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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Yards ESA (Citizen Review)

Yards ESA:
"Not a fan of ESA in general but this is a good one very drinkable. Where are your freebies??"

Representation: 1.0
Accessibility: 1.0
Style Points: .50
Personal Preference: .50

Total Score: 3.0 Flags

--Reviewed by Citizen Cheryl Selah

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beers of Scotland Round-Up

Here is our latest video, a brief overview of some of the Scottish beers we've been reviewing in honor of Robert Burns Week.

Williams Bros. Fraoch Heather Ale

Williams Brothers Fraoch Heather Ale
Williams Bros. Fraoch Heather Ale:

This unique gem of an ale is light-bodied but big on flavor. This can sometimes lead to an unbalanced brew that yields unsatisfying results. Fraoch Heather Ale, however, is quite well-balanced and equally impressive in style and accessibility. Fraoch pours neatly into a glass and looks lively as bubbles rise from the bottom. The color remindes me of applie juice and the light, refreshinig flavor and aroma of heather put a really friendly, harmless face on the true purpose of this floral beverage: DRINKING. This could be a serious session ale.

In traditions dating to 2000 B.C. Heather ales have been brewed in Scotland time and again throughout history. Infused with fresh heather flowers just after boiling, Fraoch claims to have a dry, wine-like finish. And it does. Not overly dry and quite a bit lighter than wine in the alcohol department (a comforting 5% abv), Fraoch is mild enough to complement a rich and hearty meal of wild game or seasoned meats. I picture Fraoch as a long-table banquet session beer. After a long day of defending against marauders (or perhaps engaging in a little marauding yourself -- wink, wink, nudge, nudge), nothing says "Freshen Up" like a plate full of haggis and a half gallon of HeatherAle. Actually, maybe a rich shepherd's pie or a pungent lamb stew could benefit from Fraoch's floral touch to lighten the fare and cleanse the palate.

An ale from another era, Fraoch doesn't appear to contain hops. I looooooove hops but I don't feel like this brew is lacking anything at all. Very easy to drink (and a nice alternative to a weakly-hopped ale or a heavily malted bock) when you're not in a particularly hoppy mood. Could be dangerous on tap.

Fraoch Heather Ale:

Representation: .95
Accessibility: .95
Style: .95
Personal Preference: .95

Total Score: 3.8 Flags

Ayinger "Celebrator" Doppelbock (Presidential Brief)

Ferment Nation Beer Blog Presidential BriefWhat: Ayinger "Celebrator" Doppelbock
Where: The Blue Monkey Tavern (Merchantville, NJ)
When: January 13, 2010
What-have-you: "Blue monkey. Ayinger 'Celebrator' Doppelbock on tap! Malty silk with hop embroidery. Tapestry of glorious german brew- gineering."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

BrewDog Hardcore IPA

BrewDog Hardcore IPABrewDog Hardcore IPA (9% abv):

Hop-Heads, feel free to howl with delight when you get a whiff of this "explicit imperial ale". Very floral aroma with grapefruit notes -- and those grapefruity flavors stay with you all the way through the finish. If you're a fan of Victory Hop Wallop or Green Flash West Coast IPA, then pin your ears back and crack open this Hardcore India Pale Ale.

While the hops are clearly the featured flavor of Hardcore, the malt is an intriguing character in this drama as well. As BrewDog puts it:
"2204 malted Maris Otter grains gave
all they had to offer the world to provide
the robustly delicate toffee malt canvas for the ensuing epic."

The maltier IPAs sometimes play hide-and-seek with the hops, appearing and disappearing at various stages of the draught, but Hardcore weaves a steadier (if milder) thread of malty richness throughout your sipping experience.

BrewDog Hardcore IPA has a light to medium body and isn't very carbonated. The flavors remain crisp, however, since the hops are so jammin'. This beer would be an ideal candidate for enjoying a few pints on tap and then bringing some home in a growler. Even if the top doesn't POP loud enough to scare your pets snoozing in the other room, the sharp bite of hops and generous but not outrageous alcohol content should probably keep Hardcore fresh as a daisy. P.S. The 9% abv isn't so noticeable; the alcohol is pretty well masked. But accessibility suffers a bit because of the intensity of the hops. Which is precisely why I've enjoyed it so much. Shout out to Jordan at the Pour House, by the way, for the recommendation.

