Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Battle of the Double IPA's

On my last trip up to Maine I also had the privilege of trying two excellent double IPA's. Here they are:

Sebago Full Throttle Double IPA
Bottle -- Luke's
was a little surprised to see the usually conservative sebago brewing tackle this more extreme style. apparently they dry hop this for over a month. hazy pour with a hop nose that is pure citrus. strong bitterness but taste of biscuit and fruit too. downright tasty. a strong, bold beer that i just loved. sadly, it is only available from february to april... keep an eye out.
Score: 9

Shipyard XXXX IPA (Pugsley's Signature Series)
22 oz -- Maine
shipyard unveiled this"big beer" -- the third in their pugsley's series -- this past may. however, it wasn't until august that my dad finally came up with this beer for me. all those x's in the title are supposed to be a british thing to denote strength (it's 9+ abv.) amber pour with excellent head retention. hops are both citrus and pine -- quite hoppy. diacetyl (butteriness) comes on strong. lively. this beer makes me think that pugsley sat down and said what if we took a popular american style of beer and made it british. a very different double ipa but also very good.
Score: 8

Winner: Sebago (by a nose)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

RedBones Barbeque

RedBones Barbeque
55 Chester Street, Sommerville
Now this is a barbeque joint! Not trendy in the least, this place has some good old fashioned cooking. The pulled pork sandwich was amazing. It isn't often that I open one of these posts talking about the food, and I don't mean for it to take away from the beer. 24 taps, with a good mix of local, west coast, and Belgian. Bottle list isn't much to speak of, but you come for the tap list, right? The atmosphere was very comfortable with a full restaurant and bar, the game on, and bright decorations reminiscient of a road-side stand (see picture below from The Phoenix.) I believe they get live acts downstairs, host charity runs and poetry readings, so there is a lot going on. Service, quality -- this place had it all. Certainly recommended, especially if you are hungry.
Atmosphere: 5/5, Selection: 8/10, Quality: 8/10, Service: 4/5, Overall: 15/20, Total: 40/50
Total rating: A-

Chester Street Amber
Sample -- RedBones Barbeque
i couldn't figure out where this beer came from at first before deciding that it must be a housebrew. whatever the story, it was pretty good. note of chocolate stuck out to me. manages to be both flavorful and very light drinking.
Score: 7

Harpoon Leviathan Saison Royale
Sample -- RedBones Barbeque
curiously, our waiter tried to talk me out of ordering this beer as "a lot of beer." seeing as it was just a sample and i am a man, i told him i thought i could handle it. glad i did because it was great (...and strong...) golding and hallertauer hops are strong enough that you feel like you are eating them whole. a good thing -- delicious.
Score: 9

Southern Tier Harvest Ale
Sample -- RedBones Barbeque
an esb with very impressive lace coating. sweet, hoppy, and smooth. good qualities. best southern tier drinking experience i have had in some time.
Score: 7

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Maine vs. Canada

On my recent vacation up to eastern Maine I got to try a lot of beers from Maine and our neighbors to the north. But who brews a better beer? Let's put four beers from each head-to-head. This is a highly scientific study.

Canada's Contenders:

Alexander Keith's IPA
Can -- Campobello, Canada
an ipa in a can... so i had a hunch this wouldn't be very good. but still, this was shockingly bad. very light, few hops -- more like a lager than an ipa. not a good start for team canada...
Score: 2

Picaroon's Best Bitter
Bottle -- Campobello, Canada
the grocery store i bought this from had a very limited selection. this stood out as the only beer not in a can. from fredrickton, new brunswick. taste black patent malt, lively grassy hops up front that gives way to wateriness. not bad.
Score: 6

Picaroon's Man's Best Friend
Bottle -- Campobello, Canada
a porter. burnt malt and a little sour. not very good.
Score: 4

Unibroue Chambly Noire
750 ml -- New York
my first beer from this epic canadian brewer. this belgian dark ale is very yeasty, not especially dark, with a chalky mouthfeel. a little unsatisfying. not exactly their most acclaimed beer so i will have to try them again.
Score: 5

Maine's Contenders:

