Category Archives: Beer

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 /

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

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

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 /

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 /

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 /

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 /

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 Enjoy By 4.20.13 IPA

F549219 10151483793367432 418125689 n e1365474256368 Review: Stone 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

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 /

Review: Band of Brewers Third Shift Amber Lager (2013 Bottle)

third shift amber lager 259x300 Review: Band of Brewers Third Shift Amber Lager (2013 Bottle)MillerCoors is getting the creative juices flowing with a new brand straight out of the company think tank. The Band of Brewers, a collaborative group of brewers spanning across the MillerCoors network, have joined together to release to release Third Shift, an amber lager within the Märzen style. While February marks the first month that this beer is available for distribution and release to the masses, it has enjoyed success in the past by winning a gold medal at the Great American Beer Fest in 2010. It also has seen limited, tap-only allocations in the past year, of which Chris had the pleasure of testing last August.

Third Shift is dedicated not only to the brewers who worked throughout the nights to create this beer, but to all those who put in the effort and long hours in their pursuits and careers. And to these workers go the spoils, as their reward comes in the form of slightly buttery and toasted malt, a light honey-like sweetness, and earthy, spicy hops. An obviously German influence permeates throughout this beer, both in malt and hop selection, and everything is tied together with a crispness that leaves a smooth aftertaste in the finish.

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Review: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA

120 minute ipa Review: Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPAWith Dogfish’s fan loyalty, this Imperial IPA from Dogfish Head can be a challenging bottle to find. The brewing process for this expression in the Dogfish lineup is quite intense, and so goes the flavor and the alcohol content.

120 Minute IPA goes through a unique brewing process that incorporates a massive amount of hops. The boil is continuously hopped for two hours, hence the name, with high-alpha American hops used. It is then dry-hopped daily for a month and finally aged another month with whole-leaf hops.

The nose on 120 Minute is quite strong, with the hoppy aroma slightly masked by the caramel, malt, and hints of vanilla. This Imperial IPA pours a relatively cloudy gold to amber color with a light head. As you first sip it you get a prominent amount of alcohol, and the strength of the brew becomes obvious immediately. The malt and citrus help tone the alcohol down, which accounts for the surprisingly sweet follow-through. The higher the alcohol content in a beer, the more residual sugar is left behind, making the beer sweeter.

The complex brewing process behind 120 Minute ultimately produces a quite delicious yet very strong Imperial IPA. Try holding out and letting this bottle age for a year or two, it will help bring out the complexities in flavor.

Between 15% – 20% abv

A- / $9 per 12 oz. bottle /

Review: Dogfish Head Rhizing Bines Imperial IPA

DFH RhizingBines.preview 300x165 Review: Dogfish Head Rhizing Bines Imperial IPAThis curious Imperial IPA is a collaborative project, the third in the “Life & Limb” series, between Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada, though the Dogfish DNA is more prevalent on the bottle and label. From the companies, you’re getting the best of both worlds: “Carolina-grown red fife wheat and Dogfish Head’s continual hopping from the East and Sierra Nevada’s estate-grown caramel malt and Torpedo dry-hopping from the West.”

The hops used here are Bravo (Dogfish Head) and #644 (Sierra Nevada), an experimental strain that has yet to be named.

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Review: Bell’s Hopslam Ale

hopslam ale Review: Bells Hopslam AleEach year Bell’s Brewery releases its version of a double IPA, and luckily for everyone the Michigan-based brewery makes an aggressive effort to get its beers out to as many people as possible.  Even some of Bell’s limited beers are not terribly difficult to track down.

This year’s Hopslam unleashes beautiful aromas of pine, citrus, honey, and lastly hops. The first thing you’ll notice about Hopslam is its nose; with six different hop varieties used, they add a surprisingly earthy aroma to the overall flavor profile. The nose of  this year’s batch starts with the beautiful aroma of pine needles, next is the wonderful accompaniment of grapefruit and citrus, and lastly you get the hops and honey.

The pour is a nice beautiful color of gold to orange/amber and the flavor is all there, right up front, very bitter and hoppy to start.  A very front-loaded beer, you get a ton of grapefruit/citrus notes to start it off then a lot of hops.  Like the name suggests this is not for those that do not enjoy a titular slam of hops and floral tones.