As the Ferment Nation celebrates Robert Burns week, El Presidente urges all of the FN citizens to expand your musical horizons and check out some pipe and drum music. Actually, one of the Presidential faves is a Scottish folk group called Silly Wizard. They have great musical chemistry and a fantastic sense of humor. Check 'em out!

Oh yeah, the beer.

BrewDog Hardcore IPA (9% abv):

Representation: .97
Accessibility: .875
Style: .97
Personal Preference: .95

Total Score: 3.765 Flags

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (Presidential Brief)

Ferment Nation Beer Blog Presidential BriefWhat: Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
Where: The Blue Monkey Tavern (Merchantville, NJ)
When: January 13, 2010
What-have-you: "A the Blue Monkey - Founders 'Kentucky Breakfast Stout.' Rare as hell. Delicate yet hearty, complicated yet simply satisfying. Worth ordering anytime you can get it."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Happy Robert Burns Day!

Happy Robert Burns Day!

If you need a day to celebrate all things Scottish, why not Burns Day? Born on January 25, 1759, Robert Burns is Scotland's most famous and beloved poet. If you've ever tried to drunkenly sing the song Auld Lang Syne on New Year's Eve, you owe one to Auld Robbie.

Since we don't review haggis or kilt patterns here at The Ferment Nation, enjoy some Scottish beer reviews.

Orkney Brewery Skullsplitter Orkney Ale:

This comes right off the bottle:
"Orkney -- a small group of islands off the northern tip of Scotland, shrouded in magic and mystery, was the home of Thorfinn Hausakluif (Skullsplitter) 7th Viking Earl of Orkney, around 1000 AD. Now, the Orkney Brewery invites you to step back in time."

I really couldn't have said it better myself. This ale is fit for barbarian and nobleman alike. Drink it out of a chalice or straight out of the bottle. Hell, I'll bet it tastes great right out of the cask. Just grab an axe and crack that baby open!

[Read the full review]

Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA (6.1% abv):

Scottish brews can range from mild to bold; Twisted Thistle falls right about dead center. The Belhaven Twisted Thistle India Pale Alelabel self-describes Twisted Thistle as "A refreshing example of an India Pale Ale from the master brewers at Belhaven." That much is certainly true. The light aroma is pleasantly floral and puts you in a good place as you center yourself to drain a pint or two. Or however many may come.

[Read the full review]

Friday, January 22, 2010

Williams Bros. Alba Scots Pine Ale

Williams Brothers Alba Scots Pine AleWilliams Bros. Alba Scots Pine Ale:

The brewers of this delightful ale suggest that the Alba Scots Pine Ale be served in a wine goblet...check... at room temperature. Crap. Alright, so it's been refrigerated but it's not ice cold, so I'll enjoy some sips ASAP and take my time to let it warm up a bit.

One word that leaps to my lips in discussing this ale is "mellow". A beautiful light malty aroma greets the senses and evergreen essence is floating on the breeze, but does not dominate the bouquet. Am I imagining the flavors of holey and toasted marshmallows? Probably. But I notice one glaring absence: hops.

In the times before standardization of the brewing process, hops were not necessarily used in every ale, especially if the brew did not have to be transported to faraway lands but was rather consumed by the local community instead. To be honest, I'd have thought that a Viking-born Northern Scotland Triple Ale would carry a bit more rugged heartiness than Alba provides in a flavor profile (like the rugged Skullsplitter Orkney Ale). Instead, the spruce and pine sprigs add a type of floral freshness to the malted barley bree base. This mellow ale has taken me by surprise. And now that my particular glass of Alba has warmed up a notch, the evergreen tastes seem to linger a bit more in the aftertaste.

The flavor of Alba Scots Pine Ale is unique (good style points), but not so bold as to be inaccessible. This is a very intriguing Historic Ale of Scotland. Enjoy one after dinner with friends as ye're aboot to venture outta doors for the journey home. Or perhaps as a breakfast ale as the mist rolls across ye're campsite on a wilderness adventure.

