January 18th, 2015
We had a wonderful brunch this afternoon at Meridian Pint. Afterwards I tried the Maniacal Double IPA from Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria, Virginia.
Maniacal pours a hazy goldenrod color with a thick, creamy off-white head. The nose is big with fruity and herbal hops: grapefruit, mango and some pine. There’s just a hint of bready malt character.
The bitterness is immediately rich, but it’s balanced by a robust malt flavor and a bit of alcohol warming. The hops are not just bitter, but also quite flavorful. Herbal pine, fruity grapefruit and tangerine, and even a bit of floral rose. The body is strong yet sort of rolls off, so the Maniacal stays very drinkable. There’s just a bit of floral hop flavor that lingers, begging for another sip.
Port City Maniacal Double IPA
January 11th, 2015
I’m capping off this year’s Twelve Beers of X-Mas with The Hairy Eyeball Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, California. This is their celebration of the planet Earth’s perihelion, which occurred about a week ago.
The Hairy Eyeball pours a relatively clear ruddy amber color. A creamy off-white head leaves a solid lacing on the glass. The nose is light, with a sweet toast and caramel malt character. A bit of alcohol spice and a little earthy hop aroma add some complexity. As it warms more dark fruit comes out on the nose.
The flavor is rich in malt character, covering the spectrum from biscuits and bread to toast, caramel and toffee, with even a hint of roast malt bite. The alcohol is evident, providing a strong warming without going overboard. The malty sweetness is nicely balanced by a robust bitterness from substantial hopping, which also contributes an herbal and earthy hop flavor. The generous malt also gives The Eyeball a thick and full body which is balanced by a lively carbonation, keeping it quite drinkable.
With its strong alcohol and rich malt, this may indeed be a good beer to use to recover from a hangover.
Lagunitas The Hairy Eyeball Ale
January 10th, 2015
One of the few all-wild breweries in the United States, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, Michigan ages every drop of beer in oak barrels. The process is labor intensive, and not just because it requires handling barrels that weigh upwards of 100 pounds (when empty!). Extensive blending is needed to get any consistency, a process made all the more difficult with short run offerings like the 2012 Noel de Calabaza I’m tasting tonight.
The Noel pours a deep mahogany brown, darker still due to the heavy haze. The creamy sandy brown head lasts and lasts. The aroma is subtle but complex – a delicate malty and fruity sweetness is composed of caramel, raisins and plums, and an earthy, barnyard brettanomyces funk peeks out from behind, growing as the beer warms.
The flavor is alternately sweet and funky. Toffee and caramel combine with plums and figs, with an herbal hop character holding its own. The earthy, almost sweaty wild yeast character tickles the sides of the tongue while the sweetness soothes the top. A light sour and a bit of a smokiness round out the taste. Just as complex but not quite as subtle as the nose, the flavor fades a bit towards the end, allowing the alcohol to come to the fore. The body remains full but due to the brett it finishes quite dry.
Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza
January 8th, 2015
This evening I’m having Delirium Noël, the Christmas offering from Brouwerij Huyghe, based in Melle, Belgium. The delirium line (originating with Delirium Tremens) features delightful pink elephants as the logo, in this case they’re skiing and driving Santa’s sleigh.
Noël is a relatively clear ruby red, with a thick, creamy and lasting tan head. A delicate caramel malty sweetness leads the nose, followed by a spicy, peppery character. Coriander, cinnamon and white pepper combine with dried fruit to produce an amazingly intriguing complexity.
A rich spiciness dominates the flavor. Strong alcohol warming melds well with the cinnamon and allspice, an almost overbearing spice character that is somewhat balanced by a rich caramel sweetness. After the depth of the aroma this hammering flavor is a little frustrating, but I suppose in a way it’s the Belgian version of an American IPA. The full body, the alcohol bite and the bright carbonation produce a lively body that makes this beer remarkably drinkable for how sharp it is.
This is almost the definition of a winter warmer: the spiciness, the full body, the high alcohol content (ten percent!). I wish there were a bit more depth to the flavor, but otherwise a very satisfying beer to share on a cold night like tonight.
January 7th, 2015
From DC Brau here in Washington, DC, I’m tasting The Stone of Arbroath. This Scotch wee heavy, the winter seasonal from DC Brau, is named after the Drosten Stone, a mysterious Pictish stone with an usual inscription in Roman script.
The Stone pours a deep sienna brown bordering on black. The buff-colored head is creamy and thick, falling quickly but leaving a good lacing. The nose is light but complex, led by a sweet malt character of toast, chocolate and caramel. Dark stone fruit like plums follow, joined by a hint of banana ester. As it warms the sweet dark malt character grows more predominant.
The taste is surely rich and sweet, but somehow remains relatively balanced. Dark malt flavors blend with kettle caramelization to produce a robust toasty, roasty and sweet character. The full, creamy body is balanced by a strong alcohol warming and barely noticeable grassy hop bitterness. The roast character borders on a stout but the full sweetness keeps the burnt flavor at bay.
At first it seems this beer will be cloying, but the sweetness fades away quickly, yielding a balanced flavor. Yet the body never completely dies, ensuring that the spicy alcohol and roast malt character remain balanced to the end.
This is a beer my father, a lover of stouts, would quite like.
DC Brau The Stone of Arbroath
January 4th, 2015
Tonight I’m having the Global Warmer from Sixpoint Brewery in Red Hook, Brooklyn. This imperial red ale is a playful take on the usual winter seasonal. Like many of Sixpoint’s labels this one features tongue-in-cheek copy, here poking fun at the strange seasonal calendars of breweries and retailers.
