Monday, 31 July 2006

Review: Frambozenbier

Frambozenbier from Brouwerij Liefmans
Rating: B+

This was in the back of my local liquor store's beer cooler. I wonder how long it had been sitting back there, but I don't see a date on the label. Cork comes out with less of a "pop!" than I was expecting.

Appearance: Pours more brown than red, actually with a touch of orange around the edges. Nice and clear, but little head with poor retention. Points for not *looking* like a raspberry beer.

Smell: You can smell raspberry as soon as it pours into the glass. A closer olfactory inspection reveals raspberry jam aromas with a hint of hops towards the tail.

Taste: Sweet raspberries at the tip of the tongue, but with a bitter middle and a fairly dry finish. This is the second beer of this genre that I've had (following the belle vue kriek) and I definitely like this one better. It's more dry, more tart, and I like raspberry more than cherry in general. Aftertaste is raspberry jam.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body, not syrupy. Could perhaps be a little more carbonated.

Drinkability: Higher than I expected, for sure. Dry finish helps a lot. Would pair very well with a raspberry (or chocolate, for that matter) dessert. Each reviewer seems to classify this in a different style, so I won't even try to box it in.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-31-2006 02:14:29

Sunday, 30 July 2006

Beer Bar Review: The Brickskeller

The Brickskeller in Washington, DC
Rating: A-

I've visited Brickskeller twice now, once just for drinks and once for a beer tasting of He'brew's offerings.

Atmosphere: hard call on this one. It's enjoyable for what it is, but it's not what I was expecting. It's an old building, the age shows (at least downstairs). If you just saw pictures of the place, you'd think it was something of a dive. Lots of graffiti in the bathroom, that sort of thing. Upstairs, where they held the tasting, is a different story, much more "upscale," whatever that means.

Quality: lots of good beers, no complaints. Glassware was... different from my expectations.

Service: our waitress was attentive, almost too attentive because I hadn't made decisions on what to have next yet (with so many choices, it's hard)! She knew beer, though, which is always nice.

Selection: it's Brickskeller, what more can you say? 5 out of 5!

Food: I had the turkey reuben to go with the ryePA in the he'brew tasting, and it was pretty tasty.

Reviewed on: 07-31-2006 03:06:31

Beer Bar Review: Rustico Restaurant and Bar

Rustico Restaurant and Bar in Alexandria, VA
Rating: B+

Went here straight from work for Dogfish Head glass night. Man, the place was crowded!

Atmosphere: crowded because of the special event going on, but the inside seemed nice and the outside area I wound up hanging out at was well done as well, very comfortable, and I met some interesting people.

Quality: Well, the all the beers I had were good. Unfortunately, I only got one DFH glass because they ran out! Every bottled beer I ordered didn't come with a glass, which was frustrating. "Flights" of one style are offered, in which you can sample six beers in the same vein - a nice touch, I think.

Service: This was the disappointing part of the night. Our waitress was hard to track down, she put checks together that she shouldn't have, and I wasn't given a clean glass with each beer (although it did appear that an effort was made to at least serve styles in the proper glassware *the first time*). Not what I'd expect from a place that prides itself on beer. To be fair, it was extremely busy, as mentioned.

Selection: very very good on this aspect, not quite as good as Brickskeller, but damned good.

Food: I didn't have any of the food, but according to those I was talking to, it is average.

Value was reasonable for what I got, granted that includes one DFH beer I got free (bottom of the keg pour) and the glass that came with it.

Reviewed on: 07-31-2006 02:57:36

Saturday, 29 July 2006

Review: Samuel Smith's India Ale

Samuel Smith's India Ale from Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster)
Rating: B+

Presented in a brown (!) Samuel Smith's bottle with a lovely blue cap.

Appearance: Pours with a satisfying "glug glug glug..." an attractive dark amber color. Big, frothy head. Good lace. Very nice looking beer.

Smell: Smells a bit like I expect a DIPA to, I think because the malt/hops balance is tilted more to the malt in this one than your AIPA's, but with more fruit and not as much sweetness.

Taste: malt up front, followed by some spicy hops and a caramel/fruit middle with apples and oranges (which is stronger? don't ask me, I can't compare the two!). Great dry, bitter finish. Definitely the hoppiest English ale I've had to date (take that as you will). Bitterness is on the high end of APAs. Some diacetyl butteriness shows up as the beer warms.

Mouthfeel: well-carbonated, light-moderate mouthfeel. Diacetyl tongue-coating butteriness detracts a bit, though.

Drinkability: with the fruit and conservative hopping, this could be a great introductory beer for IPA's. Potentially sessionable.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-29-2006 20:46:39

Review: Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue)

Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue) from Bières de Chimay (Abbaye Notre Dame de Scourmont)
Rating: A-

Off-white one-finger head atop a rich brown body. Appears to be highly carbonated, constant stream of bubbles rising. Good head retention.

Smell: some malt, and the distinct Belgian yeast aroma, with a hint of spice.

Taste: Spicy, with some dark fruit character but it's in the background. Enough bitterness to balance, this one isn't overly sweet. Dry, slightly woody finish, with alcohol dominating the aftertaste. On the plus side, that means it finishes dry, which always helps drinkability for me.

Mouthfeel: wow, very highly carbonated, so much so that it gets in the way of enjoying the beer. Fairly light mouthfeel, thinner than I was expecting, I think.

Drinkability: too boozy to be highly drinkable. I really wanted to love this one, but I just like it. Didn't live up to my expectations, at least.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-29-2006 02:30:19

Review: Messina Lager

Messina Lager from Heineken Italia SpA (formerly Birra Dreher)
Rating: C

I'd never seen this one before so I picked it up, singles were going for $1 even so I didn't go in with high expectations.

Appearance: light honey color, smaller than expected head with decent retention. Minimal lacing.

Smell: smells like a macro, but better than heineken at least (must be the brown bottle!). Bready and hints of sweetness.

Taste: Hops character is subdued and kind of floral. Somewhat pilsner-like, sweet, weird aftertaste... kind of savory. Light flavor on the whole.

Mouthfeel: fairly thin mouthfeel, what else to expect in this style, but the carbonation is relatively tame in comparison to others.

Drinkability: Good to pair with spicy food, I'd wager, but I won't pick it up again. On the whole an exceptionally average beer.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-28-2006 23:13:18

Friday, 28 July 2006

Review: Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout from North Coast Brewing Co.
Rating: A

Appearance: absolutely opaque, good tan head, wish I'd had a new glass to see some lacing...

Smell: roast, chocolate, coffee, pretty much exactly what you expect to find in a stout.

Taste: Again, a very well-balanced stout and a fine ambassador for the style to new stout drinkers, I'd imagine. Alcohol is extremely well-hidden. Dry hop finish, just what I want.

Mouthfeel: exceptionally smooth. lighter than I anticipated, but good!

Drinkability: best RIS i've had so far!

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-27-2006 23:35:07

Review: Immort Ale

Immort Ale from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Rating: B+

Appearance: dark garnet color, not much in the way of head or lacing.

Smell: woody aroma, sweet, alcohol detectable.

Taste: sweet, with some vanilla and an oak finish. I thought this was higher in alcohol than 11%, from the boozy taste. I like the finish quite a bit.

Mouthfeel: no complaints about carbonation, thick mouthfeel but it worked - tough to pull off in this kind of beer, I think.

Drinkability: too boozy to be highly drinkable, but I did like that oaky finish.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-27-2006 23:30:54

Review: Alpha King Pale Ale

Alpha King Pale Ale from Three Floyds Brewing Co. / Brewery & Pub
Rating: A

This is a fine beer, though not for the faint of heart!

Appearance: we were sitting outside and it was pretty dark, but copper color with a good head.

Smell: huge hops aroma that you can smell as it pours and from surprisingly far away. delicious and tantalizing. citrus.

