Category Archives: Beer

Review: Magic Hat Blind Faith, HiCu, Elder Betty

blind faith Review: Magic Hat Blind Faith, HiCu, Elder BettyMagic Hat never met an ingredient it couldn’t turn into a beer, and this week we look at three new brews from the company — one a relatively straightforward IPA and two unique concoctions that you’ll no doubt find intriguing, at least to read about.

Magic Hat Blind Faith – This IPA is described as “well balanced,” but I get a strong coffee character from it, with chocolate on the finish. These flavors are a bit unusual for IPA, but they don’t dampen my enthusiasm for an otherwise chewy and rounded beer that has a solid slug of bitterness behind it. 6.2% abv. B+

Magic Hat HiCu – HiCu? Hibiscus and cucumber. Hmmm. A sniff brings out — miraculously — both of those elements, and I’m still trying to figure out whether I like it. It’s got two components that are bizarre to start with in a beer, and which arguably have no business being together, either. Ultimately, it’s the cucumber component that really takes over and doesn’t let go, channeling the spirit of the veggie tray into an otherwise indistinct English Ale. 4.2% abv. C

Magic Hat Elder Betty – You can probably guess that elderberry is the oddball ingredient in this Magic Hat brew. It’s a strange one, a Hefeweizen that only hints at the distinctively fruit on the nose. Take a sip and the unmistakable sweetness attacks you much more strongly, balancing out the biscuity notes of the beer with a tart and fruity finish that, well, tastes like elderberries. Hard not to like but difficult to love. Reviewed from can. 5.5% abv. B

magichat.net

Review: Samuel Adams Summer Ale

samuel adams summer ale 79x300 Review: Samuel Adams Summer AleAnd now for some Sam Adams you can actually buy. This seasonal release Summer Ale is a wheat beer brewed with lemon peel and grains of paradise. It’s a combo that works. You can really taste the grains of paradise! (Ha!)

But seriously, the addition of lemon helps to balance out a bready body, lending acidity and some almost tropical fruitiness where it’s needed. Unfortunately this effect tends to dissipate rather soon, leaving behind a beer that is somewhat flat and driven by its wheat component. Refreshing, but drink it fast. And cold.

5.3% abv.

B / $7 per six-pack / samueladams.com

Sampling Samuel Adams Collaboration Beers, “Brewing the American Dream”

DeanandJim 300x200 Sampling Samuel Adams Collaboration Beers, Brewing the American Dream How do you get your tiny brewery noticed? Try partnering with the big guys. That’s what Sam Adams is doing with a new program called Brewing the American Dream, which invites small brewers to Boston to collaborate on something entirely new. These beers are sold in limited release in California and New York, and at the Sam Adams Brewery in Boston. Here’s more detail on the program:

Samuel Adams today announced the introduction of two new collaboration beers with the first recipients of the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Brewing and Business Experienceship, a mentorship opportunity offered as part of the company’s small business micro lending and coaching program.

The new beers are Boston Tea Party Saison, developed in collaboration with Jim Woods, brewer and founder of San Francisco-based MateVeza (www.mateveza.com), and ThreeNinety Bock, created in collaboration with Chris Spinelli and Jon Mervine, brewers and co-founders of Roc Brewing Co. in Rochester, NY (http://rocbrewingco.com). The collaboration beers will have select distribution in California and New York, respectively, and be served in the tour center at the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery.

The beers were the culmination of the two microbreweries’ participation in the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Brewing and Business Experienceship, which like an extended internship, provides one craft brewer annually with hands-on educational and enrichment experiences, and is tailored to the awarded brewery’s business needs. The Experienceship includes a series of trips to the Samuel Adam’s Boston Brewery for extended coaching from various functional areas of The Boston Beer Company such as ingredients procurement, quality assurance, brewing, and sales and distribution, among others. The program also provides access to and funding for industry events.

I got to sample both of the first batch. Some quick thoughts follow.

