What: Troegs Hop Back Amber Ale 6.0% abv Where: The Blue Monkey Tavern (Merchantville, NJ) When: April 17, 2010 What-have-you: "Blue monkey. HopBack Firkin is awesome! Leftover from the spring beerfest, Troegs HopBack in a Firkin is smooth and infinitely drinkable."
What: Sun Up Brewing Vanilla Porter 5.0% abv Where: Sun Up Brewing (Phoenix, AZ) When: February 26, 2010 What-have-you: "I saved this beer for last in my tasting. You can immediately smell the vanilla in this beer, which is nice. I like being able to identify the style of beer almost immediately, just by smelling it. Nothing too overbearing here and is nice and smooth. At 5.0%, it could use more oomph, but I will order a full pint of this."
It's actually fine right out of the bottle and reminds me a little bit like Hop Devil from Victory. Pour it into a glass, thought, and the aromas and flavors open up a bit. Malt and hops combine nicely and there is even a teensy bit of vanilla-oaky mellowness to this brew. Tying to put it together with brews you may know, picture FoundersRed's Rye plus VictoryYakima Twilight and a touch of Hop Devil.
Red Ales are hard to pin down. Many are boring, but done right, the palate rejoices. Some other nice Red Ales include Seamus Irish Red from Sly Fox (well-balanced and drinkable) and Oskar Blues' Gordon (off the hizzy and will beat you about the face and head if you're not paying attention). The Great White Buffalo of Red Ales wasHumble Patience from Magic Hatgreat white buffalo... great white buffalo... but has since been discontinued, much to the chagrin of beer drinkers all over the east coast. IthacaCascaZilla falls somewhere in between and has a malty zing that's countered by a hoppy zoing. Flavorful and original as it is, it's not off-putting or frightfully bitter. Stretching the bounds of Red Ale, CascaZilla is one monster of a brew. 7% abv, by the way. Not a monstrous alcohol content, but I wouldn't have too many if you happen to be out drinking in Tokyo. I'm just sayin'...
Red Ale lovers must have this beer. Hop Heads will dig it too. Heavier and maltier than its floral sibling, Flower Power, CascaZilla has a lot to offer beer lovers of every persuasion.
Representation: 1.0 / Accessibility: .97 / Style: .99 / Personal Preference: 1.0 / Total Score: 3.96 Flags
What: Ettaler 'Curator' Doppelbock 9.0% abv Where: The Blue Monkey Tavern (Merchantville, NJ) When: April 17, 2010 What-have-you: "Blue monkey. Ettaler 'Curator' doppelbock. 9%. Smooth and malty! European aging is evident, corky flavor is mellow and earthy. "
It's hard to resist a good maibock. The color alone is sort of magical -- golden like an elixir that warms your soul and allows you to travel through space and time. And the richness of flavor and body are no accident -- maibock was invented to magically transport you across reality more thoroughly with each sip so by the time you get there, your arrival has less and less to do with your own decision-making process. Just give yourself over to the potion and begin your journey. What on earth am I talking about?
Speaking of journeys, the search for the Golden Fleece was no picnic, if I remember my history lessons. Never fear, intrepid Argonauts, Erie brings the Golden Fleece to you. It basically has all the lovely qualities that a maibock should have (see the discussion of rich flavor and body above). Golden Fleece may be the heir apparent to Stoudts Maibock, which is brewed these days but has been retired from 6-pack bottling according to sources. The Erie offering is not as exactly ethereal as the Stoudts version, but it would hold up fairly well in a head-to-head. It may be more accessible than Stoudts, not quite as rich. A pinch less stylish, but that's a fair trade-off when trying to get a novice to try some "fancy" beers.
So far, some Spring seasonals have leaned from Equinox into Solstice and as lighter fare could double as Summer beers. Golden Fleece seemes to be more distinctly a vernal selection. At 8.5% abv, we are reminded that golden sweetness in the sun masks a rich malty, boozy, warming special sump'n for those Spring nights that still get a bit chilly. So grab a hoodie and a chalice and sit by the fire pit. Also, be ready to wake up somewhere else if you have too many. Did I mention that Golden Fleece is 8.5%?
What: Southern Tier Unearthly Imperial IPA 9.8% abv Where: The Blue Monkey Tavern (Merchantville, NJ) When: April 17, 2010 What-have-you: "Southern Tier 'Unearthly' Pale Ale. Yeah, that about sums it up."
I'm diggin' the groovy selection from Ithaca Beer Co. Flower Power is a righteous IPA with great floral hoppiness. Right out of the bottle, a bitterness hangs around for awhile, and the bubbles give the spice a little lift. Poured into a pint glass, though, will open Flower Power up and smooth it over. Just a hint of maltiness can be detected when drunk from the glass, which suits me just fine.