Taste: So good! Lots of fresh hops flavor here, obviously very bitter, but not at all harsh. Again, citrus. An APA done right - actually, I thought this was an IPA.

Mouthfeel: very good mouthfeel, better than the IPA I'd had earlier.

Drinkability: Just keep it coming

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-27-2006 23:20:59

Review: HopDevil Ale

HopDevil Ale from Victory Brewing Company
Rating: A-

I used a clone recipe of this to brew a batch of IPA, so I was curious to taste what the real thing is like!

Appearance: ruddy amber color, good head, not much lacing but possibly because I was forced to reuse the glass (waitress didn't bring me a new one, and she was hard enough to track down to order)

Smell: lots and lots of hops, with a grapefruity character

Taste: again, grapefruit hops (though not as grapefruity as smuttynose), very dry, with a touch of caramel.

Mouthfeel: much lighter mouthfeel than I expected, I would have preferred a little more.

Drinkability: good, but on the whole (and it's great to be able to say this!) I think I liked the version I brewed better!

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-27-2006 23:16:00

Review: 120 Minute IPA

120 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Rating: B+

Appearance: Poured from the bottom of the keg, with a huge stiff head that lasted to the bottom of the glass. Copper color, very nice looking beer.

Smell: sweet, floral hops, and a good bit of alcohol.

Taste: much like the smell, but stronger. This is an intense beer! sweeter than I think I'd prefer, but well worth seeking out.

Mouthfeel: slightly syrupy, this was a low-point.

Drinkability: found myself wishing I'd gotten more beer and less head from the pour, but it was complimentary so no complaints! That said, the huge alcohol content limits drinkability.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-27-2006 23:09:45

Thursday, 27 July 2006

Review: Golden Era

Golden Era from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Rating: B

Pours like sunshine, attractive color. Good head and lacing. Crisp, floral hops aroma. Taste is overwhelmingly sweet, much more so than expected, with supporting floral hops, but not nearly enough to make up for all the sweetness going on here. Mouthfeel borders on syrupy, but abv fairly well hidden. Drinkability not great, one and I was ready to move on to the next.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-27-2006 04:39:57

Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Review: He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A.

He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A. from Shmaltz Brewing Company (He'Brew)
Rating: B+

Appearance: beautiful white head, absolutely incredible head retention, the best I've ever seen. It must be the rye. Body is a clear ruddy color.

Smell: inverted from the other he'brew beers, where sweet malt is dominant - this one has a very strong spicy hops character, with the malt playing a supporting role. Somewhat bready.

Taste: spicy hop bite up front, which gives way to sweet malt. Alcohol fairly well-hidden, I thought. Not my favorite of the he'brew line, I have to say. Drinking this beer is like a kick in the head, it's very strongly flavored.

Mouthfeel: medium-heavy mouthfeel, dry acidic finish that aids drinkability a little, but the aftertaste lingers.

Drinkability: I drank this one slower than the others. I enjoyed it, but I won't be seeking this one out again.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-25-2006 02:34:58

Review: He'Brew Genesis 10:10

He'Brew Genesis 10:10 from Shmaltz Brewing Company (He'Brew)
Rating: B+

Appearance: Auburn color with a slightly purple tint to it, little head or lacing, clear.

Smell: sweet malt, dark fruits, background hops

Taste: sweet, malty, with a good amount of hops in the background. some fruit and caramel, but in supporting roles. pomegranate shows up in the finish. reminded me a bit of a less-hopped version of Bigfoot barleywine. some alcohol warming at the swallow.

Mouthfeel: heavy, slightly syrupy, good carbonation,

Drinkability: alcohol level fairly well-hidden, fairly drinkable, especially considering the style (think barleywine, not fruit beer!)

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-25-2006 02:25:35

Review: He'Brew Messiah Bold

He'Brew Messiah Bold from Shmaltz Brewing Company (He'Brew)
Rating: B+

Appearance: very dark, not quite opaque, with some dark red highlights. Good head and lacing.

Smell: lots of dark chocolate, and some caramel. Not much in the way of hops.

Taste: chocolate, caramel, enough bitterness to back it up. Nutty finish. A little bit on the sweeter side.

Mouthfeel: rich and creamy, very nice, but light enough to be drinkable.

Drinkability: could easily be a dessert beer. a little too sweet to be a sessioner. Better than the last couple nut browns I've had in brewpubs.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-25-2006 02:17:19

Review: He'Brew Genesis Ale

He'Brew Genesis Ale from Shmaltz Brewing Company (He'Brew)
Rating: B

Appearance: Amber copper color, clear, good head and very nice lacing. a fine looking beer.

Smell: sweet malt dominant, but with a firm backbone of hops

Taste: Interesting cross between an american amber and an american pale ale. sweet malts in the forefront, but with enough citrusy hops to stand on their own. If I had to choose between one and the other, I'd probably put it more in the American amber category than the APA.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, but light enough to session. fine finish and aftertaste, although the taste is on the sweeter side, it doesn't become wearing.

Drinkability: High! the brewer calls this a "craft session beer" and I think the description fits.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-25-2006 02:11:26

Monday, 24 July 2006

Review: Yuengling Black & Tan

Yuengling Black & Tan from Yuengling Brewery
Rating: B-

Appearance: very dark brown, opaque, a rough pour produced a one finger head with decent retention. Minimal lacing. Vaguely cola-like appearance.

Smell: sweet malt, hint of hops at the tail. some chocolate.

Taste: Dual personality shows up in the flavor. Surprisingly light at first, this is the "premium lager," and the porter shows up a second or two later. Flavor is fairly light, bitterness balances the malt well - from the smell, I was expecting something sweeter. Chocolate malt finish. Slight bitter coffee aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: fizzy carbonation, too much. light mouthfeel seems out of place with the malts here.

Drinkability: light mouthfeel, dry finish contribute to good drinkability. could be a good baby-step into "dark beer" for someone not accustomed. Take a macro lager, and add some chocolate malt flavor and you get the idea.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-24-2006 02:02:04

Sunday, 23 July 2006

Review: Euphoria

Euphoria from DuClaw Brewing Company
Rating: B

Appearance: dark brown/caramel in the glass, small head, decent retention, some lacing. looks like cola in the glass.

Smell: malt, and toffee are the dominant aromas.

Taste: again, much of the same, toffee being the standout. butterscotch and coffee are also present, and the whole effect is somewhat reminiscent of cola, especially in the finish. Bitterness is mild, no hint of alcohol

Mouthfeel: very smooth, but seems more carbonated than it needs to be. the carbonation reinforced the impression of cola I got when I was drinking this, and that's not what I wanted to taste.

Drinkability: enjoyable flavor but light mouthfeel, without being sweet, made this a pretty drinkable brew.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-23-2006 16:20:27

Review: Sawtooth

Sawtooth from DuClaw Brewing Company
Rating: B-

Appearance: somewhat hazy yellowish color, no head by the time it was served to me, no lacing. Not particularly appealing.

Smell: less intense than I'd anticipated, but sour citrus, with some spice.

Taste: Not the best wit I've had. Slightly acidic, some orange/citrus flavor and the corriander shows up in the finish. Bitterness is very mild.

Mouthfeel: light mouthfeel, carbonation fine. right for the style.

Drinkability: not bad, but not great.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-23-2006 04:36:56

Saturday, 22 July 2006

Review: Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout

Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout from Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster)
Rating: A-

Appearance: Pours a very dark brown with red hues, one finger tan head, good retention. Opaque. No lace, but honestly, I think that's because I didn't clean my glass very well.

Smell: I probably didn't let it warm up enough, so it's a little more subdued than it should be, but I can smell oats, earthy English hops, dark roast malts.