ThreeNinety Bock (7% abv) is a richly caramel-infused beer loaded with malt and an almost sultry, smoky, woodsy finish. Pleasant, but a little sickly sweet for my tastes. B

Boston Tea Party Saison (7.4% abv) is spicy and fruity, with lots of applesauce, bittersweet orange, and lemon peel. A bit cacophonous, the finish is a bit more inviting, but quite citrus-focused. B

Watch for them — you won’t find beers more unique than these!

Review: Hermitage Brewing Company India Pale Ale Single Hop Series – Magnum

hermitage magnum 300x170 Review: Hermitage Brewing Company India Pale Ale Single Hop Series   MagnumUp next in this unique series of beers from Hermitage is this IPA made exclusively with Magnum hops. At first blush it’s just a very bitter, rather earthy beer, but as you sip it, a curious sweetness is coaxed out of it. It grows and grows on the finish until you realize — it’s pineapple. Hints of dark chocolate come on after.

What a fun little beer. It’s not entirely balanced or refined, but this is a worthy investigation into what the Magnum hop character is all about. Next time I taste pineapple in a beer, I know what I’m going to look for on the label.

7% abv. 70 IBUs.

B+ / $6 per 22 oz. bottle / hermitagebrewing.com

Review: 8 More Hangar 24 Brews

hangar 24 barrel roll 300x225 Review: 8 More Hangar 24 BrewsJesus, these guys don’t quit, and here we have roughly a quarter of Hangar 24′s production line in one mega-post. You should know these guys by now, but if not, well, this is a great intro to some of H24′s brews. All beers below are limited edition (some are only on shelves for a month) unless otherwise noted as year-round bottlings. (Better to just check here for details.)

Hangar 24 Baseball Beer – A pilsner blended with a wheat beer. Slightly cloudy, highly citrus-focused. Tart and slightly sweet, with just a touch of bitterness on the back end. A lively summer brew that doesn’t exactly overflow with complexity, but is simply fun and refreshing to drink. 4.8% abv. B+ / $NA

Hangar 24 California Spring Beer – A seasonal (though, yes, it’s summer) “unique fusion of a hoppy wheat beer brewed with a blended fermentation of Belgian and American yeast.” Super piney when you crack open the bottle. Fresh, brisk, and lively with bitterness. A bit like a lighter version of an IPA, with a more rounded, bready body. Plenty of fun, with a lasting, pleasing finish. 5.2% abv. A- / $NA

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Upcoming: California Beer Festival – Marin County, June 29, 2013

CBF Main Logo 300x213 Upcoming: California Beer Festival   Marin County, June 29, 2013It’s summertime, and we’ve been covering a lot of California-brewed beer lately here at Drinkhacker. If you’ve wondered where you can score some of these more obscure brews, well, here’s your chance! At the upcoming California Beer Festival, Marin County.

We’ll let the CBF tell you the rest of the story:

With more than 70 different craft brews on tap and local participation from breweries such as Hopmonk Tavern and Lagunitas Brewery, ale lovers won’t want to miss this foaming event on Saturday, June 29 from 12:30 to 5 p.m. at Stafford Lake in Novato.

Breweries will be coming from across the state so beer lovers can sample their ales. Some of them include: Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, Sierra Nevada, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Anchor Brewing, Hoppy Brewing Company, as well as Hangar 24 Craft Brewery and Ninkasi Brewing Company with huge followings in the craft beer market.

This is the second year the event has been scheduled in the Bay Area. Its festivals in Ventura, Santa Cruz and Claremont/San Dimas sell out every year. “We are excited to be bringing some of the best brews in the country to the North Bay,” said founder Vincenzo Giammanco. “The picturesque lakeside setting nestled between Marin and Sonoma counties is a perfect location for a day of beer sampling, enjoying music, and barbecue. We are looking forward to the same success here as at our other popular festivals through out the state.”

Admission is $40, which includes one craft beer heaven ticket, a souvenir cup and beer sampling. Beer tasting begins at 1 and ends at 4:30 p.m. The event is for adults 21 and over, but children under 12 can accompany their parents for free.

The festival is looking for barbecue teams to participate in its first cook-off. Teams of four, including friends, family, co-workers, are invited to compete for more than $1,000 in prizes. Teams will be judged in four different categories: chicken, beef brisket, pork and beer based on appearance, taste, texture and overall. Guests get to sample the different styles of barbecue (while supplies last).