The Williams Bros. philosophy to "utilise indigenous ingredients to produce authentic ales" has set a breeze flowing up under my kilt and stirred up some of my Scottish heritage. Alba Scots Pine Ale is a pleasant choice to raise up a toast in honor of Robert Burns, the eternal poet laureate of Scotland. Fitting that the Ferment Nation should kick off the New Year with these Scottish ales as strains of the slightly modernized version of Burns's "Auld Lang Syne" can still be heard floating through taverns across the world. Slainte.

Williams Bros. Alba Scots Pine Ale:

Representation: .95
Accessibility: .90
Style: .975
Personal Preference: .90

Total Score: 3.75 Flags

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wolaver Alta Gracia Coffee Porter (Presidential Brief)

Ferment Nation Beer Blog Presidential BriefWhat: Wolaver Alta Gracia Coffee Porter
Where: PJ's Pour House (Westmont, NJ)
When: January 17, 2010
What-have-you: "Wolaver's Alta Gracia Coffee Porter. Iced coffee with a buzz. Looks like coffee, smells like coffee ... Hmmm. Pour house. Java-licious!"

Read our other Coffee Beer Reviews

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer

Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer:

Boy, that's beer alright. The aroma is spiced with oak and a bit of vanilla. The oak is perpetrating an olfactory illusion on me, making me think I'm smelling whiskey, but it's not really the case. Many oak aged beers just crash down upon you like a ... well, like a barrel full of whiskey. So many of these brews (which I happen to enjoy, btw) are aged in barrels that had previously contained whiskey. I get the feeling, however, that Innis & Gunn's Edinburgh Ale is aged in the oak barrels that may someday contain whiskey, and has imported the oaky, earthy flavors to this sharp brew.

Many brewers do the barrel-aging thing, but one has to think of Weyerbacher when discussing big beers gone huge by aging in whiskey barrels. I would typically rate accessibility of these beers low and style and very high, but Innis & Gunn is so smooth that the playing field is leveled quite a bit. It's a fine example of an oak aged brew without the burning sensation of "I've just taken a shot of whiskey" at the end.

The flavor and effervescence remind me of some other Celtic lagers like Harp and Tennent's. The flavors are a bit warmer and softer when poured into a glass but this beer-drinker's beer is fine right out of the bottle (and a handsome bottle at that!). It has a medium body with tons of soul (oak can bring out the soul in a whiskey or tequila in a wonderful way) but Innis & Gunn is much more accessible than its more potent relatives, the whiskey-barrel aged brews.

Beginners, try a sip before picking up a whole one. Beer snobs, go for it! Whiskey drinkers, give it a shot. Just remember that 6.6% abv doesn't bust you up too badly unless you lose track of how many you've had. Ooh, here's a thought: use this beer to chase a shot of Patron. Yum.

Note of interest: I reviewed this beer about a year ago, but misplaced my notes. I found them, though, and parts of that original review made their way into this final work. Just for fun, I reviewed the beer again without looking at my original scores and came up with a new set of numbers. So both scores are listed here and the final score will be the average of the two.

Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer:

Original scores: Representation: .95 Accessibility: .90 Style: .90 Preference: .95 Total: 3.7

New scores: Representation: .95 Accessibility: .925 Style: .97 Preference: .97 Total: 3.815

Final Score:
(3.7+3.815) /2 = 3.7575 Flags

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA

Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPABelhaven Twisted Thistle IPA (6.1% abv):

Scottish brews can range from mild to bold; Twisted Thistle falls right about dead center. The label self-describes Twisted Thistle as "A refreshing example of an India Pale Ale from the master brewers at Belhaven." That much is certainly true. The light aroma is pleasantly floral and puts you in a good place as you center yourself to drain a pint or two. Or however many may come.
Belhaven Twisted Thistle India Pale Ale
The flavor is mellow and balanced with some citrusy notes, but not quite the sharp grapefruity twang of some of the more pungent IPAs I've tried. Well, maybe a ruby red grapefruit-orange cocktail twang, but not very bitter. Perhaps that's due to the Challenger/Cascade hop blend. A fairly dry, slightly bitter aftertaste lingers at the finish, but overall Twisted Thistle is quite drinkable and extremely smooth. There's a slight haze going on when you hold this brew up to the light, and boy does it look creamy. Not disappointed.

Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA is a little on the light side (alcohol-wise) for an IPA, weighing in at 6.1 % abv. Reminder: Very drinkable. Americans tend to like their IPAs a little on the extreme side with regards to bitterness and flavor. Twisted Thistle is clearly a British Isles IPA: a little larger body with smoothness reigning supreme, and mellow on the hoppy front. Twisted Thistle reminds me a bit of Samuel Smith's India Ale in that respect. Being extreme is not the goal of every beer these days.

Don't hesitate to celebrate your Scottish heritage (or the Scottish heritage of someone you know) with some Belhaven Twisted Thistle. Just be sure to bring enough for everyone, because it could develop into quite a session.

Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA (6.1% abv):

Representation: .95
Accessibility: .99
Style: .85
Personal Preference: .97

Total Score: 3.76 Flags

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stout Beers: A Brief Introduction (Ferment Nation TV)

From the office of the Vice President:

We are going to be adding more videos to Ferment Nation in the coming months, some of them for the novice drinker, some for the experts, but we would like to hear from you! What kind of videos would you like to see more of? Let us know!

In the meantime, enjoy our Brief Introduction to Stout Beers.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Long Trail Coffee Stout (Citizen Review)

Ferment Nation Citizen Review
Long Trail Coffee Stout:

"Love stout. Love coffee.

Great beer.

Would have liked to have seen

more freebies to pass the

word along."*

*referring to promotional material at Pour-A-Palooza 2009

Representation: 1.0
Accessibility: 1.0
Style Points: 1.0
Personal Preference: 1.0

Total Score: 4.0 Flags

--Reviewed by Citizen Cheryl Selah

Long Trail Coffee Stout
Read a review of Flying Fish's Imperial Espresso Porter
Read a review of Atwater Block's Vanilla Java Porter

Saturday, January 16, 2010

BrewDog Rip Tide - Twisted Merciless Stout

BrewDog Rip Tide Twisted Merciless Stout
BrewDog Rip Tide - Twisted Merciless Stout:

This is another import from Scotland (I recently reviewed Williams Brothers' Gooseberry Wheat as well as their Elderberry Black Ale) and another stout that I have reviewed. Pouring this beer (I split it with El Presidente), I could not help but notice that it lacked a head of any real significance. Was the beer flat? Did it not take the trip from the Scotland well? Jet lag? Not sure. Taking my initial sips, I noticed too, how smooth the beer was. This was a bit unexpected as the label indicated that the beer is 8% abv. So what about the taste? Well, when it comes to beer, especially styles of beers I enjoy, like stouts, I like to consider the whole experience.

I was explaining to a friend recently how there was something special about Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout and the Taddy Porter, because you could put your tongue into the volcano like overflowing head and experience a convulsion of the tongue, lips, mouth, and saliva glands, because the head is so bitter, but at the same time, it is delicious, and the first stage of enjoying a great beer. I had a similar experience with De Dolle's Special Extra Export Stout. It had the same volcanic eruption of head, ultra bitter to the tongue, but then the beer itself is excellent.

With Twisted Merciless Stout I am enjoying the beer itself. It tastes of chocolate (getting some coaching from El Presidente on this point), it is quite smooth, and you can feel the warming effects of the 8% alcohol, but you receive no alcoholic aftertaste, which is quite nice. What I think this beer lacks is an overall experience. I have been enjoying the beer for some minutes now, and no bouquet has opened up, no new flavors to report on. It receives high marks for overall taste and product craftsmanship, but it is not what I would call memorable in any special way. At 8%, if you sit down and keep drinking this, you could wind up drunk-dialing Scotland, which is not advisable. But to be honest, I would rather it be a beer that after one beer, you text a friend and tell them to go out right away and buy a bottle. This beer is good, but not great.

BrewDog Rip Tide Twisted Merciless Stout:

Representation: .70
Accessibility: .85
Style: .70
Personal Preference: .80

Total: 3.05 Flags
BrewDog Rip Tide

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bullfrog Brewery's Billtown Blonde (Presidential Brief)

Ferment Nation Beer Blog Presidential BriefWhat: Bullfrog Brewery Billtown Blonde 5.5 %abv
Where: Bullfrog Brewery (Williamsport, PA)
November 7, 2009
What-have-you: "American-made blonde ale with definite pilsner quality. Light color and body with crisp flavor. Party Beer. Drink up."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Great Divide Hibernation Ale

Great Divide Hibernation AleGreat Divide Hibernation Ale:

