it was not. Still strong and pleasant. The head, however, was nonexistent -- barely one-finger tall and it faded in seconds. However, the lace was significantly thicker. I was very surprised by this last development.

My first taste was actually a bit bitter, but I think that may have been a reaction to the temperature affecting my taste buds, because after that, it seemed smoother than before. As people wrote elsewhere, the hops were nowhere to be found -- only the malt (and a bit more yeast) were taking center stage and making everyone else play quietly in the background chorus. In other words, malt took over and didn't leave much else.

To be honest, this is one beer that I may actually want to drink almost warm -- around 58-60 degrees. I typically like my brews a little warmer than most of my friends (they drink it ice cold and I prefer to let the hops and flavors come alive at slightly warmer temperatures), but this one really wants to wander over to the warm side of my drinking experience. A final thought at this temperature -- the alcohol taste is much more obvious when it's cold.

Closing Thoughts
Not bad, not good. A bit above average, which is why I didn't give it a 5 rating. The color and light taste seem perfect for summer by the pool or chilling with friends. It's not something I can imagine taking up permanent residence in my beer fridge, but it wouldn't be unwelcome if I found it in a cooler at a barbecue. Of course, I would let it warm up significantly before drinking it.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: Lager (some claim it's a malt liquor)
Color: Brilliant gold with whispers of copper
Aroma: Malt, sugar, hints of yeast and hops (at least when warm)
Hops: Mild, but present with floral after-notes
Malt: Strong, roasted -- yummy
Head: Super white and fluffy -- three fingers when warm, less when cold
Lace: Almost none
Carbonation: Heavy, but dissipates quickly
Mouthfeel:  Crisp, hints of citrus, not too much alcohol
Temeprature Sweet Spot: 58-60 degrees
ABV: 6.9%
My Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Summer fun in the sun

Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
Most of the guys over at RateBeer.com did not, for the most part, like this beer. A few thought it was innocuous and mostly harmless, though... kinda like my impressions of it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Quck Sip 005. Square Mile Spur & Vine Hopped Apple Cider

Another cider on the menu tonight. I want sure what to expect from the addition of hops, other than bitterness. But I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn't overly bitter. The hint of bitterness is definitely there, but it's not too bad.

The color is very light golden yellow with a faint carbonation, so gaunt it's almost not there (not that I think there should be more). The apples are semi-sweet, kind of like a mix of golden delicious and Granny Smith. I don't see this becoming one of my favorite hard ciders (not at $10 for a 1 pint 6 oz bottle), but I would definitely drink this again, and I will definitely try the other offerings from Square Mile Cider.

The more I drink it, the dryer it seems. I think it's a property of the temperature release aroma and flavor from the hops.

My score: 7.5 out of 10

Friday, March 7, 2014

058. Unita Baba Black Lager

It is a very rare March night here in Houston, Texas. The temperature is below freezing and there is icy rain falling down. Just the perfect dirt of night to cozy up with a tall glass (or four) of an ale so dark it can almost bend light. This time I'm diving into an unusual little brew from the Unita Brewing Co. in Utah -- an organic concoction called Baba Black Lager.

Pop a Top for me...
I bought this beer in cans, which is a bit unusual, as I mostly buy bottles these days. I think it was about $13-$15 for the 12-pack. The cans are light-weight and would travel well in a cooler. Of course, where would I be lugging a cooler in these, the icy last days of a long winter? So, in my case I'm just lugging them upstairs to enjoy whilst I putter away on some overdue computer projects.

Popping the top provides a mild odor of malt and not much else, except possible some sweet chocolate. But if the Hershey goodness is there, it's subtle. Definitely under the radar. After writing this review, I went online to read what others have said of it, and a few mentioned some coffee undertones. It may be the power of suggestion, but after reading that I think I smelled a little java, too.

From the Label:
Robust and smooth, this full-flavored lager is exceptionably drinkable and pitch black in color.

Don't fault the Unita Website for being short and to the point. This beer is very dark and does have a full flavor. This is one of the darkest beers I've seen, easily rivaling Guinness and a few Russian beers I've had. The head is a beautiful, light caramel color that's as stiff as a biscuit -- that is to say, it's strong. It also leaves an aggressive lace on the sides of my glass. And all this was from a very conservative, gentle pour. When I made an aggressive pour on my last can, I actually got a four-finger head that was slow to diminish. And, as you can well imagine, it left dramatic lace on the inside of the glass that was just begging to be licked off.