The floral bite is fairly bitter but not overpowering. Nicely balanced with a light body and golden color, Flower Power is not too much. It's pretty just right, in fact. Even the alcohol content is pretty just right at 7.5% abv. It reminds me a bit of Green FlashWest Coast IPA, except Flower Power is not quite as grapefruity. with a nice bold-mellow mixture, this is definitely an outside brew as much (if not more than) an inside brew. Tailgate, barbecue, or wait -- camping trip! As the weather gets warmer (finally, in April 2010) the FermentNation will be trying beers that are released in accordance with the seasons. And since I usually hang out in places that serve good beer and select breweries I already trust, look for lots of good recommendations of stuff to drink outside.
So picture this: You're drinking IthacaFlower Power with a belly full of bbq and beef jerky. You're hanging out, getting tired. You may be a little sunburned. But the cooler is still full of ice cold Flower Power. You're sitting around the fire, staring at the stars, at peace with the world and, like, in total wonder at your surroundings, man. What are you drinking?
What: Sun Up Brewing Trooper IPA 6.2% abv Where: Sun Up Brewing (Phoenix, AZ) When: February 26, 2010 What-have-you: "When I get an IPA, I like to know it's an IPA even before it hits my mouth. This IPA does not have much in the way of the aroma or taste of hops. Underwhelming. The good thing is that at 6.2% abv, I couldn't really taste the boost in alcohol either, so it was smooth, but to be honest, I would rather have a nice bite to my IPA, smoothness be damned."
Admittedly I'm not an expert on kolsch. I tend to pass over the lighter style in favor of funkier, spicier seasonals around this time of year. I seem to remember kolsch being a little bit pungent and very dry, almost like Pilsner's weird, emo, indie-rock younger sibling. Otter Creek Brewing Company from Middlebury, VT gives a little face-lift to the German-style brew.
Otter CreekSpring Ale pours a really nice bright golden color. The body is mostly light but gains a little heft from the malted wheat. Light and refreshing in flavor, this kolsch sits somewhere between a saison and a light pilsner. This would be another great back deck beer to relax with. In place of a glass of chilled white wine, perhaps? Use it to wash down some fish or poultry appetizers and you won't be disappointed.
Expect some see-saw scoring on this beer for a few reasons: I don't think this is the best Representation of a kolsch -- probably have to be a bit more traditional to ace that category. Accessibility is way good. Style: tough one. Yes, it breaks barriers in the kolsch world but it isn't so mind-altering as to redefine the style. And Preference: Gotta say, I really like it. Sassy yet subtle, I just might go back for more. Oh, and mysterious! Can't find the abv% anywhere.
What: McKenzie Brew House Spiced Pumpkin Ale 5.5% abv Where:McKenzie Brew House (Malvern, PA) When: November 7, 2009 What-have-you: "Good pumpkin aroma and flavor. On the lighter side but I'd have a few of these versus just one."
New Holland has really hit the mark with this jazzy saison ale. This season's winter brews have tended to be rich and warming and on the roasty, toasty, darker side but this smart Spring selection has hit the shelves just in time for the warm weather. Saisons are typically light and refreshing with a wheaty influence and some citrusy notes to quench a hearty thirst on a hot day. Golden Cap is "A farmhouse ale brewed with spelt, an ancestor to wheat." And refreshing it is!
New HollandGolden Cap is a very drinkable Spring beer that can be utilized way into the summer months. As sumer brews appear on the shelves in the next few months, DO NOT pass over the Golden Cap if it's still available. This farmhouse ale has just a hint of spice and a tiny kick to it (weighing in at a saison-friendly 6.25% abv) and would be perfect to sip in the happy hour time slot on a deck bar or a back porch or by a pool for months to come.
Golden Cap has a light to medium body with a touch of Belgiany sweetness up front, followed by an almost pilsner-like hoppiness, but the dry finish just about evaporates off the tongue. This beer is very clean and goes down smooth. It's somehow rich and refreshing at the same time -- which I suppose is the whole point of a saison.
True French saisons tend to be a little yeastier with just a tad bigger body but New Holland manages to capture the European essence while imparting an American signature. It kinda reminds me of something Victory might brew. If you're familiar with the Presidential tastes (which you should be by now, dear citizen), you'll realize that it's a fine compliment.
What: Iron Hill Brewery Nine of Diamonds Scotch Style Ale 8.5% abv Where: Iron Hill Brewery (Maple Shade, NJ) When: April 1, 2010 What-have-you: "'Nine of diamonds' scotch style ale. Malty and delish! Smooth, drinkable, and frankly kinda dangerous if ur not careful."