Taste: sweeter than I expected (reminiscent of a milk stout), but with lots else going on, too. some chocolate, molasses, a touch of fruit at the tip of the tongue. hop flavors are pretty subdued, a good portion of the bitterness seems to be coming from the roast malts. Oats show up more and more as it warms.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, but lighter than I'd anticipated or I would probably prefer.

Drinkability: on the whole, not as good as Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout, but good. a little too sweet to be highly drinkable, for me.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-21-2006 23:49:54

Friday, 21 July 2006

Review: Brewer Patriot Collection - 1790 Root Beer Brew

Brewer Patriot Collection - 1790 Root Beer from Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Rating: D-

I've been holding off on opening this one, because I don't have very high expectations, but since it's been sitting in my fridge longer than anything else, I think it's time to open it up.

Appearance: Doesn't pour as dark as I was expecting, more of a caramel color. Very hazy, very little head, no lacing. Not bad for a historical beer, but not very attractive, either. Good color, nothing else positive.

Smell: uhoh, anise is the overwhelming aroma. I should mention now that I really don't like anise, but I'll try my best to be objective. smells "cold," like menthol or mint. Take note, Coors.

Taste: very confused. anise up front, but then the bitterness kicks in. The combination doesn't work at all. as soon as you swallow, the anise flavors come back in full force. It's like forcing your tongue to go on one of the swinging ship amusement park rides. They needed to decide to go one way or the other with this one. You can make a rootbeer that happens to be alcoholic, but don't try to hop it like a beer too. Closest thing to undrinkable I've ever reviewed. I'm trying to find the molasses and vanilla in here, but they're overwhelmed by the anise. Wintergreen shows up in the aftertaste. Hard to finish. Medicinal.

Mouthfeel: Unfortunately, this is probably the best part of this beer. Light-medium body, relatively high carbonation.

Drinkability: who thought this was a good idea? my expectations were already low, but honestly, this was worse than I'd anticipated. I'm going to have to have another beer just to get the taste out of my mouth (darn!). What happened with this one, Sam?

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-21-2006 02:27:47

Review: Coopers Sparkling Ale

Coopers Sparkling Ale from Coopers Brewery Limited
Rating: B-

Accidentally poured a bunch of sediment in from the bottom, even though i left probably 1.5 centimeters in the bottle. must have been a lot of sludge! surprisingly little head, disappeared quickly. honey color. not particularly attractive, but i don't know how much of that is my fault for the crappy pour. very very hazy, almost looks like it could be a "historical" beer.

Smell: yeast (again, the pour?) with some fruitiness and some earthy hops. Disappointing aroma, as well as appearance.

Taste: ah, here we go, finally something about this beer that surpasses expecations (although my eyes and nose had set them pretty low!). starts out on a citrusy, hoppy note, which fades to some mild sweetness, before a very earthy finish, and a bitter aftertaste. On the whole, though, flavor is light for an EPA.

Mouthfeel: fairly light mouthfeel, highly carbonated (it is "sparkling" ale, after all).

Drinkability: honestly, if you didn't have to look at it, and you couldn't smell it, this wouldn't be bad at all. good one to drink out of the bottle, perhaps? Good beer for summer, while barbecueing.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-21-2006 01:01:09

Review: Altstadt Weissbier

Altstadt Weissbier from Drayman's Brewery
Rating: B-

I had this on tap at a German restaurant in Hatfield (Pretoria) and found it pretty sour. Then I went to the brewery to pick up some of Drayman's other beers, and when I mentioned I'd had the Weissbier and named that particular restaurant, the first question out of the brewer's mouth was "was it fresh?" Apparently their turnover at that restaurant isn't very high, so I think what I had been poured was probably sour from sitting in the lines too long, so I picked up a bottle of the stuff and had it a week later, in Cape Town.

Appearance: little head, little lace, perhaps a little darker than I'd expect in a hefe weizen, hazy as I would expect.

Smell: citrus and bubble gum aromas, not much in the way of banana.

Taste: citrus and bubble gum are the stand out flavors here.

Mouthfeel: light mouthfeel, good carbonation for the style.

Drinkability: I went back to it after having a bad experience with a sour one, and killed a one liter bottle of it by myself... so yes, it's drinkable.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-21-2006 00:43:03

Review: Old Wobbly

Old Wobbly from Mitchell's Knysna Brewery
Rating: C

Appearance: little head, no lacing, hazy gold color. Not very appealing.

Smell: very vinous, and definitely high alcohol. A non-beer-drinking friend said it smelled like grape juice.

Taste: warming alcohol is unfortunately the dominant taste, some fig taste that I associate with some other barleywines I've had.

Mouthfeel: carbontaion is too low, heavy mouthfeel.

Drinkability: weakest of the beers at Mitchell's I've had - this one seems to be intended for getting drunk quickly, and not much else.
(sampled at the Cape Town location, review entered from notes)

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-21-2006 00:23:51

Review: Milk & Honey

Milk & Honey from Mitchell's Knysna Brewery
Rating: B

Appearance: orange/red-tinted honey, small head, no lacing

Smell: smells like honey, with some vegetative hops notes, definitely sweet.

Taste: sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. One wonders how much the name is influencing your tasting, because "milk and honey" seems like a great description. Promotional material does say that honey actually goes into this one, though. Honey, creamy, with enough hops to back it up.

Mouthfeel: a bit reminiscent of boddingtons, once the nitro has disipated. slightly creamy, good finish and aftertaste.

Drinkability: if you like a beer on the sweeter side (while still not being Belgian-syrupy), this would be a good choice. I tend to get tired of sweeter beers quickly, but I enjoyed this one to the end.
(sampled at the Cape Town location, review entered from notes)

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-21-2006 00:14:33

Review: Bosun's Bitter

Bosun's Bitter from Mitchell's Knysna Brewery
Rating: B

Appearance: honey color, no lace, small head.

Smell: cloves, sweet, honey, and fresh grassy hops

Taste: much of the same, distinct honey taste, with some grassiness in the background and a touch of spice.

Mouthfeel: aftertaste is very well balanced between sweetness and bitterness, very clean.

Drinkability: very enjoyable, sessionable. reminds me somehow a bit of a homebrew I made with honey and cascade.
(sampled at the Cape Town location, review entered from notes)

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-21-2006 00:07:50

Review: Forester's Draft

Forester's Draft from Mitchell's Knysna Brewery
Rating: B-

Appearance: yellow tint, dark gold. very small head, no lacing, not an appealing looking beer to be honest.

Smell: interesting! there's something different in this one from the typical lager. apple, grass, and a hint of honey are all present.

Taste: floral with apple and honey notes. this is the second Mitchell's beer I've had and there's definitely some honey flavors in both.

Mouthfeel: a little syrupy for a euro pale lager. carbonation is low, but it works.

Drinkability: different, solid lager. definitely worth trying, although the mouthfeel is a little heavy.
(sampled at the Cape Town location, review entered from notes)

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-21-2006 00:00:38

Review: Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout

Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout from Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster)
Rating: A

Presentation: great label, "contractors to her majesty's forces," perfect for an imperial stout.

Appearance: pitch black, one finger dark tan head - probably the darkest colored head i've seen in a beer. good retention, but little lacing.

Smell: roast, chocolate, perhaps a little sourness in the aroma. from the aroma, i anticipate some bitterness as well. a little sweet-smelling towards the end.

Taste: wow, that's good. lots of complexity, picking out individual flavors is going to be tougher than usual: slightly sweet/fruity at the tip of the tongue, bitterness in the middle. some caramel character. dark fruit finish, resolving to a dry, bitter aftertaste. very enjoyable. this is a stout where the bitterness is from hops, not burnt grain. it's roast, but not charred. surprisingly fruity, maybe that's because it's an english rather than american yeast.