This "English-Style Old Ale" is another interesting take on the "winter warmer." The flavor is rich and woody and malty. The aroma contains a hint of caramel sweetness but the taste isn't really sweet at all. Rather, there's a very roasted, almost well-done smoky flavor. Not over the top like a rauch porter would be, but a chestnuts-roasting-over-an-open-fire earthy heartiness. The malt works in a pretty nice harmony with the dry, hoppy bitterness that takes over at the end.
Great Divide Hibernation Ale
While the body is medium to large, and Hibernation is fairly rich in flavor, it could easily work its way into a "session" of imbibing that simply carries over from a hearty meal. The folks at Great Divide recommend some food pairings: Aged Dutch cow's milk cheese, roasted chicken, and grilled veggies. I'll go a step further and recommend a chicken pot pie. I think that the rich yet not spicy malt and hops blend would go well with a flaky pie crust and some down-home gravy filling. Actually, if you skip dinner, Hibernation could substitute for a meal with little trouble. Then I suppose you'd get the munchies and hit up the pot pie anyway. Ah, who cares? It's all goin' to the same place. Just remember to keep track. 8.1% abv is enough to put you into a sluggish "sleep the winter away" state if you're not careful.

So maybe hunkering down in a cave or a snowy lodge is just right for a Hibernation ale such as this one. Great Divide seems to produce rich and flavorful brews that always satisfy. I've also had the Titan IPA, Hercules Double IPA, and Yeti Imperial Stout, and they're all very solid offerings.

Like other winter brews: Classic "winter warmer".
Unlike other winter brews: Well, it's like the warmers but not like the Christmas stuff. No spices.

Great Divide Hibernation Ale:

Representation: .98
Accessibility: .90
Style: .94
Personal Preference: .96

Total Score: 3.78 Flags

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kasteel Rouge (Presidential Brief)

Ferment Nation Beer Blog Presidential BriefWhat: Kasteel Rouge 8% abv
Where: PJ's Pour House (Westmont, NJ)
November 7, 2009
What-have-you: "Oh please forgive me, terribly sorry... You wanted CHERRY pie!" --El Presidente

Special Commentary from the Vice President: "If El Presidente's words seem quizzical, let me try to explain. Have you ever seen the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs asks a bulldog with a sweater for a nickel to purchase a pie only to slam it into his face? No. Well, check it out. Anyway, I suspect, El Presidente is trying to evoke said cartoon, thus expressing the in-your-face flavor."

From Kasteelbier's website: "Castle Red is the fruit beer of the Castle range. Its unique dark red colour is obtained by mixing Castle brown that has been left to mature for at least 6 months with sour cherries. This beer has gastronomic qualities and can be drunk as an aperitif, with a BBQ, to accompany a dessert or simply as an outstanding real ale" (http://www.vanhonsebrouck.be/)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

River Horse Belgian Freeze Winter Ale

River Horse Belgian FreezeRiver Horse Belgian Freeze Winter Ale:

Brewed "for enjoyment between the December solstice and the March Equinox", Belgian Freeze possesses a smooth malty body with just a touch of warmth. Perhaps it could use just a little more... ever so little...

The balancing act of this Belgian-style winter ale is pretty impressive. It's kind of like a Belgian white ale, only brown. Caramel malts (and possibly candi sugar) add body and a fair amount of flavor. Belgian Freeze is a tasty treat -- sweet but not overly so, and lots of body. Yeasty but tame.

What's missing? Just a hint more malt and booze would be nice to complete this well-rounded brew. Also, just a few extra spicy notes and maybe some bitterness (cocoa, maybe?) would help. Other than that, this winter ale is really holding a spot in my snow-day lineup. I'm not sure I can recall a beer that straddles the line between Belgian white and German bock like this one. Pretty snazzy, and another groovy River Horse offering.

Like other winter beers: Malty, made for warming up by a fire.

Unlike other winter beers: Belgian-style and a bit sweet with a heavy, yeasty base.

Check out other "winter warmer" brews already reviewed like: Gritty's Christmas, Rogue Santa's Private Reserve, Sierra Nevada Celebration.

Keep your eyes open for other "winter warmers" like: Sam Smith's Winter Welcome, Flying Dog K-9 Cruiser, and Great Divide Hibernation.