Atlantic Brewing Bar Harbor Summer Ale
Bottle -- Global Beverage Warehouse, Ellsworth, ME
i have taken a renewed interst in these guys after they bought up Bar Harbor Brewing and its Cadillac Mountain Stout. citrus and Belgian yeast reign here, just as you would expect in a summer ale. little raw for my taste.
Score: 4

Gritty 21 IPA
Bottle -- Global Beverage Warehouse
a fresh, classy label to celebrate gritty's 21st birthday. the fact that caramel malts dominate this ipa is jarring. only minor bitterness will disappoint most hop heads.
Score: 5

Kennebec River Summer Ale
Bottle -- Global Beverage Warehouse
dan berated me for not having rated more than one beer from kennebec river... so of course i had to pick this one up. glad i did too. bright attractive pour, clean nose, hoppy but rounded around edges, and quite refreshing. recommended.
Score: 7

Penobscot Bay Whig Street Blonde Ale
22 oz -- Global Beverage Warehouse
my first beer from this winterport brewer. translucent amber... very malty aroma... distinctively musty/earthy Perle hops... tongue tingeling... very balanced by pale malt. pretty impressive. my favorite of the bunch.
Score: 8

Winner: MAINE wins again!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Novare Res Bier Cafe

Novare Res Bier Cafe
4 Canal Plaza, Portland, ME
This beer bar has been on my to-do list for a little while now. Nate sold me for good on it when he said it had the best selection he had seen. They would definitely be considered a Belgian beer bar with its huge walk-in refrigerator of big bottles. The beer menu is as thick as any I have seen (although they were out of every easy drinking pilsner we asked for...) That said, while we were there they were in between brewer dinners with Rogue and Dogfish Head! That's right, 22 Dogfish Head beers on tap! Fantastic. There is nothing like being able to have some of my favorite beers like the 60 Minute and Palo Santo Marron on tap. (Below are the notes on a few of the other beers I had.) The bar itself is pretty great with a dark and comfortable vibe with lots of cool beer memorabilia on the walls. There is even a patio too (which was jammed when we were there.) Servers were fine, if busy, and quality seemed beyond reproach with proper glassware and such. Food is unique with a very limited menu, mostly made up of cheese and meat platters. Next time I look forward to trying some with some of those Belgian beers. Best beer bar I have found in some time.
Atmosphere: 5/5, Selection: 9/10, Quality: 9/10, Service: 4/5, Overall: 17/20, Total: 44/50
Total rating: A

Dogfish Head ApriHop
8 oz glass -- Novare Res
sweet apricot taste checks hop bitterness. very unique having something other than malts balance a beer. extremely easy to drink and my glass was empty in a few swills. the girls also loved this beer.
Score: 9, Original Score: 7

Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu
8 oz glass -- Novare Res, Portland, ME
this was new to me. but another Dogfish Head beer with an interesting story: "Inspired by a beverage found in clay posts in China around 9000 years ago. In keeping with historic evidence, Dogfish brewers used pre-gelatinized rice flakes, Wildflower honey, Muscat grapes, barley malt, hawthorn fruit, and Chrysanthemum flowers." white grapes and sweet honey i got. alcohol comes through too, reminding me of dogfish's 90 minute in a way. interesting but not my favorite.
Score: 6

Dogfish Head Punkin '09
8 oz -- Novare Res
not sure if it was the '09 version or the fact it was on tap but this was better than i remembered it. kelly loved it too. solid malt profile, well-placed pumpkin and brown sugar... typical over-the-top nutmeg spice is not present -- which is not the worst thing. i am looking to brew a pumpkin beer this fall and this may not be a bad one to patent.
Score: 9, Original Score: 7

Monday, August 3, 2009

Largest American Brewers

This is kind of old news, but the full truth of it all just hit me the other day. So when InBev of Belgium bought Budweiser, something interesting happened. Sam Adams became the largest American-owned brewer in America. Yes, Sam Adams! Now, Jim Koch and I have had our share of disagreements, but in the beginning, Jim was one of the little guys taking on the big guys. And even today, Sam is still a craft brewer. And by association, that means a craft brewer is now the #1 American brewer! It seems like a victory for all craft brewers. (Go ahead and disagree in the comment section, Mr. Cedrone.)