Mouthfeel: lighter than I expected, medium body, not particularly thick. this definitely isn't what i expected from an "imperial" stout, but i like it. i'll need to try another one soon to compare.

Drinkability: A highly drinkable stout, though a bit surprising! Best i've had so far (still many good ones to go, though!)

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-20-2006 23:47:29

Tuesday, 18 July 2006

Brewpub Review: District ChopHouse & Brewery

District ChopHouse & Brewery in Washington, DC
Rating: B+

Atmosphere: Perhaps a touch too crowded, but nice and big. You have to go down an elevator to get to the bathroom, which was mildly irritating. Classy place.

Quality: Beers offered were a light lager, a hefe weizen, an amber, a nut brown, an oatmeal stout, and their bourbon stout. The light lager and the hefe were disappointing, the amber stood out, and the bourbon stout was... good, but kind of surprising and weird.

Service: our server was attentive and prompt, no complaints. after our meal, I asked if the brewery area was open and we were taken up to the second floor where the equipment is and shown around, as I explained to those I was with what each piece of equipment does.

Selection: only six beers available (no non-chophouse beers available), but pretty good wine and scotch lists, plus cocktails. I was surprised to see that they charge $5 for their beer sampler, while Gordon Biersch down the street provides it for free. Food menu is a little sparse - some more options would be nice.

Food: the food was much better than I expected, although commensurately much more expensive than I expected. At our table, we had a portabello stack appetizer that was exceptionally good, a rack of lamb (pretty good, but not great), a pork filet that was exceptional, and the shrimp scampi which was very good. Dessert was a very good apple pie, split three ways.

Significantly more expensive (if you're going for dinner) than I'd anticipated, but the food was good enough that it made up for it.

Reviewed on: 07-18-2006 23:03:16

Review: Bourbon Stout

Bourbon Stout from District ChopHouse & Brewery
Rating: B+

Appearance: pitch black, nice head with exceptional retention, but little lacing.

Smell: vanilla, wood and booze. Smells nice, expectations are high.

Taste: Vanilla and spiced rum are the dominant flavors, alcohol warming is up there too, surprising considering how low in alcohol this actually is. Most of the flavor, unfortunately, seems to be coming from the wood aging instead of the malt or hops, which limits this beer's potential.

Mouthfeel: Surprisingly thin! Shockingly so, actually. Lightly carbonated, but smooth.

Drinkability: they're serving it "cool" rather than "cold" - unfortunately, when you're served a full pint that means it's room-temperature by the time you get down to the bottom third of your glass. It's good, but a pint serving is way too much. No matter how good it is, how much chocolate cake can you possibly eat? Same with this beer.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-18-2006 03:55:59

Review: Nut Brown

Nut Brown from District ChopHouse & Brewery
Rating: B

Appearance: dark brown with an almost purple tint to it, off-white head, some lacing.

Smell: a touch of cocoa, with some nuttiness. not a whole lot.

Taste: Cocoa, nuttiness, more bitter than I expected. Not bad.

Mouthfeel: smooth, no carbonation complaints, light-medium body.

Drinkability: I don't think it paired as well with the lamb as I'd hoped - I needed something with a bit more oomph to stand up to all of the strong flavors going on in the lamb, but it wasn't bad.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-18-2006 03:50:26

Review: Amber

Amber from District ChopHouse & Brewery
Rating: B+

Appearance: Red color, nice head, sticky lacing

Smell: Citrusy hops in foreground, with a strong, sweet malt background

Taste: more bitter and hoppy than i expected, hops are citrusy cascade. malt sweetness also very present, but finishes on dry alcohol note.

Mouthfeel: light-medium mouthfeel, good carbonation.

Drinkability: pretty drinkable brew, all in all.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-18-2006 03:44:10

Monday, 17 July 2006

Review: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Rating: A

This was the 2005 version, sampled at Brickskeller in DC.

Appearance: Light copper color, nice head and lacing. Very nice looking beer.

Smell: all fresh hops in the nose, wish some resiny, piney notes.

Taste: hops take center stage, but the malt backs up well enough that this quite bitter beer isn't overwhelming. Hops have a decidedly spicey character to them, which along with the pine in the nose explains why this is a winter seasonal.

Mouthfeel: no complaints at all, smooth, good carbonation.

Drinkability: I'll be buying a lot of this come winter so I can enjoy it all year round! Great representative IPA to introduce the style to people.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-17-2006 03:09:14

Review: Trois Pistoles

Trois Pistoles from Unibroue
Rating: B+

This one came in a bit under my expectations. Sampled at Brickskeller in DC.

Appearance: Very dark brown pour, with purple hues, nice head but leaving not much lace.

Smell: malt and Belgian yeast aroma dominate.

Taste: malt is the dominant flavor here, with dark fruit and an aftertaste that is all belgian yeast. Finishes fairly dry. Not overly sweet. Alcohol present in the background.

Mouthfeel: thinner than I expected for such a dark beer. no complaints on carbonation.

Drinkability: one was enough. I had high expectations for this one, and maybe they were too high. It was good, don't get me wrong, and more drinkable than a lot of Belgian-style ales because it's not overly sweet, but I just didn't get the complexity out of this one that a lot of other reviewers seem to have - maybe I'll have to come back to it sometime.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-17-2006 02:53:44

Review: Smuttynose IPA "Finest Kind"

Smuttynose IPA "Finest Kind" from Smuttynose Brewing Company
Rating: A-

Pours lighter than I expected, more of a dark gold than an amber/orange. Good head and lace. Aroma is all hops, specifically very grapefruity. The flavor is very much along the same lines. I wouldn't be too surprised if someone told me grapefruit juice actually went into this beer. Bitter, citrus hop notes dominate throughout. Mouthfeel is good, drinkability is high. Worth coming back to again and again.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-17-2006 02:45:38

Sunday, 16 July 2006

Review: Jenlain Bière De Noël

Jenlain Bière De Noël from Brasserie Duyck
Rating: B

Appearance: appealing dark orange color, small head, very little lacing. surprisingly, the color is the most orange-like aspect of this beer. Nice color.

Smell: Malt is the big presence here, even though I was expecting orange from the label. Yeasty kind of earthy funk as well.

Taste: Surprising amount of bitterness here - from the strong malt in the nose, and the fruit on the label, I was expecting something overly sweet. I was pleasantly surprised. Orange seemed a little more present on the tongue than in the nose, but still I don't know that you'd find it if you weren't looking. Some of the same earthy, funky yeastiness toward the end. Finishes dry. Really not sure what style this is supposed to fit in.

Mouthfeel: carbonation is tame, light mouthfeel.

Drinkability: surprisingly well-balanced. Not at all what I was expecting (something fruity and sickly sweet), which wound up being a good thing, but not great in its own right, either.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-16-2006 03:33:52

Friday, 14 July 2006

Review: Westmalle Trappist Tripel

Westmalle Trappist Tripel from Brouwerij Westmalle (Adbij der Trappisten van Westmalle)
Rating: A-

Appearance: Hazy lemon-orange kind of color. nice white head, good retention. bubbles keep popping up. Appearance is reminiscent of some hefeweizens. Not much in the way of lace.

Smell: I can smell it from a foot or more away! almost reminiscent of hefeweizen (this is my first tripel). fruity, some spice in the middle. As the glass warms you can smell alcohol, but it still remains in the background as far as flavor is concerned.

Taste: First sip... first thing that comes to mind - balance! It's sweet and fruity, but hoppy and bitter - simultaneously. The flavors pop up in order, and finish on a dry hoppy note that for me is a big plus when it comes to drinkability. Slightly acid, vinous character. Very clean finish. Nice complex beer! Alcohol is very well concealed.

Mouthfeel: No complaints. Carbonation perhaps a touch prickly immediately after pouring.

