Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Downtown Wine and Spirits...

For those of you in the Boston area, check out Downtown Wine and Spirits' new website and blog. Better yet, visit them the next time you are in Davis Square. It is a somewhat small and unassuming store, but they have a great selection and the prices are decent. I have found a number of Belgians there that I could not find elsewhere in the Boston area and they generally have a good selection of Ale Smith beers.

I teach at Tufts in the fall (museum course, not beer) and I make regular stops there after BBQ at Redbones or a burrito at Anna's.

They bailed me out last year for my course at Wellesley College. I needed a few extra bottles of Anchor Christmas Ale and I think they had the last six pack in the greater Boston area.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Battle of the Home Brews...

On July 4th my brother Tom and his friend Phil stopped by for a couple of cold malted beverages and some BBQ. Both had home brews in hand and wanted me to give them a try...let's call this the battle of the knuckleheads.

I could tell you many stories to support this name. They would include catapults, geese, their role as altar boys, Mark Messier, a bar called Rasputin's, and a side kick named Opie...the list goes on and on, just trust me on this one. They both minored in drinking at St. Michael's College in Winooski, VT...actually I think Tom may have double-majored in it (explaining that 5th year he opted for).

They both recently delved into the world of home brewing and were quite proud to give me a couple of samples of their latest efforts. Tom and his crew cooked up an Octoberfest a few months ago and Phil and friends brewed a Pale Ale.

It is actually really cool seeing these two home brewing. I don't brew often enough, but I truly believe that doing so gives you a greater appreciation for all of the great craft brewers out there and you gotta love the satisfaction of trying those first couple of sips of your own concoction and thinking "shit, that tastes pretty damn good."

Just a few hours ago I cracked both beers and gave them a side-by-side rating. As many of you know, I rate my beers between 0.0 and 5.0. I think I have had a couple of 0.2s as the worst ("Mr. Dorfman, fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life son. ") and there have only been three 5.0s. At this point I have tried a little over 1,800 beers and to give you a reference point for the rankings, Miller High Life is about a 2.0, Yuengling's Lager is a 3.0, Bass Ale is a 4.2, and WestvleterenTrappistenbier - Abbey St. Sixtus 12 is the best beer I have ever tasted.

So let's get to the beers...
Tom's submission was brewed by the Worthog Brewing Club and was called Molstoberfest (the beer on the right). It pours a dark unfiltered copper color with an 1.5 inch thick head. It has a nice smell, including sweet caramel and crusty bread aromas with the slightest touch of citrus hops. This beer is medium bodied with an immediate malt sweetness with the first sip. It really is super smooth and drinkable and has a great refreshing carbonation. This is a very good session beer, you could drink quite a few of them...something Tom is known to do from time to time. I am going to guess it is about 6% abv. While the malt profile has the right sweetness, the use of extracts makes it just a touch thin at finish. This is a really nice Octoberfest...I am impressed so far. I give this a solid 3.6.

Phil's beer was created by his Six Finger Brew Club. It could have also been called Nine Finger Brew Club after a recent incident with a glass carboy. They put together a Pale Ale. I can safely say that this is the first beer I have tried that was made in my hometown of Chelsea, MA.

It pours an unfiltered copper color...which is a bit darker than usual for the style. This beer has good Belgian lace. It has a mild citrusy hop aroma with a touch of caramel sweetness. It is very fresh and certainly an American style pale ale. Hops linger on the back of the throat and tingle the gums a bit. I would prefer a bit more carbonation, but it is definitely thirst quenching. I like the hop profile on this is a nice combination of flavors including orange zest with herbal and floral notes. I could drink a few of these too...something Phil has in common with my brother Tom. Again, another solid offering, I give it a 3.5.

Overall both beers were very good and I was quite impressed with both efforts. Keep the free beer coming and I will continue to rate it. I have always said that my favorite beer is free beer.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Another fanastic beer from St. Bernardus...

I have tried almost all of the St. Bernardus beers available in the United States and I have never been disappointed. For some strange reason I am just getting around to trying the Tripel. One word...fantastic. I am enjoying a nice 750 ml bottle of it right now and it is a solid 4.7 out of 5 in my ratings.