Proceeds from the California Beer Festival benefit the Gen Giammanco Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides financial support to student athletes in their pursuit of scholastic and athletic support. A shuttle service will be provided for $3. Tickets and additional info are available at californiabeerfestival.com.

See you there!

Review: Hermitage Brewing Company India Pale Ale Single Hop Series – El Dorado

hermitage single hop el dorado 214x300 Review: Hermitage Brewing Company India Pale Ale Single Hop Series   El DoradoWhen most beer is brewed, it’s made with a variety of hops, designed to add complexity and a variety of flavors to a brew. But Hermitage Brewing, based in San Jose, California, has a series of brews with a unique focus: Using one strain of hops per beer.

As the name implies, this IPA is made exclusively with El Dorado hops, a rather new strain (released in 2010) that’s in high demand. Described as highly bitter with plenty of fruit character behind it, it’s a new and versatile hop — and now you can really dig into it with this single-hop beer.

Hermitage’s El Dorado IPA is a solid brew with a brisk yet not overpowering bitterness. There’s lots of vegetation on the nose, forest floor and wood barrels. The hops take on a sweetness as the beer warms up, its bitter and more earthy flavors developing into overripe fruit notes, some citrus (particularly orange peel) and even a little peach character.

This is an interesting beer and an intriguing experiment, definitely worth seeking out (along with other members of the Single Hop family) if you’re really digging into what different strains of hops do to a beer.

7% abv. 55 IBUs.

B+ / $6 per 22 oz. bottle / hermitagebrewing.com

Review: Brooklyn Brewery’s Silver Anniversary Lager & Summer Ale

This year, Brooklyn Brewery is celebrating its 25th Anniversary and to commemorate the event, it is brewing up a special treat. Silver Anniversary Lager is a twist on its normal Brooklyn Lager where the brewery instead seeks to create a doppelbock-strength version of the beer, which, when combined with the added yeast for bottle-conditioning, creates a beer that should be ripe for drinking now or even improve with age.

Brooklyn Silver Anniversary 525x391 Review: Brooklyn Brewerys Silver Anniversary Lager & Summer Ale

To aggrandize the release even further, Brooklyn Brewery worked with four local artists to collaborate on labels that will be shipped on the bottles throughout the year. Some of these works were adapted for the release, while others were specifically created for the Silver Anniversary. Keep an eye on your local shop’s shelves and try to collect them all!

Delving into the beer itself, it takes on a surprising clarity in the glass that is accentuated by the dark mahogany color. An active, bone-white head settles on top of the liquid, and due in part to the yeast added to the bottle, slowly bubbles up and grows as it sits.

The nose is crisp and refreshing, and while Brooklyn Brewery states that Silver Anniversary Lager is brewed to doppelbock specifications, it doesn’t take on an intense sweetness like the style is wont to exhibit. The aroma consists mainly of pale malt, hints of caramel, subtle notes of cocoa, and a surprisingly fruity kick of citrus and grapefruit. Mild amounts of black pepper serve as a spicy balance to the sweeter and bitter aspects of the beer.

Throughout the taste, I consistently found myself impressed by just how balanced Brooklyn Brewery was able to craft this lager. There is a flexible give-and-take that spans from delightfully sweet caramel, toffee, and chocolate to an almost bracing bitterness from Cascade hops that delve into the bitter, juicy rinds of orange and grapefruit. The Cascade and Willamette hops also couple to deliver a spicy and floral note. The finish returns almost entirely to the malt, as the caramel and pale malts resurface and linger long into the aftertaste. 8.6% abv. A- / around $14 per 25.4oz bottle

Brewed in an English Pale Ale fashion, Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale welcomes the summer into season with crisp malts and fresh hops. When the humid weather rolls around, heavy beers usually aren’t the most refreshing option, but why sacrifice flavor to fulfill the need to quench your thirst?

