Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Harpoon Summer Beer

Brewery: Harpoon
Location: Boston, MA
Style: Kolsch
Rating: A-

Today we're welcoming in the summer with a review of Harpoon's Summer Beer. While I always enjoy a few Harpoon Summer Beers over the course of the summer, this was my first time enjoying it in canned form. Harpoon Summer Beer is a pale straw-gold in color and pours up a huge white clumpy/sticky head. The nose has a lagery malt note with herbal and piny hops and a hint of fruity esters.

The Harpoon Summer Beer is very clean on the palate. It is off-dry with a light grainy/pasta malt note. There are some hints of fruity yeast esters, but nothing in the ballpark of a fruity witbier. Hops are here with a touch of a piny bitter kick as well as some herbal hops notes. The Harpoon Summer Beer is light-bodied, crisp and smooth. The finish has a lingering pasta dough malt with herbal and pine hops in the background.

Harpoon Summer Beer is exactly what you want in a summer beer. This is a great, easy-drinking Kolsch. The malt and drinkability are close to a typical lager, but there is a nice hint of weissbier-like fruity esters that add some interest. It's not a full-blown Leinenkugel-esque fruitiness, but there is just the right amount for my tastes. This is a great summer seasonal, and is perfectly suited to can form.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ithaca Cascazilla

Brewery: Ithaca Beer Company
Location: Ithaca, NY
Style: Amber
Brewery Website
Rating: B

As one can guess by the name, Ithaca's Cascazilla is a hoppy amber that is brewed with a boatload of Cascade hops.Cascazilla is a dark, cloudy amber-brown in color with a clumpy tan head. The nose has everything you expect from Cascades with sweet citrus, grapefruit and lemon oil notes.

The palate finds pretzel malt and a touch of sweetness up front. Fruity hops and sweet cereal are prominent notes as well. Ruby red grapefruit and lemonade are notable on the fruity hops side and a touch of herbal hops blends in and hints at lemongrass as well. There is some bitter hops as well, but that is way in the background. Cascazilla is medium-bodied, and juicy with a slight syrupy cling. The finish has a slightly toasted malt with sweet citrus notes.

Cascazilla is a nice look at Cascade hops without the big bitter kick. There is a bit too much sweetness here for my tastes, and I would like to see a bit more of a bite to balance things out. Having said that, this is a nice amber and a good intro to Cascade hops without the bitter bite of a big imperial IPA.

Monday, June 13, 2011

San Diego County Session Ale

Brewery: Stone/Ballast Point/Kelsey McNair
Location: Escondido, CA
Style: Pale Ale
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

The good folks at Stone and Ballast Point have gotten together with homebrewer Kelsey McNair with the noble goal of creating a session beer (i.e., a beer with a low enough alcohol content that it can be consumed all day long - generally in the vicinity of 4%) that has the big hoppiness that is generally reserved for big double-IPA's. The San Diego County Session Ale pours up hazy gold/amber in color with a foamy white head and some dark swirls of sediment floating. The nose has huge grapefruit and pine hoppiness.

On the palate you are first hit with the telltale grapefruit citrus notes of West Coast hops. There are some toasted grain notes as well as a dry wood/oak note. There is a really big bitter bite with piny, oily hops. The San Diego County Session Ale is light-medium bodied with quite a bit of tannic astringency. The finish is very long and dominated by the bitter hop notes of pine and oily resin.

Well, there's no doubt that the San Diego County Session Ale has met its objective of cramming a massive amount of hops into a session ale. There really is an amazing amount of hops in this beer. Of course, there is something to be said for the higher alcohol and bigger body of an imperial IPA having the ability to hold up to and balance out a tremendous amount of hops. Even though the lighter body and alcohol content qualifies this as a session beer, for me the huge hoppiness still keeps this beer in the "sipping beer" category for me. This is a well-executed, unique idea, but I'll stick to the real deal when I'm looking for an IPA.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Uerige Doppelsticke

Brewery: Uerige Obergärige Hausbrauerei
Location: Düsseldorf, Germany
Style: Alt
Brewery Website
Rating: A+

Today's tasting is a true one-of-a-kind beer. Stickebier is a rare style of German beer that can essentially be thought of as a double-alt (Long Trail's Double Bag is one example of this style). Uerige has taken this one step further in creating their Doppelsticke, which essentially amounts to a double-double-alt.

The Doppelsticke pours up a cloudy, deep-chestnut brown with a light chestnut, creamy head. A firm pour leads to a beautiful cascading-head effect that is reminiscent of a nitro-tap stout. The nose detects raisins, wheat toast, and sherry notes.