Drinkability: This is a consumately drinkable beer. Dry finish, complex flavor, well-hidden alcohol. Not a whole lot more to ask for.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-14-2006 01:26:05

Review: #9

#9 from Magic Hat Brewing Company
Rating: B-

At a function where Magic Hat was being served in addition to Budweiser, Bud Light and Dos Equis, going for a Magic Hat was a no-brainer, even if I haven't had great experiences with them in the past. Of course, I asked for the hefeweizen and was handed this instead. Oh well!

Appearance: poured a slightly hazy orange color. Little head, fair retention, no lacing.

Smell: I was expecting to find an intense apricot aroma, so I was very surprised how little there was to be found. Hops and an underlying sweetness, with a very faint fruitiness underneath that I have to assume is apricot.

Taste: underwhelming. "Not quite pale" indeed: the hops are underwhelming, the malt is underwhelming, and the fruit isn't there in sufficient force to take their places. I've been turned off by the Ringwood yeast in the other Magic Hat brews that I've tried, but here it was a little more subdued in the main flavor, but it showed up still in the aftertaste and turned me off there.

Mouthfeel: decent, not much worth mentioning. If you're going to have a beer this light in flavor, might as well give it a lighter mouthfeel to up drinkability, but they didn't go that route either.

Drinkability: I'm still glad I picked this instead of the other options that were available, but I opted for wine when I went back to the open bar for my second drink.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-14-2006 00:56:42

Wednesday, 12 July 2006

Review: Blind Faith

Blind Faith from Magic Hat Brewing Company
Rating: B

"Slurp Soup on a Sloop" is the saying beneath my cap.

Appearance: Fairly dark orange, amber color. Rather small head, very minor lacing.

Smell: Reminds me of an APA that I homebrewed a few months back. Big hops presence over an underlying sweetness. I can detect some grapefruit, and I think another reviewer is right on in saying there's a touch of peach here too.

Taste: Big hops bitterness up front, of course. A little grapefruit, but not much. Unfortunately, has the same disagreeable aftertaste that I didn't like in Magic Hat's APA.

Mouthfeel: Light-moderate mouthfeel, perhaps a little lighter than I'd prefer in the style. Carbonation seems right.

Drinkability: I like this a lot better than their APA, not that it means a whole lot. I guess one factor that keeps it drinkable is that you want to keep *drinking* so you don't experience the funky aftertaste.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-12-2006 01:24:52

Review: Zatte Bie

Zatte Bie from Brouwerij De Bie / D'Hellekappelle
Rating: B-

Bottle looks OLD, American import label peeled off as soon as condensation collected when it came out of the fridge, revealing the belgian label underneath (no barcode, yes notched bottling date). Bottled in June of 2003 - this bottle is more than three years old - luckily, this style is cellarable and should have improved with age.

Appearance: red-tinted dark amber, looks somewhere between sparkling red grape juice and cola. One finger off-white head with decent retention and some lacing.

Smell: Belgian yeast aroma, candi sugar, hops, and what I want to describe as a "cola" like character. Some dark fruit as well.

Taste: Fairly subdued character as it enters your mouth. Not as flavorful as I'd hoped or expected. After a second or two of sloshing around, though, it starts to open up. Lots of residual sugars, sweet. Dark fruits (raisin?). Hop bitterness is enough to balance the malts. Very mellow, a touch tart. Aftertaste is earthy, toffee.

Mouthfeel: Not as carbonated as it looked when I first poured it. Medium mouthfeel.

Drinkability: hides the 9% ABV rather well, I think. Not as good as I'd hoped when the label peeled off and I saw this had been inadvertantly aged three years, but fair drinkability all the same.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-11-2006 23:40:27

Tuesday, 11 July 2006

Review: Sierra Nevada Porter

Sierra Nevada Porter from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Rating: B+

Appearance: A rather rough pour yielded a one finger tan head with some nice retention sitting atop a very dark brown, opaque body. Very nice lacing.

Smell: Chocolate and roast are the dominant aromas. Smells like the over-hopped homebrewed stout I have in the secondary right now. Perhaps a touch of dark fruit.

Taste: Starts out surprisingly sweet, finishes on a dry hoppy note, and the aftertaste is all roast malt. Kind of acidic vinous character in there, too, as well as some mild chocolate.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, smooth. Good carbonation for the style.

Drinkability: Flavor complexity of a stout, drinkability of a porter. A very drinkable beer.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-11-2006 01:03:23

Monday, 10 July 2006

Review: Dinkel Acker Cd-Pils

Dinkel Acker Cd-Pils from Dinkelacker-Schwabenbraeu AG
Rating: B-

Appearance: pours a pale gold with less head than I was expecting (I was pouring roughly, too) that disipates quickly.

Smell: wow, very strong aroma on this one, I could smell it from the time it left the bottle, at arm's length. Grassy hops, distinct pils aroma, smells like it's going to be dry, if that makes sense (very unlike a lot of the Belgians I've had recently, which smell like they'll be sweet).

Taste: Very clean at the front of the palate, then the bitterness hits you big. Resolves to a dry grassy finish. The lingering aftertaste leaves something to be desired. Malts show up more as the glass warms. Very refreshing, but a fair representative of the style.

Mouthfeel: Carbonation seems right on, mouthfeel is light enough to be thirst quenching, but not watery.

Drinkability: Inherently not the most interesting style, but the light character and assertive hops (and they're grassy, no less) make this one a good lawnmower beer.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-10-2006 22:49:18

Review: Fat Angel

Fat Angel from Magic Hat Brewing Company
Rating: C+

This is the first Magic Hat offering that I've sampled.

Appearance: Surprised to see that there's a saying under the cap - I'm curious if it's different from bottle to bottle. Mine says "Break the cage of the digital age..." And here I am glued to the computer as I type up this review. Pours a hazy orange amber with a wimpy head that rapidly disappears. Lots of bubbles clinging to the inside of my glass.

Smell: Resinous hops, hint of caramel malt. After the glass has warmed up a bit, a little fruitiness is detected as well.

Taste: Disappointing. Lots of herbal hops bitterness up front, but comes up lacking. I now notice that the "best buy" date was last month, but I'm not sure I can use that as an excuse here. Earthy malt character toward the end. I think I'm also picking up some of that Ringwood diacetyl on the tongue.

Mouthfeel: Much lighter than I expected, a little thin for my taste. Carbonation is fine.

Drinkability: Probably won't buy this one again. Not a whole lot of depth to the flavor, and a too-thin mouthfeel.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-10-2006 00:52:08

Sunday, 9 July 2006

Review: Samuel Adams Summer Ale

Samuel Adams Summer Ale from Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Rating: B-

Appearance: Honey color in the glass, one finger white head that faded quickly. Slightly hazy, some good lace.

Smell: The spice is immediately present in the aroma, overlaying a wheat backbone.

Taste: Citrus at the front, wheat, spice shows up mostly at the swallow. Nice and crisp, finishes dry.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body. Not as highly carbonated as some wheats.

Drinkability: Accessible. Refreshing on a summer day. Jason called this a "tone-downed white ale" and I think that's a good description.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-09-2006 22:05:27

Brewpub Review: Gordon Biersch

Gordon Biersch in Washington DC
Rating: B

Met a friend here for dinner.

Atmosphere was fine, very open so it appeared big. Not particularly loud (this was a Thursday night). Most of the tables aren't very private, however, so probably not an intimate date place.

Quality was decent. Two of the beers stood out for me, the Czech Pilsener and the Maerzen. The others were all a little lack-luster.

No complaints about service, the waitress was very helpful and knew about the beers that were offered, though she admitted that she wasn't a big beer fan before she started working at GB and realized that "all beer doesn't taste the same."