Brooklyn Summer Ale Review: Brooklyn Brewerys Silver Anniversary Lager & Summer Ale

Brooklyn’s Summer Ale strikes a nice divide between the smooth malt and juicy hops from the nose to the body. The malts keep much of the bitterness at bay, instead luring the beer towards a creamier, bready tone. However, the hops eventually gain more ground and impart an earthy, fruity, and slightly spicy influence, especially in the form of orange peel and lemon zest.
In the face of heat, Summer Ale stands up to the challenge of differentiating itself with its strong English characteristics. At times, the malt does tend to become a little heavy, but the hops and high carbonation go a long way in soothing the mouthfeel. 5.0% abv. B / $9 per 6-pack

brooklynbrewery.com

Review: Starr Hill Grateful Pale Ale and Red Roostarr Coffee Cream Stout

Two new brews from our friends at Starr Hill

starr hill grateful 300x278 Review: Starr Hill Grateful Pale Ale and Red Roostarr Coffee Cream StoutStarr Hill Grateful Pale Ale – Straightforward, delicious, and crisp with modest citrus character — and not overly bitter (just 26 IBUs). This classic pale ale offers a bounty of hops, backed with just a touch of smoky wood chip character. Nothing earth-shattering, but not every beer needs to be to be memorable. 4.7% abv. A- / $NA per 12 oz. bottle

Starr Hill Red Roostarr Coffee Cream Stout – Surprisingly modest for a cream stout, with restrained coffee character. Malt is much more at the forefront, with some caramel lacing. Moderately big body, but not a knockout that will be particularly overwhelming. Somewhat muddy on the finish, too, with a weird blend of bitterness and sweetened coffee notes. 5.6% abv. B- / $NA per 22 oz. bottle

starrhill.com

Review: Beachwood Brewing Thrillseeker West Coast IPA

 Review: Beachwood Brewing Thrillseeker West Coast IPALong Beach-based Beachwood Brewing — perhaps best known for its two SoCal BBQ restaurants and their ultra-high-end beer menus — has just released Thrillseeker, its first bottled IPA. The company suggests drinking it young and fresh, and keeping it refrigerated while you’re waiting.

The brew offers a big head, and is full gold in color. This is a classic, bracing IPA loaded with bitter hops character (and 99+ IBUs). The huge hoppiness — dry-hopped with Simcoe and Chinook hops — includes some evergreen notes and a touch of orange peel. Drying and brisk, this is a huge IPA that hopheads will love. I find the balance a touch off, a little muddy and lacking that strong citrus oil character that marks (and balances) a great IPA. Overall a nice ride, though.

7.1% abv.

B / $8 per 22 oz. bottle / www.beachwoodbbq.com

Review: Newcastle Bombshell

Curious: A blonde ale from Newcastle.Newcastle Bombshell 111x300 Review: Newcastle Bombshell

The latest in Newcastle’s limited edition beer series will be available from now through July 2013. Naturally, it’s Newcastle’s most “summery” brew, though it’s still got a big mouthfeel and lots of heft to it.

Nicely grainy, almost biscuity with distinct toast notes, this very light pale ale doesn’t stray far from the basics. Hops are muted, leaving both bitterness and sweetness as relative afterthoughts. Really just a hint of dessert on the back-end, a somewhat cookie-like character that adds just a touch of sugar to an otherwise sedate brew. Altogether it’s fine and moderately refreshing (and quite low in alcohol, which is good for summertime drinking), though hardly complex.

Also note the bikini-clad gal on the label, an addition, per Newcastle, intended “to sell more beer.”

4.4% abv.

B / $8 per six-pack / newcastlebrown.com

Review: Shock Top Campfire Wheat Experimental Beer

There’s no picture to this review because this beer is not for sale. You can try it — available on tap only — in extremely limited quantities at beer festivals around the country this year. Want to find this stuff? Try the San Francisco International Beer Festival on April 27, or the American Beer Classic in Chicago on May 11, 2013. Check Shock Top’s Facebook page for more info — and information on two more festival-only exclusive beers coming out later this year.

Campfire Wheat is perhaps the most outrageous beer I’ve ever encountered. An unfiltered ale, it is brewed with graham wheat, chocolate malts, and marshmallow flavor. It is then aged over cocoa nibs before being sealed into kegs. What’s this all mean? Well, if the ingredient list doesn’t tip you off, think harder: It’s s’mores. S’mores beer. S’mores, turned into a beer.

