Archive for April, 2011

Sam Adams Longshot

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

The Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams, run a really neat program called Longshot. They host a homebrew competition with the top prize a chance to recreate the recipe as a commercial batch. Some percentage of the winners are various staff members at Sam Adams, showing the culture of innovation BBC fosters.

Tonight I will be tasting the three Longshot beers available this year. BBC employee Caitlin Declercq brewed a light ale with lavender and honey, Honey B’s Lavender Ale. Richard Roper crafted what sounds like a Belgian IPA, the Friar Hop Ale. Finally I will have Rodney Kibzey’s Blackened Hops, an example of the new style Cascadian dark ale.

First up, Honey B’s Lavender Ale. A dense off-white head sits atop this brilliantly clear golden straw beer. The nose is fairly strong, with the floral lavender being the most prominent. A rich herbal and citric hop aroma adds another dimension. However, it is all just a bit too sharp.

The flavor is very bright and spicy, almost like a ginger beer. The herbal lavender flavor and earthy hops create this rich spiciness. A bit of alcohol adds a warming sensation, and the honey brings just a bit of a tempering sweetness. Very refreshing, again like a ginger beer. However, just like with the nose, the flavor is a shade too intense.

Next, the Friar Hop Ale. This nearly clear copper-colored beer has some off-white head. The nose is a sweet combination of toast and caramel from the malt and spiciness from the yeast. A citric hop aroma rounds it out, but the spicy maltiness is significantly stronger.

The flavor is strongly spicy. Black pepper character from the yeast melds perfectly with the coriander spice addition and slight alcoholic bite. Citrus hop flavor likewise combines with bitter orange peel. A light caramel malt flavor supports it all, but a richer body would support it better.

Finally, Blackened Hops. This one finally has a generous, rich, creamy head. It is tan, floating on a nearly black beer. The nose reveals a big citric hoppy character. Rich lemon, orange, mango, and pinapple fruit aroma and just a bit of a resinous pine. Almost no malt character detectable.

The flavor is seriously bitter. Strong citrus and pine hop flavor contributes to that intensity. A major roast malt character is trying to break through, however, and does a decent job of it. This burnt bitterness doesn’t exactly mesh well with the citric hop bitterness. The palate is very sweet, to the point of being cloying.

One last note – if you homebrew, enter next year’s Longshot competition and if you win you just might have your beer reviewed on this very blog. To enter, head on over to

+Samuel Adams Blackened Hops

3.6 (4-8-6-2-15)

+Samuel Adams Friar Hop Ale

3.6 (2-8-7-3-15)

+Samuel Adams Honey B’s Lavender Ale

3.4 (3-7-6-4-14)

Now Hiring: Brewer

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

I heard a rumor that an Iowa brewery is sniffing around for a new head brewer. Based on the information I got, it is either Great River or Olde Main.

Either way it is exciting. Here’s hoping they find someone good with vision looking to make some awesome hoppy beers and Belgian styles.

Two Red Beers

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

I picked up a bottle based purely on the style indication “French red ale”. I am hoping that this one is similar to Flemish red ales, one of my favorite kinds of beer. Red beers from Flanders are sour, aged in oak barrels which are infused with a cocktail of bacteria and yeast. The end result is a beer with a heck of a lot of character.

The French offering is called Gavroche, brewed by Brasserie St. Sylvestre in Saint-Sylvestre-Cappel. This hamlet, with just over a thousand residents, is in the far north of France, well within the sphere of influence of Flanders. The bottle has easily the most interesting closure system I have seen in a while: it is corked with a mushrooming cork, like many Belgians, but instead of a thin wire cage to keep it in, there is one hefty wire bar across the top.

I can tell from the nose that this beer isn’t sour, so I’m glad I’m trying it first. The Gavroche pours a beautiful orange-red, somewhere between copper and rust, clear enough to be brilliant, but with a satisfactory haze. The buff head is lusciously thick and creamy. The aroma is mild, dry and somewhat dusty. There is some toast and chestnut from the malt and a fair herbal and earthy hop character.

The flavor is much more assertive than the aroma would indicate, largely due to the alcohol. A rich nuttiness from the malt blends well with an alcohol flavor suited to a port wine. Both of these are supported by a solid body, which the beer’s strong effervescence keeps refreshing. Caramel and toast malt flavors come through on the back, along with a strong herbal hop character. None of it lingers very long, or even long enough.

The other red I will have tonight is brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge for the Monk’s Café in Philadelphia. This one is a sour, though Van Steenberge isn’t traditionally a sour beer house.

The Monk’s Café is a wonderful ruby red, lightly hazy, with a little bit of an off-white head. The nose is definitely that of a Flemish red: strongly woody, with a significant balsamic vinegar aspect. A rich nuttiness and some sweetness linger in the background.