Many different beers (and plenty of food!) are offered, from kolsch to hefe weizen, to scharzbier. There's a big enough variety to show someone who is new to beer that "all beer doesn't taste the same," but the selection is limited to German styles. Once someone starts warming up to beer, you want to show them a Belgian pale ale, or an IPA, but nothing of that kind is going to be available at GB. One definite plus for the selection category was that their sampler (a shotglass of each beer offered) is free. Definitely encourages trying new things!

As for food, I ordered the cajun pasta, and devoured every bit. She had the ginger salmon and left some, but the bit I had of that was quite good too. For an appetizer, we had the fried artichoke, which was excellent.

Reviewed on: 07-09-2006 22:24:40

Friday, 7 July 2006

Review: Czech Lager

Czech Lager from Gordon Biersch
Rating: B+

Golden copper color in the glass, big white head, some lacing down the glass. Smell is lagery clean, with a hint of hops. Taste is the big surprise here. More hops than I expected in a pilsener, more like APA levels here, but the rest of the beer is more subdued like you'd expect in the style. Light mouthfeel, finishes well on a dry, hoppy note. Drinkable.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-07-2006 03:42:49

Review: Mäerzen

Mäerzen from Gordon Biersch
Rating: B-

Amber/copper colored beer with a small head and little lacing. Sweet caramel in the nose, but not a whole lot of presence. Sweet malty backbone to the flavor, finishes on a mild bitter note. Mouthfeel is smooth, but light. Malty finish. Drinkability is moderate.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-07-2006 03:25:21

Thursday, 6 July 2006

Review: St. Peter's Cream Stout

St. Peter's Cream Stout from St. Peter's Brewery Co Ltd
Rating: B+

Came recommended by someone at my local beer shop, and I was intrigued by the beautiful, interesting, historical bottle (although it is green).

Appearance: miniscule head, very dark brown color. completely opaque. Some lacing.

Smell: A little difficult to describe. Some dark chocolate, with a promise of spicy hop bitterness. Can you smell lactose? This smells like the last milk stout I had (Castle), and I'm curious if that's the reason why. It's complex, but I'm not wild about it for some reason I can't put my finger on.

Taste: Dark chocolate, hint of molasses, finishes on a bitter note. Would go great with any kind of chocolate dessert. A hint of raisin appears as it warms up.

Mouthfeel: Thick and creamy, good mouthfeel, good finish; aftertaste lingers.

Drinkability: Goes down easily, especially for such a dark and thick beer.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-06-2006 00:12:15

Review: Duvel

Duvel from Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat NV
Rating: A

Since I reviewed La Fin du Monde last night, I thought now would be a good time to review this other heavyweight of the style.

Appearance: Big rocky white head, golden color, clear... exceptional head retention. Stream of bubbles coming up from the bottom of my chalice (no Duvel tulip yet). Amazing lace. Hard to imagine how a beer could look better.

Smell: Citrus, spice, and that trademark Belgian yeast scent. A hint of alcohol. Mouth is watering.

Taste: Sweet malt at the tip of the tongue, but only briefly before the bitterness takes over, with a Saaz spiciness. Slightly yeasty. Drier than La Fin du Monde, I think, and I'd say the alcohol is better hidden (granted, this is 0.5% less ABV). Some cloves and an apple finish.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, silky, but extremely carbonated. Almost want to let it sit for a while so I can taste more of the beer and less prickly CO2. Finishes very well on a dry alcohol note.

Drinkability: I can't imagine how anyone wouldn't like this. This could be a fine introduction to the world of good beer. One complaint: too much carbonation - I had to drink it slower than I wanted to ;) In the battle of the Belgian Strong Pale Ales, in my opinion Duvel wins, but it's tough to compare. While classified in the same style, La Fin du Monde is fruitier and has more body, while Duvel is dryer, more approachable, and looks better in the glass.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-05-2006 23:36:12

Wednesday, 5 July 2006

Review: La Fin Du Monde

La Fin Du Monde from Unibroue
Rating: A-

Poured with a big white head, over a golden honey body, fairly clear. Some lacing down my glass.
Aroma: That familiar Belgian yeast scent, with some candi sweetness and some spice.

Taste: Yum. Citrus and yeast fruitiness at the front. Sweet, but not cloying. Hops gives some spiciness. Finishes on a yeasty, dry alcohol note. A lot of reviews mention that the alcohol is well-hidden, but I'd have to disagree - I can definitely taste it, and there's alcohol warming as you swallow.

Mouthfeel: Fairly light mouthfeel, very carbonated, very smooth.

Drinkability: the only thing that detracts from the drinkability of this beer is the alcohol presence in the taste - you can taste it, and so you're conscious of how much alcohol you're consuming. Very good beer.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-05-2006 03:01:54

Review: Brewer Patriot Collection - James Madison Dark Wheat Ale

Brewer Patriot Collectio - James Madison Dark Wheat Ale from Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Rating: B

What better time than the Fourth of July to review this third beer in the Brewer Patriot collection?

Appearance: Moderate-sized, off-white head over a dark caramel body that's hazy to the point of being opaque. Not the most appealing-looking beer of the collection. Some nice lacing down the side of my glass.
Aroma: Interesting aromas here. It has the fruity yeast characteristics that you associate with a wheat beer, but there's an added dimension underneath. The label suggests "cocoa and toffee" - I think I could buy that.

Taste: Flavor is lighter than I'd anticipated/hoped. I'm trying to pick out the rye and the smoke, but not succeeding. A little alcohol present at the tail end. Cocoa shows up when you swallow. A little acidic. I think the cocoa flavor contributes most to making this beer not boring, but I was really expecting more from the rye and the smoked malts.

Mouthfeel: Much lighter than I was expecting from the beer's appearance alone. Carbonation seems just right. Finishes clean.

Drinkability: This is my favorite of the collection so far (only the root beer left to go, and since I dislike licorice, I don't have high expectations for that one). The clean finish helps drinkability, but I wish they'd thrown in a little more of the ingredients they talk about so much on the label to make it a bit more interesting - I'd gladly buy it.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-05-2006 02:31:07

Tuesday, 4 July 2006

Review: Brewer Patriot Collection - George Washington Porter

Brewer Patriot Collection - George Washington Porter from Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Rating: C+

Appearance: Cola-colored, opaque pour. One-finger tan head, with lots of lacing down the glass.

Smell: The dominant aroma is molasses, with some roast underneath. Luckily, no licorice yet. I really don't like anything that's licorice-flavored, so I was concerned that would be real dominant here. So far so good. As it warms up, you start to get some smoke aroma coming up, as well.

Taste: Real mineraly taste at the front of the palate, almost salty. I wonder if this is from the water used, or another ingredient. That flavor continues throughout, and I'm not a big fan. Molasses in the middle, more bitter than I expected. Smoke and anise finally show up in the finish and aftertaste, but the licorice-ness is mild enough that I don't find it objectionable. For a historical beer, this really isn't bad. At least there's a lot going on. Additionally, the smoked character is becoming more and more dominant as you get down the glass. This might be better reclassified as a smoked beer.

Mouthfeel: Thick! Carbonation balances the thick mouthfeel pretty well. Aftertaste lingers - not a clean finish by any means.

Drinkability: Not as bad as I've made it sound. On Fourth of July, I'd have a hard time thinking of a more appropriate beer to sample (I suppose that was the whole marketing idea behind it. That said, not something I'd get a case of.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-04-2006 16:36:05

Review: Brewer Patriot Collection - Traditional Ginger Honey Ale

Brewer Patriot Collection - Traditional Ginger Honey Ale from Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Rating: B-

Okay, made something of a mess opening this, so it's been sitting in the glass for a bit while I cleaned up.

Pours a very hazy (opaque) honey color. Nice head that lasted longer than I expected it to. Some lacing down the glass. Time to remember this is a historical beer before knocking off points for cloudiness.