River Horse Belgian Freeze Winter Ale:

Representation: .925
Accessibility: .95
Style: .97
Personal Preference: .97

Total Score: 3.815 Flags

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Williams Brothers Brewing Co. "Ebulum" Elderberry Black Ale

Williams Brothers Ebulum Elderberry Black AleWilliams Brothers Brewing Company Elderberry Black Ale:

This is the second of the Scottish Williams Brothers Brewing Company historic beers I have had, and I have to say, they may have found a convert in me. Not that I have to be converted to drinking good beer. They are preaching to the choir if you catch my meaning. I start the tasting with my normal sensory exploration of opening, smelling, and pouring of the beer. You can smell the berry smell by sticking your nose into to the bottle top like i did, and it could have been a trick of the light, but mixed in with the dark brown coloring I swear I could see some purplish colors as well as I poured it into a glass. As opposed to the larger, polygonal effervescing bubbles of the Williams Bros'Gooseberry & Wheat Ale , this beer, like other dark ales, has finer, smaller, rounder bubbles, that are perfectly content to lazily drift on the top of the beer, waiting to either cling to the side of the glass or to plunge down my throat. Yum.

I love the fact that if you stick your nose up into the beer in a glass, you really can't smell anything. This makes me think of Guinness. You might recall El Presidente's St. Patrick's Day Irish Stout Round-Up from way-back-when, and I remember that Beamish and Murphy's had a distinctive smell, almost a funk. Not good.
<-- This is interesting. I typed this description faithfully to my experience, and yet, about a quarter of the way into the beer, perhaps due to the introduction of my taste buds and maybe warming up a degree or two, the toasty, roasted scents of the beer are really opening up.
I had a similar effect with the Gooseberry Ale in that the berry flavor was more discernable as I progressed through the beer tasting. This beer definitely has a toastiness to it, which goes with the bottle's description citing the "fruit aroma, soft texture, roasted grain and red wine flavour, with a gentle finish." Very nice.

Four Williams Brothers Historic Scottish Beers

This black ale really reminds me of a porter or stout, because it has a roasted/toasted flavor to it as well as its overly-dark coloring. At 6.5% abv, it has a little more kick to it, and that works nicely, too. On a cold winter night (like tonight), the fact that the beer holds up after warming up a bit and has a nice roasted feeling and flavor makes it ideal to sitting down in front of fire or cuddling up with a nice Scottish lassie.

I don't have too many other "black ales" to compare it to in order to place it in context with similar beers. Maybe I will have to look for similar beers to compare it to in the future. Accessibility may suffer a bit, because it has a toasted flavor and is dark (it's not chugging beer). Overall, very nice, recommendable for anyone who likes roasted toasted flavor beers.

Williams Brothers Brewing Company Elderberry Black Ale:

Representation: .80
Accessibility: .75
Style: .85
Personal Preference: .90

Total: 3.3 Flags

--From the office of the Vice President

[Check out the Williams Brothers website]

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bullfrog Brewery's Broken Lawnmower Saison (Presidential Brief)

Ferment Nation Beer Blog Presidential BriefWhat: Bullfrog Brewery Broken Lawnmower Saison 6.2% abv
Where: Bullfrog Brewery (Williamsport, PA)
November 7, 2009
What-have-you: "A saison with brettanomyces bruxellensis, it is a paler version of St. Somewhere's version of the funky, peppery saison. Nice version of a saison--definitely a summer thirst-quencher."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Williams Brothers Brewing Co. "Grozet" Gooseberry & Wheat Ale

Willliams Brothers Grozet Gooseberry and Wheat AleWilliams Bros. Brewing Co. "Grozet" Gooseberry & Wheat Ale:

Did you know that the word "grozet" is Auld Scots for Gooseberry? Yeah, me neither. As a lovely Christmas gift from cousin, I received a four-pack of beers from the Williams Brothers Brewing Company of Scotland. Being of Scottish descent, and having watched Braveheart at least ten times, I thought this was wonderful. However, knowing that Scotland is also the land of haggis and Scotch whiskey (I'm not a fan), I had some doubts.