The residual sugar is actually a bit more prominent than the organic acid. Caramel malt and some bread are followed by a balsamic vinegar flavor. Rather than evolving, like many examples, the depth of flavor somewhat falls away, leaving just a mouth puckering accompanied by residual sweetness. The mouth puckering doesn’t last long either, and the sweetness turns cloying.


3.9 (5-6-8-4-16)

+/-Monk’s Café

3.3 (4-7-6-2-14)

Anniversary Ales, Volume One

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Tonight is the first installment of a very long term two-part series. I picked up two bottles of each of two ales celebrating the anniversaries of two breweries. I will try one of each tonight; the other bottles will go in my cellar for a year. The breweries are Sierra Nevada in Chico, California, and Boulevard in Kansas City, Missouri. Sierra Nevada is celebrating their 30th trip around the sun, Boulevard their 21st.

For this occasion Boulevard has chosen a pale ale brewed with fresh hops. I anticipate this will be tasty today, but the hops probably won’t stand up to a year in the cellar. Sierra Nevada went with a barleywine, a style much better fitted to ageing, given its strength and body.

The 21st Anniversary Pale Ale is a deeply hazy rust-colored beer. The sandy brown head is quite creamy, but there just isn’t very much of it. The nose is quite elusive. A light pepper and tangerine hop aroma comes first, followed by a variety of spices including cinnamon and fennel. Some straw and a light breadiness from the malt before more hoppy citrus comes as oranges and lemons.

The flavor is likewise ephemeral. A rich spiciness from the hops just seems to be asserting itself as it fades into citrus and a malty sweetness. This, too, passes, leaving just a bit of a lingering bitterness and perhaps some of the spice. Coriander, black pepper, and anise make up this spice, and lemon and tangerine the fruit. There is enough residual sugar to give a bit of a body, but it is remains very light. As the beer warms, the flavors linger longer and the bitterness becomes a bit more pronounced.

Now the barleywine. This is actually part of a series Sierra Nevada made in collaboration with four pioneers of the craft brewing movement. Unfortunately this is the only one I saw around here. If you have one of the others I’d gladly trade for it. Jack McAuliff (of the legendary New Albion Brewery) came out of retirement to brew this barleywine with Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada.

Jack & Ken’s Ale pours a black most dark, with a generous creamy bronze head. The nose is rich and sweet. A strong roasted malt character and rich nuttiness meld with a caramel malt sweetness and just a bit of fruit from the hops. The alcohol comes through with a faint bite. This beer is exactly what an American barleywine is supposed to smell like.

The flavor is likewise big and roasty, but the hops will not move aside for the malt. The rich nutty and roasty taste is balanced by the strong yet supple alcohol character. The blend of coffee and alcohol flavor and full bodied creaminess make this beer taste quite a bit like a white Russian. The acridity of the roasted malt and sweet hazlenuts and toast remind you that it is, in fact, a beer. Subtle grapefruit flavor from the Cascade hops marks it as an American one. Though the palate is full and the malt rich, there is just a bit too much alcohol flavor, making this beer taste excessively boozy. With another year I would imagine that will subside.

+Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Jack and Ken’s Ale

4.0 (5-9-7-3-16)

+Boulevard 21st Anniversary Fresh Hop Pale Ale

3.8 (3-7-8-4-16)

A Couple Weird Beers

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

There are a few kinds of beer that I don’t drink much of, often beers with strange ingredients. Well tonight I have two, Left Hand Juju Ginger and O’Fallon Cherry Chocolate beer. I’m concerned about the ginger lingering in my mouth, so I’ll taste the chocolate one first.

The Cherry Chocolate Beer pours a very hazy burnt orange color. Some creamy off-white head rests atop. The nose is strong with cherry and chocolate flavorings, like a plate of cherry pie filling and tootsie rolls. There is only a bit of malt character that comes off as graham crackers.

The initial flavor seems much like a chocolate-covered cherry, but right away you notice it is actually quite dry. A balancing hop bitterness actually makes this beer quite balanced. The chocolate flavor melds into the malt, and an herbal hoppiness proves that this is beer. The cherry flavor lingers just a bit, a bit too sharp and at odds with the rest of the menagerie. Were it not for this, the Cherry Chocolate would be very drinkable.

The Good Juju Ginger pours a nearly clear copper-tinted straw color. There is almost not head, but what’s there is white. The aroma is fairly mild, with some ginger character and just a bit of malt. It almost smells like a ginger soda.

The flavor is likewise quite mild and mostly ginger. The noticeable bitterness from the hops and the spiciness of the ginger meld together. There may be an herbal hop flavor as well, and there is just the faintest malt sweetness. The carbonation is high, reinforcing the impression of soda.

+Left Hand Good Juju Ginger

3.5 (2-7-8-3-15)

+/-O’Fallon Cherry Chocolate

2.9 (4-6-6-2-11)