Review: Guinness Rye Pale Ale and Antwerpen Stout

Guinness is back at it, with two new limited line extensions that further distance it from its best-known product. Both part of its skunkworks “Brewers Project,” the beers launched at the end of 2016.

Guinness Rye Pale Ale – A pale ale made with Mosaic and Cascade hops, plus rye. Originally brewed for Guinness’s Open Gate Brewery in Dublin, it was reportedly such a hit that it merited a broader release into the market. The rye and more traditional bittering agents make for a fun mashup, giving some gravity and weight to a moderately hoppy intro. While citrus peel is more evident, it’s light on the piney resin notes, showcasing notes of mushroom, cedar planks, and leather on the finish. A nice diversion. 5% abv. B+

Guinness Antwerpen Stout – Previously only available in Belgium, where it is known as Guinness Special Export, Antwerpen Stout was first brewed here in 1944 and has never before been made in the U.S. While one should not confuse this with the somewhat different Guinness Foreign Extra, they drink with some similarities. Antwerpan Stout is carbonated (not nitrogenated) drinks as a fruit-forward beer, moderately hoppy but featuring layered notes of roasted coffee, licorice, raisin, and cloves. It’s all surprisingly well balanced, with a lasting, lightly spicy finish that echoes the coffee and clove notes the strongest. Worth looking into. 8% abv. B+

each $9 per four-pack of 11.2 oz bottles / guinness.com

A Visit to Moonlight Brewery’s Tap Room, Santa Rosa, California

Moonlight Brewery is located in Santa Rosa, California. While it is a small brewer, the brewery is best known for its beer Death and Taxes. We recently visited its tap room, which is on the brewery site.

Unfortunately the brewers were not available to interview. However, the hosts of the tap room were very gracious and friendly, and they offered a look at the boiling tank workroom and the massive, covered brewing kettles. Moonlight may be small, but the size of these boys is impressive.

On tap, six beers were offered, so a sample slat of those was in order. From left to right in the above photo, we tasted:

Toast Burnt Lager – This beer, typically brewed for New Year’s celebrations,  is a light amber body color with a creamy head. At first sip, a nice maltiness is noticeable. The burnt flavor comes through on the back end without being harsh. It is dry and not sweet at all. 6% abv A

Tipple Winter Ale – This dark brown ale is a type of “winter warmer,” brewed for fall and winter. It has a nice, rich, tan head. The first pass under the nose has a citrusy hop note which carries through the first sip. The hoppy overtones are more subtle with the second taste. 6% abv. A

Reality Czeck – A pale yellow pilsner, Reality Czeck is a light and refreshing Czech style beer. It does have the traditional floral hops flavors which are stronger after the first taste, but it reminded me a bit of a Budweiser. 4.8% abv. B

Twist of Fate Bitter Ale – Moonlight calls this English style ale ESB-ish, which means it as a touch of the extra special bittering hops that are noticeable in the taste and scent. I agree this is true to its name. Its hoppiness comes through, but it’s not overpowering. 5.6% abv. A

Lunatic Lager – This lager has a bright yellow body (slightly darker than the Reality Czeck) with a light scent revealing a touch of yeast. It is refreshing with a slight lingering aftertaste which was ever so slightly soapy in texture. 5% abv. B

Death and Taxes – It is a San Francisco style black lager–a common style of lager. The dark, chocolate brown body and thick, creamy, tan head are very welcoming. There are chocolaty notes but more of a dark roast coffee taste than anything. This one remains a favorite. 5% abv. A+

All of these are approximately $7 per 16 oz. draft, depending upon where you buy them.

moonlightbrewing.com

Review: Fort Point Manzanita Smoked Altbier

San Francisco’s Fort Point Beer Company presents this collaboration with Germany’s Freigeist. Manzanita is a heavily smoked ale made from malt that’s been smoked with both beechwood and manzanita (a common evergreen shrub) branches.

The overpowering smokiness on the nose is reminiscent of apple wood smoke, crispy bacon, and mesquite. The palate is quite sweet, heavy apple and orange fruitiness leading quickly to more of the aforementioned smoke flavors, which take on some notes of roasted nuts and chicory coffee. Saphir hops add a very light bitterness to the proceedings, but the smoke is so overpowering that it quickly begins to dominate the experience from start to finish, which otherwise comes through with some stale coffee notes.

6.5% abv.

B / $8 per 22 oz bottle / fortpointbeer.com

Review: Double Nickel Brewing Pilsner and Vienna Lager

Pennsauken New Jersey’s Double Nickel Brewing has been open since October of 2015, adding to a very vibrant brewing community in Southern New Jersey. Here are two of their flagship beers.