So after Bud you have Miller and Coors, which are operated by South African Brewers from the UK and South Africa, and Molson out of Canada, respectively. Pabst -- while an awesome macro -- does not actually own a brewery and only contracts. And it gets even better after Sam. You have Yuengling, Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium! Truly, a new day has dawned. Let's put off that messy distinction between craft breweries and macro-craftbreweries for another day, shall we? The whole list can be found here.

Top 10
1. Anheuser-Busch InBev, Belgium
2. MillerCoors Brewing Co., Britain/South Africa/Canada
3. Pabst Brewing Co., Contract MillerCoors
4. Boston Beer Co. (Sam Adams), MA
5. D. G. Yuengling and Son Inc., PA
6. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., CA
7. Craft Brewers Alliance, Inc. (Redhook), OR
8. New Belgium Brewing Co., CO
9. High Falls Brewing Co. (Dundee, Genesee, etc.), NY
10. Spoetzl Brewery (Shiner), TX

Sunday, August 2, 2009

MoonShot Beer

New Century MoonShot Beer
Bottle -- Superstar Discount Beverage, Huntington, NY
i have been looking to try this beer ever since i saw beer wars live. allow me to refresh your memory about moonshot from an earlier post:

A focus of the movie was on the personal stories of two
craft brewers heading in different directions, one
succeeding wildly and the other struggling. Sam Caglione
of Dogfish head played the first role spectacularly. But for
some unknown reason (the need for a woman heroine?)
the second was played by Rhonda Kallman, formerly of
Sam Adams and now selling a gimmicky caffienated beer
called MoonShot. Now for the audience of Beer Advocates
who filled these movie theaters, this was a total joke.
Rhonda was not a brewer, but a marketer, and a
marketer of a horrible product at that. Anat would
like us to feel sympathetic for Rhonda who was
failing miserably, totally missing the point that
Rhonda treats beer like a commodity just like the
macrobrewers that this movie was railing against!
I think this poorly conceived subplot ruined the
movie for many serious beer people.

well, that was harsh. hopefully it was at least fair. okay, well, here we go. smells a lot like a malt liquor, with a certain industrial smell... leather perhaps? must be the caffeine. poor carbonation is immediately visible and mouthfeel is almost flat too, like apple juice or something. flavor starts very blah and then the aftertaste kicks in, quite delayed. dan describes it like vomit rising in your neck. sadly, this is accurate. possibly the worst beer i have ever tasted (and i drank a lot of crappy beers in africa...) i can't imagine a scenario in which rhonda will succeed with this beer but only because craft beer is still about substance over style.
Score: 1

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Lower Depths

The Lower Depths
476 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA
Lower Depths is a part of the solid cluster of bars in close proximity to Fenway. Those immediately around the park get a little too crazy for my liking, but being around the corner in Kenmore Square makes a world of difference. Even on a Friday night it was pretty quiet with a crowd that seemed to fancy themselves as regulars. Crowd was definitely hipster -- a vibe I don't pick up on in Boston nearly as much as I used to in Portland, Oregon. Not a huge place with a fashionable dining room adjacent to the bar and a small patio looking up to the street. Motif seemed a little conflicted to me with a cool, timeless mural of a bunch of bar patrons and the industrial chic of the stainless steel bar. I still liked it though. Selection was very good but kind of confusing (they appeared to have four different color-coded menu's.) Not too many taps, but I did see Pretty Things American Darling and Harpoon's Bohemian Pilsner. Bottle list was good although it seemed like I had tried just about all of them. Staff was a little too cool for school but were definitely responsive. I was probably most impressed with the quality since they had tons of glassware in each style, the serving temperatures seemed right, and everything appeared to actually be in stock. I may have to make this my regular stop when going to Fenway.
Atmosphere: 3/5, Selection: 8/10, Quality: 10/10, Service: 4/5, Overall: 12/20, Total: 37/50
Total rating: B+

Lagunitas Dogtown Pale Ale
Bottle -- The Lower Depths
i was debating between lagunitas' maximus and this one... ultimately going for the more sessionable of the two. and while it went down easy it seemed kinda lackadaisical to me. subdued aroma while flavor is a balance between grainy pale malt and surprisingly spicy hops. next time i would have gone for the maximus. or better yet, the pretty things i saw on my way out the door. so it goes.
Score: 6