Even with its abv of 10%; it goes down exceptionally smooth, with a nice clean finish. During fermentation honey is added to the batch. This wonderful addition increases the alcohol, yet creates a nice, smooth follow-through.

A- / $3 per 12 oz. bottle /

Review: Shock Top Honeycrisp Apple Wheat

Do you like apples, like Will’s blonde friend? If so, you’ll love Shock Top’s latest brew, a Belgian wheat ale brewed with honeycrisp apple cider and spices.

Shock Top Honeycrisp Apple Wheat 112x150 Review: Shock Top Honeycrisp Apple WheatIt smells and tastes exactly how you imagine it will: Tangy apple juice on the front of the palate, then a very lightly bitter, quite sweet finish. Long and lasting, it’s hard not to describe this beer in terms that don’t invoke the word “Mott’s.” I say that out of all the love in my heart, but this is the kind of beer that will require a drinker with a very specific point of view.

5.2% abv.

C / $8 per six-pack /

The Evolution of Canned Beer: Samuel Adams Joins the Can Parade

sam adams concept can 200x300 The Evolution of Canned Beer: Samuel Adams Joins the Can ParadeEarlier today, Samuel Adams announced that it would start distributing beer in cans. As of now, only the flagship Boston Lager and Summer Ale are slated to hit the market in time for beach excursions, but it would not be a surprise to see Samuel Adams’ other popular offerings roll off the canning line, especially after the Boston Beer Co. already sunk millions into strategic planning, designing, and implementing the new format. In terms of design, Samuel Adams bucks the trend of normal 12 oz. cans in favor of a brand new vessel that features a wider mouth and an hourglass shape below the lip to help facilitate smooth liquid flow and ease of drinking, changes that were received favorably during consumer testing. (See concept at right.)

There has been no indication that Samuel Adams will discontinue the normal bottling line for the brands set to be canned, but initial reaction to the news has been mixed at best and surprisingly harsh from some fronts. After announcing the plans on Facebook, followers of the brewery chimed in with opinions ranging from hesitant to enthusiastic to sadly ignorant at times.

Two specific ideas strongly resonated in regard to the canning process and the image of canned beers. Many people posted concerns that the beer inside the can would simply taste different than that which is bottled, but advances in canning technology have led to a food-grade lining within the can that does not create any flavor differences. Basically, the fear that canned beer would taste metallic is simply unfounded, since the beer never touches aluminum either during the canning process or after it is packaged.

However, the second assumption about canned beer is easily the most egregious; the notion that only inferior or “cheap” beers are canned. This is a truly bizarre statement in today’s marketplace. Look at who’s canning now. Big-name heavy hitters Sierra Nevada and Brooklyn Brewery recently started selling their signature beers in cans (as well as continuing bottle production), Oskar Blues exclusively distributes cans, Surly from Minneapolis and Sixpoint from Brooklyn specialize in 16 oz. pounders,  and even smaller, but still respected, breweries like Anderson Valley have experimented in canning.

But perhaps the most damning evidence against the shaming of cans shines from a brewery that isn’t a household name, but is widely heralded amongst the craft faithful. The Alchemist, a small, family-run brewery located in Waterbury, Vermont, rose to fame from the success of its double IPA, Heady Topper. Once a beer that was only seen on tap at the brewery, it eventually received a very limited bottle release before transitioning to year-round-available beer that is only distributed in – you guessed it – 16 oz. cans. The kicker? Heady Topper is currently the #1 beer (and best double IPA) in the world according to Beer Advocate, beating out beers such as Russian River’s Pliny the Younger (and Elder), Westvleteren’s 12, and Founders’ CBS and KBS.

As long as Samuel Adams keeps its bottling line, the addition of cans can only be lauded. Not only are cans easier to recycle and transport, they are also accepted on the beach and on camping grounds, unlike glass bottles. If you are enjoying a beer at home, it shouldn’t matter if the vessel is a can or a bottle, since the final resting place for a beer is a glass. (You are drinking your beer from a glass, right?) With the implementation of linings that don’t affect the taste of the beer, cans should receive a warm welcome in your refrigerator or cooler this summer.