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Review: Dogfish Head Aprihop IPA

Dogfish Head Aprihop 223x300 Review: Dogfish Head Aprihop IPAWhy brewers keep putting apricots in their beers I’ll never know. If asked to choose a fruit to eat, the apricot will invariably be the last on my list. Fresh or dried. Meh.

Aprihop is Dogfish Head’s IPA, brewed using the fruit that dare not speak its name and finished with whole leaf hops. Up front it’s got solid bitterness, with lots of heavy apricot notes on top. Almost overwhelming, these fruity bits blow off after a few minutes and leave behind a more gentle fruitiness.

Still, the sizable hop character and the somewhat sickly sweet apricot notes never quite mesh. The finish is long and ultimately turns sour, coating the mouth. The only cure is another slug, which brings enough bitterness to wash it away. Rinse and repeat.

7% abv.

B / $3 per bottle / dogfish.com

Review: Indio Beer

Indio Bottle 94x300 Review: Indio BeerIndio: Not from India, but from Mexico. Born south of the border in 1893, Indio only made it to the U.S. in 2012, courtesy of owner Heineken (which makes Tecate, Dos Equis, Sol, and a ton of other familiar beers in the same brewery). Now that Indio’s here, how’s it taste?

This curious, darker Mexican lager is at first appealing. The body is brisk, mildly bitter but nutty and lightly earthy — corn husks, perhaps? Things go along well enough until the finish, which gets progressively more and more bitter — too much so, really. This finish is not so much hoppy as it is weedy and vegetal, almost acrid in some bottles that I encountered. Quality seems to be erratic and the beer, overall, is just so-so.

B- / $8 per 6-pack / facebook.com/IndioBeer

Mainstream Brewery Spotlight: Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser Line Reviewed

Discriminating drinkers aren’t immune from the mainstream, and ultra-micro-craft brews aren’t always available when you’re looking for a six pack at your local convenience store. What then about the biggest beer of them all? Today we look at the complete lineup of Budweiser beers, which now includes six different bottlings. Thoughts follow.

As the oldest beer within Anheuser-Busch’s portfolio, Budweiser defines the very meaning of a “brand.” Not only has the Budweiser name produced off-shoots of varying flavors and target demographics, but the beer’s popularity extends beyond what is contained within the bottle. With the iconic Clydesdale mascots and extensive marketing program, even consumers who don’t necessarily like beer are drawn into the fold.

Budweiser 150x132 Mainstream Brewery Spotlight: Anheuser Buschs Budweiser Line ReviewedJust like its commercials, Budweiser lager is a classic. Anheuser-Busch brews Budweiser and its various siblings with rice, and the impact is readily apparent. The aroma and taste take on a neutral characteristic because of it, but it leans towards sweet as a result of the rest of the malt bill. In contrast to some of the lighter Bud offerings, this original Budweiser exhibits a noticeable graininess in the form of buttery cereal grains that add flavor. While not the focus by any stretch, hop influences creep in the nose and flavor by contributing a light fruitiness and earthy spice. C- / $6.99 per six-pack

Bud Light Platinum 41x150 Mainstream Brewery Spotlight: Anheuser Buschs Budweiser Line Reviewed Continue reading

Review: Stone Brewing Enjoy By 4.20.13 IPA

F549219 10151483793367432 418125689 n e1365474256368 Review: Stone Brewing Enjoy By 4.20.13 IPAor those beer drinkers who can’t get enough hops, there’s nothing worse than opening an India Pale Ale and finding out that the bottle you just bought is several months old. Unlike some beer styles that can improve and mature with age, IPAs and other hop-forward beers are notorious for dropping off quickly because the hop qualities are one of the first aspects of a beer to fade. Unfortunately, not every brewery utilizes bottle dating to inform consumers about how old the beer they are buying actually is, which is a blight that most people have been burned by.

