Monthly Archives: August 2014

Aruba Arriba

Just returned from Aruba, kicking and screaming all the way.  After six days in a beachfront room at the Tamarinj All-Inclusive, suddenly it isn’t blue out the window any more.  So here I am reluctantly starting the re-compression process.  I must say that I would visit Aruba again in a heartbeat, having greatly enjoyed the snorkeling, especially at Baby Beach and at the Antilla shipwreck. The water is wonderful, as is the sheer beauty of the beach at Tamarijn and the neighboring Divi All-Inclusive.

As you might expect, rum is very much a part of the Aruba experience, and I discovered the pleasures of Myers Dark Rum and Seagram’s Ginger.  But I digress.

balashi_logoIn the spirit of the mission of the NBPLF, it was necessary to repeatedly sample Balashi, the principal product of Brouwerij Nacional Balashi and the only beer brewed in Aruba.  This is a pilsener, predictably in a Dutch style (since it’s a Dutch island).  It’s a very straight-forward pilsner, quite clean with a slight dusty aftertaste.  I am literally writing home about it, but it’s not something that I would really seek out off-island. Since it isn’t shipped beyond the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao) this isn’t really an issue.

I also tried Chill, also from Balashi.  I like this a bit more. It’s very much a New World lager, reminding me tremendously of Corona, and served with a slice of lime.  I’m skeptical of beers improved by the addition of slices of citrus, but I have to say it’s quite refreshing.

StellaArtois603At the airport on the way out, I finished up with Chill and then a nice big Stella Artois.  Obviously this is more commonly available, and is a very clean and tasty pilsner.  We have crossed the cultural border between Dutch territory and Belgian.  Most satisfactory, and this is precisely what it looked like:

Stella image courtesy of Anheuser-Busch InBev ®
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Weyerbacher? There Bacher, There Castle!

Here’s a tasting of the Weyerbacher Brewing Company of Easton PA. They’ve been around since 1995, which almost makes Dan and Sue Weirback “old timers” in the craft brewing world.

8093_3613200284164_175916775_nLet me start with two Shout Outs. The first I’ve known about for a while, and it gives an extra reason to drink their hoppy Last Chance IPA. To quote their website, “Weyerbacher donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of every drop of Last Chance IPA to small, regional animal rescue operations.” That’s a cause dear to me. My “niece” Tess:

 

 

 

Now here’s a Shout Out for an important human cause: Ales for ALS. “Drink a great new IPA with a proprietary blend of hops in an effort to raise money for ALS research? Yes, please!”
Ales for ALS

Now on to the beer!

Blithering Idiot
Wey_BlitheringIt’s a Barleywine and at minimum it’s a big-time ale, more British than Belgian in style. The yeasts are different and the nose is funkier and earthier. Malt comes charging in and if an ale can be described as having “backbone” then this one is ramrod straight. This is a beer that speaks to some red wine drinkers whose eyes widen and they say, “that’s really good!” They’re right. At 11.1% ABV, this is stronger than some wines, and knocking back a 4-pack might knock YOU back. There’s a touch of dried fruit, and then the malt lingers long on the finish, with almost no hoppiness.

Merry Monks

Wey_MerryMonksOne sniff and there’s great Belgian yeast and a faint fruitiness. The first sip (okay, gulp) is mouth-filling, malt filling, with distinct but delicate fruitiness, maybe like quince. [OK, so what the hell does quince taste like? Try the jelly and stop bothering me!] There’s a gentle effervescence that persists long after the first sip, and a certain warmth creeps in, almost like a hint of cinnamon. Oh, interesting, the Weyerbacher flyer says “…bottle conditioned imparting a special effervescence,” so I’m not the only one who gets that. They say pear where I said quince, and I can buy that. Like the Blithering Idiot, no hops are apparent. This is a very nice Tripel, 9.3% ABV. So far we’re averaging over 10% ABV, so this is happy stuff.