On the palate there is a big malt note of dark pretzels along with a clinging malt syrup note. Dried fruit notes of raisins and apricots come along next. Hops hit with a snappy bitter bite along with herbal and grassy notes. There is some initial winy juiciness that drops off quickly. The Uerige Doppelsticke has a medium-heavy body with a clinging body and light syrupiness. The finish just seems to hang around forever. There is a great caramel/"burnt" sweetness, along with rich, dark malt notes paired with fading bitter undertones.

In reading my notes I wrote while tasting this beer, the first line simply reads "Holy Shit!", and that pretty much sums it up. Right from the beginning I was blown away by the flavor and complexity of the Doppelsticke. It rivals the Thomas Hardy's Ale in complexity. The flavor is constantly evolving - from juicy, to bitter, to sweet, to a ringing harmonious chord. Not only is this the best German beer I've ever had, the Uerige Doppelsticke is one of the best beers I've ever tasted. Find this beer ASAP and buy two - one for now and one for the cellar.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pabst Blue Ribbon

Brewery: Pabst Brewing Company
Location: Woodridge, Il
Style: Lager
Brewery Website
Rating: B-

In recent years, Pabst Blue Ribbon has been seeing a bit of a resurgence in a trendy counterculture "trailer park chic" sort of way. The question is, does PBR live up to the hype, or is it just another mass-market lager with little redeeming quality? Let's taste and see.

Pabst Blue Ribbon pours from my brown-bottle longneck a clear, straw-gold in color with a white foamy head. The nose detects some grassiness, lager malt notes and a bit of juicy white wine.

On the palate the initial impression is that of crisp, smooth malt with wheat bread undertones. There is a bit of a calcium/lime mineral note, as well as some straw. Hops are fleeting and have an overall grassy flavor. PBR has a light body with decent carbonation. The finish is very short with a malt note that hints at pita bread.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is a prototypical mass-market American lager in that it is smooth and easy-drinking. The flavor does fade very quickly (too much for my liking). What is notable is the lack of any of the "off" flavors I typically notice with the usual Bud/Miller/Coors-style lagers. While it may not fully live up to the renewed hype surrounding it, PBR is still one of the best mass-market/adjunct lagers out there. I have no qualms serving it to guests, and it is always welcome in my fridge.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Blue Point Spring Fling Ale

Brewery: Blue Point Brewing Company
Location: Patchogue, NY
Style: Alt
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

We're following up our review of the excellent Otter Creek Copper Ale with Blue Point's own copper ale (and spring seasonal), the Spring Fling Ale. The Spring Fling Ale pours up a clear amber-copper in color with a hint of gold, paired with a foamy white head. The nose finds spicy and piny hops tinged with citrus and steel.

The palate first finds the clinging oiliness of hops, followed by malty notes of dark pretzels. The overall hops flavor isn't quite as prominent as the nose. Oily pine resin and spice are here, but there isn't much fruit on the palate. The hops bite may not be front and center on this beer, but it is still quite sharp. There is a mineral note of copper/steel as well. The Spring Fling Ale is medium-bodied and a bit oily. The finish has resinous hope, a hint of fruit and dry malt undertones.

Blue Point has a nice, well-rounded copper ale in their Spring Fling Ale. The hops give it a nice kick and spiciness, to match the dry malt. This is well worth a taste if you run across it this spring.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Otter Creek Copper Ale

Brewery: Otter Creek Brewing
Location: Middlebury, VT
Style: Alt
Rating: A

Today's tasting is generally considered the flagship beer from Otter Creek, their Copper Ale. True to its name, the Copper Ale pours up copper-amber in color with an off-white, clumpy foam head. The nose has citrus/grapefruit hops notes paired with a pretzely malt aroma.

The overall impression on the palate is a rich, full maltiness paired with crisp hops. The malt has bready & pretzel notes. Hops have a oily bitter note that coat the tongue with a piny note that hints at copper. There is a bit of citrus fruitiness as well. The Otter Creek Copper Ale has a medium body with some oiliness. The finish has slight residual sweetness with bready malt and lingering hops.

The Copper Ale is Otter Creek's flagship beer for good reason. The Copper Ale has rich, full malt with nice, dry/piny bitter hops as a compliment. I've found that the Copper Ale is even better on tap, but draft quality can be approximated by using a good, firm pour from bottle. If you've never tried the Otter Creek Copper Ale, you're missing out. If you're familiar with the Copper Ale, maybe it's time to grab a sixer and revisit an old friend.