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Review: Starr Hill Saison and Psycho Kilter

Starr Hill in Charlottesville, Virginia makes a collection of beers in a wild array of styles, mostly available on the central-eastern seaboard. The company sent us (out of the blue) two of its newer, seasonal releases for sampling and review. Thoughts follow.

Starr Hill Saison 300x279 Review: Starr Hill Saison and Psycho KilterStarr Hill Starr Saison Belgian Style Ale – Mild nose. Fruity with orange and grapefruit notes. On the palate, moderately bitter and slightly sour, with a bit of mustiness on the end. Fruit and hops come together to create something approaching a sense of applesauce mixed together with old wood, rye crackers, and peanut shells. Surprisingly restrained body. Overall it offers an austere, Old World, and an overall pleasant experience, but not an entirely refreshing or complicated one. 6% abv. B- / $NA per 12 oz. bottle

Starr Hill Psycho Kilter 124x150 Review: Starr Hill Saison and Psycho KilterStarr Hill Psycho Kilter Wee Heavy Ale – Wow, this is a dangerous beer. 22 oz. of 9.3% alcohol wee heavy… and oh so drinkable. Very malty but not syrupy, this mahogany brown ale is rich with nutty flavors, silky chocolate notes, some touches of coffee, and even light wine characteristics with just a touch of bitterness on the back end. This bruiser goes down far too easy, its light sweetness tantalizing the taste buds in just the right way, inviting sip after sip as you explore its depths. Really lovely. A / $NA per 22 oz. bottle

starrhill.com

Review: Drinking Hangar 24 Vinaceous and Chocolate Porter with Owner Ben Cook

ben cook hangar 24 300x224 Review: Drinking Hangar 24 Vinaceous and Chocolate Porter with Owner Ben CookWe’ve covered the brews of Redlands, California-based Hangar 24 before, and recently owner Ben Cook (and his crew) descended on SF for San Francisco Beer Week to pour some beers and talk about what his growing brewery’s been up to.

With 25 different beers made in 2012 (all available only in California; Las Vegas and Reno are coming soon), Cook isn’t afraid to experiment, relying heavily on local produce to come up with variations on the typical ale and lager. Beers like Orange Wheat are reflective of southern California’s heritage, and Hangar 24 has also used dates and pumpkins to create unique brews; its Polycot apricot beer is the best seller in its Local Fields series. Local labor is used to process the fruit — usually by hand, and often in exchange for free beer.

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Review: Magic Hat Exotic Spring Ales 2013

magic hat ticket to rye 298x300 Review: Magic Hat Exotic Spring Ales 2013Three new seasonal brews from our ever-experimental pals at Magic Hat, including a huge winner with coriander underpinnings. Thoughts follow.

Magic Hat Ticket to Rye – It’s a nice IPA with a twist, rye grain in the mash that gives the beer a bit of an edge and a distinct, rye bread flavor. The chewy finish reminds me of a red ale more than an IPA, giving Ticket to Rye a double identity. The cost comes in the form of less up-front bitterness — which may or may not be to your liking — but I find this to be a fair trade-off considering the extra flavor you get. 7.1% abv. A-

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Review: Short’s Brewery The Liberator

liberator e1262287312741 Review: Short’s Brewery The LiberatorTucked away in a small town in northern Michigan lies Short’s Brewery, a former hardware store turned brewhouse. The Liberator became a 30th birthday present for Joseph Short, the creative mind behind Short’s Brewing Company, which offers here its interesting take on a double IPA.

The Liberator’s most surprising feature are the citrus tones that carry throughout, from the nose to the finish. Definitely citrusy and floral in the nose, with an enjoyable aroma of hops followed by orange and lemon zest added after fermentation. The pour is a bit cloudy orange with a nice full head.

The taste of this double IPA starts with a nice amount of hoppy bitter flavor, followed by caramelized malt and citrus, which dial the level of bitterness back a bit after that initial rush. There’s definitely an abundance of hops and malt used in this brew, and with the citrus zest at the end really shines and rounds out this beer. The flavor of the Liberator really aligns itself with the nose; bittery and hoppy goodness right up front finally mellow out by the citrus and caramel malt.

7.4% abv.

B+ / $17 per six-pack / shortsbrewing.com