Double Simcoe Double IPA

Wey_Simcoe5Leads with sharp acidic citrusy hops followed by a toffee hint. Malt dominates the flavorful palette and the hops step aside briefly before coming back strongly to carry the finish. I guess I know what Simcoe hops taste like with the double dose here. 9.0% ABV brings us down a trifle.

Imperial Pumpkin

Wey_ImperialPumpkinPours a beautiful deep amber with a half-inch head, quickly dissipating. The nose is pumpkin spice, leaning toward spice, like pumpkin pie. Once the head is gone, a little bit of hops sneaks into the aroma. The initial sip doesn’t deliver a lot of flavor, but it builds up, and the malt here comes through like a malted shake. Nutmeg. Nutmeg comes through strongly, especially on the finish, and some cinnamon, with maybe a little clove. There’s a little bitterness on the end, but I can’t distinguish the sort of hops. This is an interesting approach, not sweet, more beer than pumpkin. Pleasing!

Heresy

Wey_HeresyImperial Stout Aged in Whiskey Barrels. This pours almost completely black, actually a very, very dark brown, with a dark tan head, about half an inch, with a little bit of the “building a pint” foam made famous by another stout. Brought to the nose I get bitter chocolate, meaning very dark chocolate, not meaning that there’s anything wrong. The head subsides to leave a light coating across the surface of the beer with a nice ring around the glass. At this point a faint aroma of whiskey creeps in. On the palatte, some whiskey leads, followed by dark chocolate, and then a touch of ash from the barrel. There’s a hint of vanilla, and then another round of ash, followed by a slightly bitter finish as some hops arrive. A rich and complex brew.

Images courtesy of Weyerbacher Brewing Company
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The Two Roads Less Traveled

This Growler & Gill tasting was of Two Roads, from Stratford CT, presented by Emily their Marketing Manager and Joe from Accounting. They claim they’re the “B Team” but they showed the flag proudly.

2R nolimitslogoWe started with No Limits Hefeweizen, nice and creamy with some fruitiness, a hint of clove and some bubblegum on the finish. Others got gum right away, for me it came along later. As I said in a prior review, this stands up to German originals. 5.0% ABV.

 

 

2Roads_Saison_FinalThe next was Worker’s Comp Saison. This leads with a nice slightly sour yeasty nose. It’s a good sipper, not as sour as some saisons and I prefer it this way. They say it’s brewed from 7 grains described as like what’s laying around farmhouse but also mentioning spelt. Not many farmhouses with spelt, methinks! This is quite fruity but not citrusy, with some nice spice on the finish. 4.8% ABV, so continuing a sessionable trend.

 

 

2R roadjamOn to Road Jam Raspberry Wheat. This is their summer seasonal, made with raspberries and black raspberries and lemongrass. The pour is very pretty. This gives a solid raspberry aroma and flavor, a little less sweet than the lambic I just had, and a bit of citrus follows the raspberry, with a light spiciness. 5.0% ABV.

 

2Roads_DIPA_FinalChanging to a hoppy gear, Road 2 Ruin Double IPA leads with strong musty fruit and pine. This continues on the palette with a complex blend of hops. I don’t get much malt, so this is not necessarily balanced, nor is it intended to be, I think. 8.0% ABV, and they said that value has risen from year to year, probably as competing doubles come in at high levels.

 

2R rye95labelfrontWe wrapped up with a Rye 95 Tripel Blonde Ale. (I must say I’m getting tired of having spell check “correct” me from “Tripel” to “Triple.” However, I was surprised to discover that my iPhone auto-completes “Hefeweizen” as soon as I type “Hefew.”) Anyway, this is a nice Belgian style ale with a little spicy twist from the rye. I think this suffered after the hops of Road 2 Ruin, which I think masked the fruitiness that I would expect, though I got hints of it. Whatever hops it has were likewise masked by the earlier, stronger hops.

To test this theory I followed up after a few minutes with another taste, and then I found it to be malty, fruity, and yeasty, so we had a sequencing problem like at a wine tasting when you put something like a Zinfandel in front of a Pinot. With beer, it’s easy to lead off with a Pilsner or a Saison, but then it gets tricky sequencing Double IPAs and Big Belgians and Stouts and so forth. A challenge to the presenter!