The Global warmer is a crystal clear goldenrod with the faintest red highlights. The generous creamy head is just off white and leaves a nice lacing on the glass. The aroma is full, leading with a rich hop citrus and supported by biscuity malt notes. Oranges and lemons are joined by a bit of an herbal hop character. A hint of caramel rounds out the nose.
The taste is intensely but not excessively bitter, with rich grapefruit, orange and pineapple flavors. A caramel and toast malt sweetness attempt to balance the hop bitterness, but don’t quite make it. The sweetness fades leaving something of a lingering bite, but the body remains full. There’s a bit of an evident alcohol character at the end.
The nose on this warmer is rich and intriguing, but the flavor may be overly bitter. The Global Warmer comes in the new 12 ounce cans rather than Sixpoint’s usual sixteeners, and that’s probably a good thing.
Sixpoint Global Warmer
January 2nd, 2015
From Two Brothers Brewing Company in Warrenville, Illinois, I’m tasting the Peppermint Bark Porter. I’m always a little wary of breweries adding weird things like peppermint bark to beer, on the concern that they’re doing it mostly for the novelty, but I think Two Brothers makes some tasty beer, so let’s give it a shot.
The Peppermint Bark Porter pours a thoroughly hazy deep chestnut brown with ruby red highlights. The thick and creamy head falls to a rocky top and lasts a long time. The nose is light and intriguing. Dark toast, hazelnuts and chestnuts from the malt are most prominent. There’s only the slightest hint of peppermint – it might just be psychological.
The flavor is wonderfully balanced between a rich malty sweetness, the peppermint freshness and an alcohol warming. The malt comes through as nuts, toffee and a bit of caramel. The sweetness subsides quickly, yielding to the sprightly peppermint flavor. Since it maintains the full body through to the finish, the mint never grows too strong.
I’m simply amazed at how balanced and drinkable this beer is. It may have an addition of peppermint, but it’s still definitely a porter, and a great winter warmer.
Two Brothers Peppermint Bark Porter 2014
January 1st, 2015
Happy new year! Tonight I’m celebrating with the Wittekerke Winter White Ale, brewed by Brouwerij De Brabandere in Bavikhove, Belgium. This winter seasonal is the double version of the regular Wittekerke witbier.
Tonight’s Winter White is pleasantly hazy, a pale gold color with a creamy bright white head. The aroma is richly malty with biscuits, almonds and a bit of honey. Light tropical fruit and a clove spiciness hint at the yeast strain, while a little grassy hop character rounds out the nose.
The flavor is alternately sweet and spicy. Bready malt leads but is quickly met by coriander and allspice. The malt sweetness grows and is joined by an herbal hop bitterness. The rich effervescence brings out the clove spice once again. As the flavors begin to fade the alcohol warming intensifies, so despite the malt-forward nature the finish is light and dry.
The spice character of this beer is elusive, hiding behind a luscious malt and wheat flavor. Cloves, coriander, cinnamon and bitter orange dance with the significant alcohol character to create a serious complexity, yet it remains quite drinkable. I wish the head left a bit more of a lacing on the glass.
Wittekerke Winter White Ale
December 31st, 2014
From Bell’s Brewery in Comstock, Michigan, I’m tasting the Winter White Ale. This is a wheat beer in the style of a true Belgian witbier, made spicy not by the addition of spices but rather by a dominant yeast strain.
The Winter White pours a solidly hazy golden straw color. The bone white head looks creamy but falls away quickly. The nose is generously spicy with cloves, a hint of citric orange, and a rich toasty malt character.
The taste follows similarly, with a significant but not sharp clove flavor backed by biscuity maltiness. A bit of an herbal hop bitterness balances the malt quite well. The malt sweetness fades just a bit quicker than the yeast spiciness and the hops, leaving a tantalizing tingle on the tongue.
This beer is dangerously drinkable. Remarkably balanced, with an understated complexity and clean refreshing character that leaves you asking for another sip. It pairs well with spicy food. With a little more substance to the head and the flavor this would be the perfect beer.
Bell’s Winter White Ale
December 30th, 2014
This evening I will have some of Santa’s Private Reserve Ale brewed by Rogue Ales out of Newport, Oregon. The bottle says cryptically “snowflakes glisten”, a hint at this bottle’s easter egg which you’ll discover if you drink it on a dark winter’s night.
Santa’s Reserve is a red ale, a slightly beefier version of the Saint Rogue Red, which, incidentally, I’ve never really been a fan of. It pours a dark coppery red with a fair amount of tan head. Unfortunately the head is a bit swiss cheesy and doesn’t last very long. The aroma is rich with a strong hoppy character and a full maltiness. The hops come across as tropical fruit: pineapples and papaya with a hint of earthy pine, while the malt manifests as biscuits and toast.
This beer is initially bitter, with a spruce and pine hop flavor. The bitterness fades a bit revealing just a bit of caramel sweetness, which itself yields again to the spruce hop flavor. This herbal hop character lingers on the tip of the tongue and the roof of the mouth. If there were a bit more alcohol warming it would balance quite nicely, but as it is the herbal bitterness is just a bit too strong.
I quite like the nose on this one, but I’m afraid that the flavor doesn’t quite live up to the promise. Nevertheless, this is a drinkable winter warmer to enjoy on the cold, dark nights ahead.
Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve Ale