It is a manageable 8% abv. This tripel pours bright orangish gold with a thick white head with wonderful retention--it is about 1.5 inches on each pour, even after sitting for an hour or so. This beer smells amazing...floral hops, caramel, candy sugar and banana with touches of pepper and clove scents throughout. It has a nice refreshing carbonation that tingles the mouth all over. You can really taste the spicy clove and pepper flavors with each sip, but they are not overwhelming. Fantastic fruitiness with citrusy hops, ripened pears, apple skins, and subtle berry flavors. It has a very refreshing medium body and an excellent mouthfeel. There is some warming in the back of the throat, but the 8% abv does not overwhelm you. It finishes dry and always maintains an interesting balance of sweet malts, sugar, and spicyness with each sip.

Wow, this is a fantastic beer! Each sip tastes different and goes down so damn smoothly. Simply put, this is another masterpiece from Saint Bernardus.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A pink hat beer...

I picked up Magic Hat's new summer 12 pack tonight fully expecting to extol the virtues of a brewery that almost always comes to the table with solid offerings. I am fond of the brewery for a number of reasons: I watched the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004 while sipping one of their beers in a Burlington, VT pub; my brother Tom majored in drinking at St. Michael's College in nearby Winooski and introduced me to the brewery; and many of their beers are great sessionable summer beers that go down great at backyard BBQs.

I just cracked open a Wacko Summer Seasonal, one of the new beers included this time around. The beer Yes pink. Sorry for the awful pic, I was too lazy to get my camera and took the photo with my laptop camera.
It pours a ruby red grapefruit color with a soft pink head. Generally I wouldn't have a problem with a beer's color. Rodenbach Grand Cru is a similar color and it is one of my favorite beers, but it is naturally that color. Wacko is red because beet juice is added...why...well, I guess to make it pink. And that is what is most troubling. The beet juice is used as a natural food coloring to help market this beer, I guess--I can't see it having any other purpose. You can actually taste beets, but it really doesn't taste bad. The beer is a pretty straight forward golden ale with a typical Magic Hat fruity malt character with some balancing hops. It is pretty thirst quenching and has a refreshing carbonation, but it is pink, did I mention that.

Pink has taken on a new meaning in the Boston area. The popularity of the Boston Red Sox over the last decade has created a new breed of fan called the pink hat fan.

While most of the pink hats are worn by women, you don't have to be wearing a pink hat to fall into this stereotype. The typical pink hat fan shows up to the game a little late, leaves a little early, talks about anything other than baseball during the game, and cannot wait until the 8th inning to sing Sweet Caroline (I am a baseball purest and I hate all of these things). Click here to get a double bonus of a pink hat wearer and a pink hatter sleeping at the get the point. These fans are generally seen as the new wave of baseball fans that jumped on board the well-marketed bandwagon of Red Sox Nation. Fenway has become a place to be seen (notice the pink hatters on their cellphones calling all their friends, waving at the camera, and asking "can you see me, can you see me?").

Sorry, I digress. I guess the parallel is in the marketing and making this a cool trendy beer choice, kind of like a Corona with a lime. "Hey look, I am drinking a pink beer, isn't that really cool?!" Well, actually it isn't, it is kind of stupid...just as dumb as drinking food colored green beer on St. Patrick's Day. I am disappointed in Magic Hat and I hope the other two new brews in the box are a little less colorful.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Combining my passions...

I am combining some of my passions today. I arrived in Indianapolis this morning for the 2009 Museums and the Web conference. I manage technology projects for a museum so this is my yearly opportunity to learn from a wide range of international museum technologists that are working on some really cutting edge stuff. But if you are reading this on my beer blog you probably don't care too much about that. Don't worry, I will get to the point.

This is my first time in Indianapolis so my first order of business was to scout out the good beer joints. As always I checked out the beerfly listings on beeradvocate. I wasn't very impressed with my immediate options. Rockbottom, Alcatraz, and Ram brewing companies all get average ratings. I was looking for something a touch better and found a listing for a German restaurant called The Rathskellar...of course what else would it be called. One pretzel, a rye roll, a jaegerschnitzel (breaded, pan fried pork with a rich wild mushroom gravy) salad, potato salad, sauerkraut, and an Ettaler Curator Dopplebock (great name for a beer on a museum conference!) and I was quite satiated. I thought about an angioplasty for dessert, but I surprisingly felt ok.

Baseball is another passion of mine and I took care of that by heading to an Indianapolis Indians baseball game. They are the Pittsburgh Pirates International League affiliate (founded in 1887). Tom Gorzelany was pitching and Andrew McCutchen is their star center fielder. You will be hearing about him in the next couple of years if you are a baseball fan. But I digress, there is more beer in the story.