This is one of the very few beers that I prefer to drink very cold (about 42 degrees F). At warmer temps, a few other elements come to the surface and it reveals a dry, chalky aftertaste. For this brew, cold is the way to go.

Closing Thoughts
This is one of the best winter beers I've had in a long time. I can't picture wanting to drink this in the heat of summer, but with the icy winds swirling about outside, this is a fantastic winter warmer that I plan to revisit before the season actually turns again.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: Black Lager
Color: Dark, dark, dark brown (let's call it black)
Aroma: Roasted malt with hints of chocolate and coffee
Hops: Mild, but with a nice hint of bitters under the tongue
Malt: Dark roasted to perfection
Head: Thick caramel
Lace: Dramatic and impressive -- 2+ fingers easily
Carbonation: Medium/Heavy
Mouthfeel:  Full body, sweet bready consistency
Temeprature Sweet Spot: 42 degrees
ABV: 4.%
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10
A Winter Favorite

Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
Most of the guys over at RateBeer.com agreed with me. This is just boring.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Quick Sip 004. Shiner FM 966 Farmhouse Ale

Another good bet from THE Texas legends! The Little Brewery in Shiner brings us Shiner FM 966 Farmhouse Ale.

Truth in blogging moment, folks. This is not one of my stream-of-consciousness first-impression blogs. I've had this before a few months ago (or possibly longer, I forget).

I saw this big bottle at the store the other night (probably HEB or Randall's in NW Houston). Don't recall what I paid for it. Probably around $3 - $3.50, but it could have been as low as $2.49. All in all, not bad for a 1 pint 8 ounce bottle.

When you pop the top, the first thing that will hit you is a strong smell of yeast. Initially, this put me off, but I've come to like it. It's a nice change of pace from the many stouts, porters and hard ciders I've been drinking of late.

After the yeast comes the hops and some spices (probably pepper, but maybe clove and something else I'm not sure of). The pour is pleasant with a nice yellow (just a hint of gold) and a fabulous 2-finger head that left a marvelous trail of lace around my glass.

When it comes to frolicking in the cold, this ale is not a one-trick pony. That is to say, it has something to offer when served ice cold and something more to offer when served a little warmer (around 50 degrees F). The cold version delivers a tight, crisp feeling on your tongue and goes down with the flavors in tight control. But, as it warms up, there is a pleasant taste that is similar to a wheat beer, but not as strong. At both temperatures, the medium carbonation faded quickly, but the bubbles still felt nice dancing on my tongue.

I like this beer. It's the sort of thing I could picture indulging in on a warm Spring or early Summer evening.  I will definitely be buying this one again.
From their Website: Just south of the brewery there’s a road called FM 966. And now there’s a beer called FM 966. Coincidence? All we know is that this spring provisional ale made with pilsner and wheat malts is spicy, fruity, and always hits the spot.

My score: 7.5 out of 10

Saturday, February 15, 2014

057. Red Hook Audible Ale

This is an interesting ale...

I must admit, that half the reason I bought this six-pack of Red Hook's Audible Ale is because the label states:

"A crushable ale brewed in collaboration with Dan Patrick."

I think I heard him mention this once on his radio show, so I was curious to pick it up. And, to be honest, I'm still curious. I'm not quite sure what I make of it. I didn't care much for the aroma or the color (a few hints of hops and a rather bland yellow color that somehow reminds me of a cheap Mexican beer), and my first sip didn't wow me, either.

There's certainly nothing wrong with it. It's got a pleasant, dry flavor with a faint hint of sweetness that quickly fades. The one-finger head vanishes almost instantly at a cold temperature, but actually lingers fairly well at a cozy 55 degrees. There's not much lace to speak of, unfortunately. And, more unfortunate still, not much to say about it. The hops seem to be a little grassy, the super-teasing hint of fruit never comes to the forefront, and it just sort of sits there.

I think this is, sad to say, a rather boring American Pale Ale.

Nothing bad, but nothing great, either. It definitely doesn't live up to the hype from their Website:

"Redhook has teamed up with Dan Patrick to brew the ultimate craft beer for watching sports: plenty of flavor and aroma, and crushable enough to make you want another — without making you sloppy by halftime. So, whether you’re watching the Dan Patrick Show in your mancave, or tailgating in a parking lot, it’s time to fill your passion bucket with crushable craft. Listen to your thirst. It’s Audible."