Aroma is of ginger (unsurprisingly), very spicy, with a faint hint of honey in the background.
First sip. Citrusy at first. Ginger taste takes a while to hit. When it does, it's big. Followed by some hops bitterness, but finishing on a dry, acid note. Leaves your mouth almost cottony-dry. I like dry beers, but this might be the limit. Aftertaste is a little difficult to describe. I suppose it's the ginger, but after it's no longer spicy. The hops play an interesting role here, which I can't make up my mind about.

Light body. Carbonation is high, spritzy. Drinkability is good if you know what you're getting yourself into. I had some ginger beers (non-alcoholic) while I was in South Africa in May-June and this is very reminiscent of those, except with more hop character (and alcohol!) Might get old after one, but a refreshing change from the usual.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-04-2006 01:30:54

Monday, 3 July 2006

Review: Bavaria Draught

Bavaria Draught from Bavaria Brouwerij N.V.
Rating: C

Appearance: moderate foamy white head, disippates quickly, golden color, very clear, tiny bit of lacing.

Smell: distinct lager smell, I thought I detected a hint of adjunct, but since it calls itself an "all natural traditional brew" maybe I'm being hasty.

Taste: More bitter than I expected - good. Definitely no corn in here, but I can't put my finger on what is, exactly.

Mouthfeel: Very highly carbonated - perhaps excessive. Fills you up quick.

Drinkability: Could be a good thirst quencher. Not sure how different the "draught" can is from the normal Bavaria, but it's hard to imagine it's an improvement.

Serving type: can

Reviewed on: 07-03-2006 03:21:38

Review: Redd's Dry

Redd's Dry from South African Breweries plc
Rating: C-

Appearance: Pale gold color, with head! The head is the first tip off that this isn't just a cider. The label calls it a "fruit ale"
Smell is very distinctly of red apple (not green!)

Taste: huge red apple flavor. No malt, no hops - maybe the only reason they call this "ale" is the kind of yeast used? The label indicates a "hint" of apple. Maybe a hint wrapped around a brick.

Mouthfeel: aftertaste is reminiscent of aspartame. Carbonation seems a little low, the "dry" tag doesn't seem like it quite fits.

Drinkability: perhaps I'm biased because I prefer green apples to red ones and this is definitely a red apple beer. Didn't feel like a second bottle.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-03-2006 03:09:46

Review: Capital City Prohibition Porter

Capital City Prohibition Porter from Capitol City Brewing
Rating: B

This was my favorite beer of the afternoon at the Capitol City's Baltimore location.

Appearance: Very dark, opaque. Poured with a significant tan head that displayed exceptional retention and good lacing.

Smell: chocolate and roast are the dominant aromas

Taste: Chocolate at the front, roast in the middle, coffee at the back. Very standard. Nothing objectionable. Bitterness is mild.
Light-to-medium body, which made for a very drinkable beer. This was a good one, almost made the bad food at Capitol City worthwhile (almost).

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-03-2006 02:50:10

Review: Capital City Pale Rider Ale

Capital City Pale Rider Ale from Capitol City Brewing
Rating: B-

Appearance: Very clear, gold amber. Nice head, some lacing.

Smell: Pleasant hops aroma, but no one characteristic really stands out. A little "twang" in the background.

Taste: Lots of bitterness, which is pleasant enough, but there's something in the finish that I'm not particularly fond of. It reminds me of a characteristic of an APA that I'd brewed from extract. I've heard people talk about an extract "twang" and I'm curious if that's what I'm tasting here, too. At least it finishes dry.

Mouthfeel & Drinkability: Nothing particularly notable. Above average, but not great.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-03-2006 02:44:08

Review: Capital City Bull Run Bitter

Capital City Bull Run Bitter from Capitol City Brewing
Rating: B-

Sampled at the Baltimore location.

Appearance: Very small head, no lacing. Nice honey color in the glass.

Smell: Very much in line with what I've come to expect in a bitter. Honey, light floral hops.

Taste: More bitter than I anticipated - good! I guess that's what makes it "extra special." Some caramel notes present as well.
Nothing objectionable or exceptionable about the mouthfeel. Drinkability is average-good.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-03-2006 02:32:06

Sunday, 2 July 2006

Brewpub Review: Capitol City Brewing

Capitol City Brewing in Baltimore, MD
Rating: C

Atmosphere was nice. Very nice view of the harbor and Federal Hill. It was happy hour, so pints were $3 and appetizers were half-off.

Quality of the beers was hit or miss. I was a fan of the porter, and the bitter, but the APA was off the mark, I thought, and the taste of the Amber I tried from a friend's glass was unimpressive.

Service was good, prompt, helpful. No complaints.

Selection: All of the Capitol City standards were available, but they had "just" run out of the hefe weizen, so the only other non-standard-lineup beer was the Bull Run Bitter.

Food was very unimpressive. To be fair, they give free soft pretzels and the crab bruschetta we got as an appetizer was okay (if salty), but our entrees were... well, i'll say it: bad. We ordered the bratwurst and the seafood quesadilla. Both were dripping in oil from the cheap cheese that had been used. The quesadilla had nearly no seafood or vegetables in it - all I could taste was cheese and tortilla. Very disappointing, especially since it cost $12. Don't come here for the food - or order an appetizer (half price during happy hour) to share and enjoy that and the free pretzels.

Reviewed on: 07-03-2006 03:29:57

Review: Dragonhead Stout

Dragonhead Stout from Orkney Brewery
Rating: B+

Split a 17 oz bottle of this with my girlfriend as the last beer of the night at Brewer's Art in Baltimore, the only non-Brewer's Art beer we had that evening.

Appearance: black as the night, completely opaque, very small head that rapidly disappeared, but some nice lacing as you drink.

Smell: Roasty. Chocolate note is reminiscent of very dark/bitter chocolate. Fairly gentle aroma, overall.

Taste: Straightforward stout tastes - big on roast and coffee. Manages to avoid being over-burnt. Dark/bitter chocolate presence as well, that works well with the smoothness of the mouthfeel. Everything is there, but in a very mild way.

Mouthfeel: very smooth. Just want to roll it around the tongue.

Drinkability: good, but I wish there was something a bit more distinctive about this one. It's a good representative of the style, but without anything outstanding. If it was kicked up to 6% ABV, maybe they'd have more to work with.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 07-02-2006 13:40:09

Review: Brewer's Art Sluggo

Brewer's Art Sluggo from Brewer's Art
Rating: B-

This one reminded me more of a bitter than an American Pale Ale.

Appearance: Slightly cloudy golden color, not much head and no lacing. Not the most attractive beer at Brewer's Art.

Smell: fairly faint, honey and caramel aromas.
Taste reminds me very much of a bitter I had in South Africa last month. Some honey flavor, some floral hop notes.
Mouthfeel is very light. This is where you realize this is only 3.8% ABV. Nothing objectionable, though.
Drinkability isn't so high. This is good for pacing yourself, but there are so many better beers at Brewer's Art to try.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-02-2006 13:27:48

Review: Brewer's Art Ozzy Ale

Brewer's Art Ozzy Ale from Brewer's Art
Rating: A-

Handed a golden pour in a Brewer's Art chalice. Appealing white head, not "stiff peaks" like some in the style but nice. Some lacing, and decent head retention. Not a steady stream of bubbles coming up from the bottom of the glass, though, like Duvel.

Smell: Some candi sweetness and a Belgian yeast fruitiness..

Taste: Here we go... Sweet at the front, then you get some of the Styrian hops. Finishes on a fruity note, but the aftertaste is all dry hops, which pleases me.

Mouthfeel: Seemed to me like it could have benefited from a little more carbonation. Moderate body from the sweetness. Drinkability is good, but it seems a little "rich" to be a true sessioner.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-02-2006 13:18:02

Review: Brewer's Art Proletary Ale

Brewer's Art Proletary Ale from Brewer's Art
Rating: B+

Appearance: Nicely poured, with a one finger off-white head that lasted longer than I thought it would. Good amount of lacing. When held up to the light, nothing comes through - very black.