Double Nickel Brewing Pilsner – Brewed with Noble hops, this excellent pilsner has a very clean crisp flavor and the straw color you would expect. Although it’s a bit more bitter than many American pilsners, it has a depth of flavor not often seen in American versions of this style. The beer exhibits distinctive citrus and floral overtones, with a little spice on the finish. Beer drinkers who don’t usually drink small-brewery beer might find this a good gateway beer. The brewery describes the beer as being good for light beer drinkers, but at 5.6% alcohol I would beg to differ on that one. B / $10 per six pack

Double Nickel Brewing Vienna Lager – A very malt-forward beer brewed with three different malts (Pilsner, Vienna, and Munich), this beer has a rich caramel flavor and color. The first taste is full of caramel and malt, leaving little room for any nuance. After the first taste, honey and toffee overtones begin to fill in behind the malt, tempering and smoothing out the flavor, as the first blast of malt begins to wear off. The sweet finish tastes like a molasses brown bread, and it feels similar on the tongue. The beer finishes a little heavy with a strong but very pleasant aftertaste, and it maintains its taste and body even if it’s a little warm, seemingly at its best flavor at around 45 degrees. 5.3% abv. B / $10 per six pack

dnbcbeer.com

Review: Bear Republic Barrel 188 This Little Figgie Ale

Barrel 188: This Little Figgie Ale

Just as there are dessert wines, I definitely classify Barrel 188 This Little Figgie from Bear Republic as a dessert ale. The initial sweetness is light and certainly that of figs, though they are not overpowering. The head is a nice tan color and also light. The body is a darker gold, almost the shade of dark brown sugar with a slight red tinge when held up to the light. It is pleasantly inviting.

At first sip, there is a bright effervescence bubbling on the tip of the tongue. As the ale warms, the effervescence bursts remain to tantalize your taste buds similar to those of a fine champagne. At this point, the richly sweet black Mission figs (California organic) warm up and step forward. Sip it, hold it on your tongue a moment, and enjoy all of the rich flavors for as long as you can.

The bottle comes with a re-sealable flip top cap which includes a rubber seal. While I appreciate the opportunity to save some for later, I doubt most folks will ever use it. One sip and you’ll want to finish the whole thing, particularly if shared with friends.

I cannot say if pairing This Little Figgie with a dessert with figs in it or snacks like fig-filled cookie bars is a bad thing, though I can recommend it with a German chocolate cake or a cheesecake. A brandy-soaked fruitcake could be delightful because the brandy from the barrels and the fruitcake would mingle in a nice way.

This rare, vintage 2016, brandy barrel aged golden ale is 10% abv per 750ml bottle. It is only available through Bear Republic’s Wild Club.

A+ / $30 / bearrepublic.com

More Beers from Devils Backbone Reviewed: Kilt Flasher, Flor de Luna, Single Hop IPA, Smokehouse Porter, and Berliner Metro Weiss Sour

Virginia-based Devils Backbone cannot seemingly be stopped. We just checked out seven new beers from the company, now it’s dropping another five — a regular release (Kilt Flasher) and four new Rare Series Adventure Pack releases. Let’s dig in.

Devils Backbone Kilt Flasher Wee Heavy Scotch Ale – A bold wee heavy, with big malt notes backed by notes of coffee, roasted nuts, and a lightly brown-sugared finish. It’s a powerful beer, but it’s quite a familiar one that tastes a lot like any number of similar brews. I wouldn’t say anything about imitation and flattery, per se, but while this wee heavy is on point, it doesn’t distinguish itself entirely. 8% abv. B+

Devils Backbone Flor de Luna Belgium Style Blonde with Jasmine – A blonde ale made with Belgian yeast, with jasmine added. A curiosity, indeed! The jasmine is far from apparent; rather, the heavy malt character is powerful from the start, along with some a pungent, yeasty underpinning. The heavy farmhouse character makes this one lean a bit too closely toward the sour world, but your mileage may vary. Even on the finish, any sense of jasmine is fleeting. Not that I am clear on why you’d want that in your beer, anyway. 6.3% abv. C+

Devils Backbone Single Hop IPA – A west coast IPA from the east coast — brewed only with Equinox hops. Strong, bitter, and piney, with a bit of a mushroom kick. The finish is earthy and quite lasting, with notes of resin and slate. A solid but not wholly distinguished IPA. 7.9% abv. B+

Devils Backbone Smokehouse Porter Smoked Porter Ale – Two types of smoked malts plus three unsmoked malts give this beer a burly, nutty, and, yes, appropriately smoky character, where mushroom and lightly herbal notes add some pizzazz. Smoked ales can so easily become overblown and sticky with barbecue flavors, but Devils Backbone just about nails the classic German style with this one. 5.7% abv. A-

Devils Backbone Berliner Metro Weiss German-Style Sour Ale – Quite tart, with juicy citrus and a pungent sourness right from the start. Lemon, grapefruit, and orange notes are intense, giving this a heavily fruity — yet entirely sour — essence from start to finish. A simple example of the style. 3.9% abv. B

about $17 per 12-pack / dbbrewingcompany.com

Review: Breckenridge Brewery Pumpkin Spice Latte Stout

One late arrival from Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery, a festive, nitrogen-charged seasonal inspired by the classic pumpkin spice latte. Breckenridge Brewery’s Pumpkin Spice Latte Stout is “stout made with dark roasted malts and carefully roasted, cold pressed coffee beans. Vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves delicately complement the taste of rich pumpkin.”

Results: Coffee dominates the malty, roasted nut-heavy experience, but the rather thin stout is also moderately fruity at times, and just lightly scented with cinnamon and clove notes. Any serious “pumpkin spice” character is relegated to the back end, which offers a smattering of spices, but also heads sideways into a lingering aftertaste of overripe apple and banana.

5.5% abv.

B- / $12 per four-pack of 15.2 oz cans / breckbrew.com

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