Earlier in the day, during my lunch break, I slipped into a local package store and picked up three bottles from the infamous Three Floyds Brewing Company (Munster, IN). Their beer is not easy to find in Massachusetts so I was very excited to pick some up. Here is a brief review of their Broo Doo Harvest Ale:

This is an American IPA with a 5.5% abv. It pours a luscious autumn gold color with a thick 1/3 inch white head. It carries a wonderful piney hop scent with touches of sugar covered grapefruit. The first sip is incredibly thirst quenching and ridiculously delicious. The obvious hops are balanced by a rich caramel malt flavor that sits on the palate like a granny smith caramel apple--but again, it is balanced by a hop wallop of bitterness. This is a well crafted beer, it only takes one sip to realize that. I even think there are faint touches of milk chocolate on the malt profile and certainly dried fruit, maybe apricots and a touch of orange zest is more complex than expected. This stuff is amazingly smooth and it goes down way too quickly. Now I can understand all the fuss about Three Floyds. This is an outstanding beer that ranks about 4.6 on my 5.0 scale. I look forward to cracking the other two in the next couple of days.

I topped the night off by learning that my beloved Boston Bruins took the first of their 16 games needed for their date with Lord Stanley. Did I mention that this was a good day?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Holy Shipyard...

I was walking through one of my local package stores (liquor store for those who have no idea what a "packie" is) the other day and I came across a couple of bottles of Shipyard Brewing Company's new Signature Series. About an hour ago I cracked open their Pugsley's Imperial Porter. Holy Shipyard this stuff is fantastic. Shipyard has always been a pretty good brewery , but I kind of lost track of them after Fred Forsley and Alan Pugsley sold the rights to Shipyard to the Miller Brewing Company. However, they bought back their shares a few years ago and man am I glad they did.

This is the best beer the Brewery has ever produced. While I am a fan of Old Thumper (especially on cask) the Imperial Porter is simply amazing. It pours black with a thin tannish white head and features espresso, chocolate, and maybe a touch of anise on the nose. The first sip is coffee ice cream with a refreshing floral hop finish.

What I like most about this Imperial Porter is that it is not extreme. The brewers did not try to kick it up to 11 or 12%. Instead, they went with a modest 7.1%, which is a touch stronger than a traditional Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter, which is 5% abv. It is extremely drinkable and flavorful. It actual shares some resemblance to its great forebearers, Fuller's London Porter and the Taddy and is certainly in the British tradition, but just has a bit more alcohol.

The great roasted and chocolate flavors intensify with each sip, yet are constantly balanced by a refreshing hop tingle on the sides of the tongue and gums. This porter is full-bodied while maintaining extreme drinkablity (no not in the Bud Light kind of way).

At first I thought it was going to be all sweetness, but the hops really do surprise you a bit and balance it off nicely. At $9 a bottle, it is a touch expensive, but I would definitely buy this one again. This is a fantastic porter and by far the best beer that Shipyard has produced. Please, please, keep them coming!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Anything special for Valentine's Day...

Are you drinking anything special for Valentine's Day? I had my favorite burrito today (Bueno y Sano in Amherst), some of my favorite pizza (BBQ chicken pizza from Antonio's), my favorite sundae (Moosetracks from Richardson's Dairy in Middleton), so now one of my favorite new beers...Southern Tier Imperial Choklat Stout. I have been cellaring this one for a while and figured why not break it out on Valentine's Day, with the chocolate added and all.

This beer is the best of the fantastic Blackwater series by the Southern Tier Brewing Company. The Belgian chocolate added to the beer gives it an amazing aroma, mouthfeel and sweet chocolate taste. It smells like a truffle, feels milkshake thick and smooth, and tastes like European sipping chocolate.

I've mentioned this beer in previous posts. I think I like it even more the second time around...this stuff is amazing. It weighs in at a whopping 11% abv, but the chocolate sweetness masks the alcohol while still allowing for a comforting warming effect. The rich chocolate flavors linger in the mouth well after each sip and lure you into taking another sip. This beer goes down way to quickly and should seriously be consumed with caution. It is certainly climbing up my all time favorite list. Gotta get me some more of this stuff.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What beers have you tried recently...

We are approaching the third week of my Wellesley College Wintersession course, The Beer Necessities. The only homework assignment is for students to go out and try a new beer and to review it. Here is a place to share some of those reviews and to start some discussion about them. Feel free to just tell me what you tried and whether you liked it or not, or give us a couple of lines about it. So, what beers have you tried recently...