Closing Thoughts
This is an okay APA. Nothing to dwell on, but nothing to make me gag, either. In short, it's okay. I wouldn't turn it down at a party, but I won't be buying it again. BY THE WAY, temperature is very important to this beer. Drink it a little warm (around 55 degrees) and you'll enjoy it more than you would ice cold. At 55ish, the hops aroma is released a little more, and the head and mouthfeel are definitely improved.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: American Pale Ale
Color: Yellow
Aroma: Faint grassy hops and a hint of fruit
Hops: Grassy but mild
Malt: Light but sweet
Head: One-finger
Lace: Almost none
Carbonation: Light
Mouthfeel:  Dry with hints of sweet
Temeprature Sweet Spot: 55 degrees an up
ABV: 4.7.%
My Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
Most of the guys over at RateBeer.com agreed with me. This is just boring.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

056. Blackthorn Fermented Hard Cider

Anyone who writes reviews on an even infrequent basis will likely tell you this truth: it's actually harder to review something mediocre than it is to review something bad. That is, unfortunately, the case with Blackthorn Fermented Hard Cider.

I don't pretend to be an expert on all alcoholic beverages. I've had more than enough beer to know what I like and to -- hopefully -- write intelligently on the subject. Hard Ciders are something new to me. Sure, I've had my share of Woodchuck and Angry Orchard over the years, usually at a dinner when I want something lighter than beer. So, for all I know, this could be the best danged hard cider on the planet (it could hit every checkbox at the International Cider House Competition, for all I know). But, the fact is, for me, this drink is pretty blah.

Yup, I've got a Master's Degree in English and that's the word I chose: Blah.

It's okay. It's not bad. But it's not great, either.

Hitting the Basics
Color: The color is one of the best things about this beverage. It's so startling clear, as though it has been filtered a dozen times.It is also very, very yellow. I mean like apple juice (go figure) or urine. Don't mean to gross anyone out, but if I were filming a movie and wanted someone to drink urine, I would use this. It's just so very yellow.

Aroma: I smelled the apples. Not a lot, but enough to know I wasn't about to sip some beer.

Flavor: Okay. It was a little dry (that is to say, not overly sweet). The apples are nice, and if I had to guess, I'd say there were Granny Smith apples in it providing a certain level of tartness that's not unpleasant. However, the thing that is completely unpleasant is the metal undertaste that was very pronounced. In fact, if I hadn't bought this at the downtown Spec's Liquor just yesterday, I would suspect it had been sitting on a shelf, forgotten for more than a year.

Temperature: Frequent readers will know that I list a "sweet spot" for my beer reviews. I take the temp with a digital food thermometer that is supposed to be accurate within a tenth of a degree. In this case, the temperature is particularly important to getting any enjoyment at all out of this beverage.

Cost: I picked this up, as I said, at the Spec's Liquor store in downtown Houston on Thursday. I think I paid about $8 or $9 for a 4-pack of 16.9 oz (500 ml) cans.

Closing Thoughts
During the Christmas holidays, I had some Crispin Hard Cider in cans (I may write a review later), and this reminds me of a weak copy of their superior, dry hard cider. I'm planning to hold one can of this back so I can do a side-by-side comparison. So stay tuned!

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: Hard Cider
Color: Yellow and SUPER clear
Aroma: Apples
Hops: Not Applicable
Malt: Not Applicable
Head: Quarter-inch head that fades immediately
Lace: None
Carbonation: None
Mouthfeel:  Dry with hints of sweet
Temeprature Sweet Spot: 55 degrees an up
ABV: 6.%
My Rating: 5 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
This is pretty much reviled over at RateBeer.com

There's also a very cool article over at the Blackthorn website about the history of Cider in England. It's definitely worth reading: http://dryblackthorncider.com/b/fast_hist.html

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Quick Sip 003. Woodchuck Hard Cider Winter

Thought I'd try something outside the norm for me, so I spent the Holidays enjoying hard ciders and Apple ales.
I've had Woodchuck Hard Cider before, but this is the first time I've had their Winter seasonal.

In short, it has a great flavor and, like the regular brand, it is crisp but that being overly sweet.The mild 5% alcohol content does not contribute any bitterness or alcohol taste. It has a little more depth of flavor than their regular drink. The label says there is a hint of vanilla -- I am not sure I agree with that, but there's definitely a dry after taste that is pleasing.
As a light alternative to beer, I would recommend this any time.
My score: 7.5 out of 10