Cracking open the Grozet Gooseberry & Wheat Ale, I was struck by its effervescence and head in the glass. I used a small pilsner glass instead of a wheat glass proper, and luckily El Presidente was not around to witness the faux pas. My nose in the glass, you can smell the wheat, tasting it, you are not overwhelmed. There is a bit of lingering wheaty aftertaste also where you can find some of the berry flavor. The berry flavors come out more as the beer settles down and warms up a degree or two.

To be honest, though, I am at a disadvantage, because I have never consumed a gooseberry, so I don't know what to look for (or taste for). But I liken it to another berry wheat beer I reviewed (Long Trail's Black Beary Wheat). Its subtly is its strength. Some wheat beers feel overly wheaty and fill up your nose and mouth and stomach. Some berry beers go overboard on the berry to make it distinctive. This is different and nice, and the fact that Scottish brewers have been using the gooseberry in fermented drinks for centuries, this beer strikes me as sophisticated and not gimmicky at all. Of course, maybe I'm just buying into hype. But I like it. I found it interesting, too, the ingredients listed on the bottle: Malted Barley Bree, Wheat, Gooseberries, Bogmyrtle, and Hops. Whatever the combination I like it. Very accessible, good introductory beer, not overly berry-ish, and at 5% abv, able to drink all night long as you recite Robert Burns poems and paint your face blue. Wallace!!!!!

Williams Bros. Brewing Co. "Grozet" Gooseberry & Wheat Ale:

Representation: .8
Accessibility: .95
Style: .75
Personal Preference: .85

Total: 3.35 Flags

Monday, January 4, 2010

Selin's Grove Brewing Co. Hop Nouveau Pale Ale (Presidential Brief)

Ferment Nation Beer Blog Presidential BriefWhat: Selin's Grove Brewing Co. Hop Nouveau Pale Ale 6.0% abv
Where: Selin's Grove Brewing Co. (Selinsgrove, PA)
November 7, 2009
What-have-you: "Interesting, complex, and extremely different. Milder than an IPA. This would be an interesting beer for a beginner drinker and will turn even the most discerning beer lover's head."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Corsendonk Christmas Ale

Corsendonk Christmas Ale:

This Belgian dark ale comes in a great gift pack (six beers and a glass) for the holiday season. It is very even-tempered as a dark ale and quite tasty. The aroma is just wonderful and complex with hints of dried fruits and some exotic spicing.

The flavor is bold up front, and tangy with just a slight metallic zing to it. It seems that the flavors are then swallowed up by a yeasty base that provides what I think of as "false body". Actually maybe one could think of it as an exaggerated mouthfeel? I'm thinking that Unibroue emulates this style of Belgian brew which I find to be hit or miss in terms of really catching my attention.

Corsendonk Christmas Ale is very good but it isn't my favorite. I think that some of the flavors get lost in the yeasty base, though it is rich and flavorful and well-crafted. This beer is perfect for kicking off a holiday office party and maybe to accompany some imported crackers and a nutty cheese log.

Overall Corsendonk Christmas Ale is stuck in the middle: a little too rich for session drinking (see Gritty's, Rogue, Anchor) but not deep, down-to-the-bone complex enough to grab that "must-try" status, either (see Jolly Pumpkin, Nogne, Mikkeller). I give it high style points but not a ton of preference points. Trying for yourself is the only way to know, though. So pour it into a snazzy Corsendonk Christmas glass (and take it easy by the way ... its 8.5% abv) and get ready to send El Presidente a letter or an email or a text message. Your voice counts, so do your civic duty and review some beers. Send pictures, too.

Like other holiday brews: Tart and fruity with a dessert-like quality. Unlike other holiday brews: Holiday brews seem to be either bold or mellow, and this one isn't really either of those.

Christmas Ale:

Representation: .95
Accessibility: .925
Style: 1.0
Personal Preference: .89

Total Score: 3.765 Flags

Corsendonk Christmas Ale Glowing
Corsendonk Christmas Ale in glass

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout (Presidential Brief)

Ferment Nation Beer Blog Presidential BriefWhat: Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout 9% abv
Where: PJ's Pour House (Westmont, NJ)
January 1, 2010
What-have-you: "Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout weighs in at 9%. Rich and toasty. Warming but not too boozy. Reminds me of the Finnish porter Sinebrychoff, but w a lil more body. Sublime and drinkable. I'm on the Nøgne bandwagon!"

Nogne O Imperital Stout Stats
Click on the image above to see stats at Shelton Brothers.