Smell: Has a distinctive Belgian yeast smell, with some chocolate sweetness in the background.

Taste: It might smell like a Belgian, but it tastes like a porter. Big roast character, without being burnt (like the porter I'd had before this one). Appropriately hopped.

Mouthfeel: feels like a porter, moderate body, good carbonation

Drinkability: Interesting beer that seems to straddle style differences. It went very well with the chocolate cherry bread pudding we ordered for dessert. Think of it as a session porter.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-02-2006 13:08:04

Brewpub Review: Brewer's Art

Brewer's Art in Baltimore, MD
Rating: A

Neat place, very enjoyable. Liked it so much I bought one of their glasses.

Atmosphere can be summed up as "something for everyone." Because it's in an old townhouse, the place is divided into several rooms. The bar is located in one, then there's a classy "lounge" area that serves the bar grub, then there are two dining room areas, and then downstairs there's a dark, informal bar area. We sat in the "lounge" area between the bar and the dining rooms in two very comfortable chairs.

Quality of the beers was generally high. My favorite of the night was "Tiny Tim," a rosemary beer that went very well with the garlic-rosemary fries we started out with. The Proletary and the Ozzy were also very good, while the Sluggo left something to be desired.

Service was just "okay," but that's partly our own fault for sitting in the middle area. Servers would come by and ask if we needed anything from time to time, but once the place got busy, we had to go to the bar to order anything. Once an order was placed, however, service was fairly prompt. Pours were a little hit and miss - sometimes you got a nice head, sometimes you didn't.

Selection is exceptional. As I've noted, the place is really "something for everyone." There are of course the Brewer's Art beers, but there's also a long list of craft and imported beer, including lots of Belgians. In addition to that, there's a menu of bar food you can order in the bar areas, a menu of classy entrees (rabbit fricassie, duck, etc.), and a selection of nice desserts, spirits and wine as well. Exceptional.

We were very happy with the food we ordered, even though it was "just" from the bar grub menu. The rosemary-garlic fries were a touch greasy, but they went perfectly with the beer I had ordered. The ceasar salad was presented very well - far beyond what I was expecting ordering from the bar grub menu. I'm sure we would have been even more pleased with the food if we'd sat down in the dining room area, but the theory was that less expensive food would mean more money for beer.

Reviewed on: 07-02-2006 14:12:26

Review: Brewer's Art Tiny Tim

Brewer's Art Tiny Tim from Brewer's Art
Rating: A-

This was a very interesting beer, probably my favorite of the night. Probably should be reclassified as an herb/spiced beer.

Pours a gold amber, little head or lacing by the time it got to me. Perhaps not so interesting to look at.

Smell is intriguing - rosemary and honey! Very interesting.

Taste is the same. Sweet at the front, a significant bitter hops presence in the middle, but finishing on a rosemary note. According to the notes, this has hibiscus flowers in it as well, but I didn't pick up on those.

Mouthfeel is light to medium, finishes pleasantly dry.

This is a very drinkable brew. Went perfectly with the rosemary-garlic fries we ordered.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-02-2006 04:36:13

Saturday, 1 July 2006

Review: Venom

Venom from DuClaw Brewing Company
Rating: B

Served in a pint glass at the Arundel Mills location. Amused to see that they served Venom (the hoppiest beer they have at the moment) in an "Old Flame" pint glass that reads "At least the beer isn't bitter."

Appearance: orange tinted amber, no head by the time it got to me at the table, unfortunately, and only a small amount of lacing as I drank.
Smell is of piney, citrusy hops with not a whole lot underneath.

Taste: again, lots of hops. Kind of resinous character. I bet these were high AA hops... A quick check on the website shows it was Columbus and Cascade, I assume Columbus for bittering and Cascade for flavor/aroma. Flavor is a touch one-dimensional, I wish there was some more malt character here - some biscuit malt, perhaps.
Mouthfeel is pretty much what you'd expect from the style. Light-medium mouthfeel, finishes dry.
Drinkability is good. Not complicated, but it's flavorful and finishes dry.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-01-2006 15:32:55

Review: Bad Moon Porter

Bad Moon Porter from DuClaw Brewing Company
Rating: B-

Sampled in a pint glass at the Arundel Mills location. Arrived at the table very dark, almost opaque. No head or lacing to speak of.
Smell was reminiscent of french roast coffee beans - there's a burnt characteristic here. A touch of chocolate in the nose as well.
Taste is much the same: roast/burnt malt, with the distinct bitterness associated with it, underscored by coffee and chocolate notes. Level of hops was appropriate for the style.

Mouthfeel: the promotional material calls this "medium to full body," but honestly it's just medium. Lighter than I expected, but I think I had to remind myself that this was a porter, not a stout.

Drinkability: my girlfriend had two of these, one with dinner and one with a chocolate dessert, so it was worth re-ordering. I just had one with dessert, but I'd say this is a solid porter, but I think I'd prefer more of the coffee and chocolate characteristics and less of the "burnt" ones.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 07-01-2006 15:21:30

Brewpub Review: DuClaw Brewing Company

DuClaw Brewing Company in Hanover, MD
Rating: B-

Atmosphere: definitely suffers from being in the middle of a huge mall, although I'm sure they love being so close to the movie theater. It was relatively quiet while we were there, especially considering it was Friday night, but there was a big group of high school kids a table over. That said, nicely decorated. The bar area was separated from the restaurant area with glass, which I suppose is nice for some reasons, but by the time my beers arrived at the other side of the restaurant, there was no head.

Quality: the beers were solid, but nothing exceptional. We had the Venom APA and the Bad Moon Porter. The Porter went well with the Vesuvius chocolate cake dessert.

Selection: Unfortunately, they ran out of the Sawtooth witbier an hour befor we arrived. A few of their offerings are too much on the tame side: a kolsch, a lager... so without the wit there were only two beers I was really excited about trying.

Food was decent, but underwhelming. Typical bar food: we had the buffalo chicken sandwich, and the Jambalaya. The Jambalaya was nice and spicy, which I appreciated (and went well with a hoppy APA) but the sandwich was nothing special. The Vesuvius dessert was very good, though.

Two meals, four beers and a dessert came to $48 including tip.

Reviewed on: 07-01-2006 15:52:09

Beer Bar Review: Dogfish Head Alehouse

Dogfish Head Alehouse in Gaithersburg, MD
Rating: A-

Atmosphere was pleasant. Darkly lit, pretty quiet while we were there (Wednesday night), nicely set up.

No question about the quality of the beers here. We had the 90 minute IPA, the Aprihop, and a 3 yr old bottle of the World Wide Stout. The World Wide Stout was by far the favorite, followed by the IPA and the Aprihop. The aged World Wide Stout was something to be "experienced" not merely drank.

Service was generally good. Didn't ask many questions about the beer, so I don't know how knowledgeable our waitress was, but no complaints either. Getting our check was a little slow, but it was the end of the night.

Only one complaint about selection: the new Dogfish Head Jin was not available at this location yet. I was hoping to finish off dinner and a couple of very good beers with a Dogfish martini, but no such luck. All of the staple beers were in stock though, with cellared bottles of some of the less-regularly-produced ones. No seasonals, though (Punkin', etc.)

We were also pleasantly surprised by the food. We weren't expecting anything special, but both the things we ordered turned out to be very good. I'm not a cole-slaw fan, but the IPA grouper sandwich, on pumpernikel also includes a lot of cole slaw on the sandwich, and I loved it. The Cajun Alfredo Pizza was also very good.

Reviewed on: 07-01-2006 15:43:18