The evening was a nice trip down the side roads of Connecticut.

Prior to the Two Roads tasting, I had a pint of Jack’s Abby Aussie Rules APL. Coming off tasting a forgettable pale ale, this hit firmly with hops in the nose and on the palette, herbal and flowery with significant bite. Hops carried the finish as well. This went very well with a pair of hot dogs and spicy mustard.

Lager and hot dogs, what an unusual combination! OK, really good Lager and hot dogs; that’s a less common combination. This reminds me that I just read that the Yankees were ranked last in a list of “best beer at the stadium.” Seattle ranked first, which is not the least bit surprising! I’ll be at Yankee Stadium in a few weeks, so I’ll have to see what’s available.

Jacks3While we’re on the subject of Jack’s Abby, at home I had one of their Hopstitution Extra Pale Lager. Poured into my IPA glass I got a almost a 3″ head, or almost half the height of the glass! I didn’t *think* I was pouring incautiously. The nose was nicely hoppy and didn’t show me lager yeast. I probably would have thought IPA rather than EPL. Nice gentle malt with a bit of yeast and a sort of toffee trace. Not much hops on the middle, but then they strengthen on the finish, more of the herbal sort than piney or citrusy.

I look forward to doing a tasting sometime of Jack’s Abby…now that I know how to spell it.

Two Roads images courtesy of Two Roads Brewing Company



 

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In with the Old, On with the New (World)

Shall we be “authentic” today?

Hofbräu “Original”

Hof2Here’s a beer with heritage, from one of the most famous breweries in the world, founded in 1589. Hey, what’s 425 years between friends?

So, is this bottle almost like going to the source?  Well, the atmosphere is a little different than when I was in the Hofbräuhaus in München.  I could pronounce it then, having wasted a couple of years of German classes, but unfortunately I was 16 and didn’t drink yet. That meant that *all* I got was atmosphere, and Coca-Cola (same name, same soda).  I remember being awed by the number of 1-liter steins that the beer maids carried, and a bit awed by the size of the steins. (OK, mugs, since these were glass and not stone.)  My father wasn’t much of a drinker, and asked me the word for small. “Kleine,” I explained.  When the beer maid came, he duly ordered “Ein Kleine” only to be told “Nein Kleine! Größe!”  Meanwhile my mother cheerfully quaffed her liter!

Oh, right, the beer.  Tangy lager yeast greets you, then a smooth malt with a slight dustiness to it, otherwise it’s very clean. There’s not a great deal of flavor, but I guess that’s not the point when drinking multiple Größe.  The finish carries the yeast and malt for a long time.  5.1% ABV, their website proclaims its “refreshing, bitter flavour.”  Refreshing, yes, but compared to the IPAs this has no bitterness at all!   I’ll save this for the next time I’m in Munich . . . or perhaps to “rinse” the stein that I brought back from there, oh so many years ago.

Hof3

Weihenstephaner Vitus

Weihensteffaner3What an excellent Weizenbock!  Should we expect anything less from the “world’s oldest continuously operating brewery?”  Well, I guess age sometimes has little to do with quality, but since Weihenstephaner  has been around since 1040 AD, they should have had time to get it right!  Compared to this brewery, Hofbräu is a youngster!

When poured, this generated a 4-inch head in a Weizen glass, and easily sustained a 1-inch head for a long time.  Lovely yeasty nose with just a hint of hops.  Nice body, malt in the mouth, just a faint fruity hint, and again a touch of hops.  It seems to have a little more clout than some wheat beers, and a deeper, earthier quality.  In fact it has some clout, at 7.7% ABV.

 

Neshaminy Creek Highwater Hefeweizen

Nesh1Crossing the Atlantic, we go for a Pennsylvania Hefeweizen in the German style.  It’s fairly dark amber for a hefeweizen, and the moderate head dissipates fairly quickly.  It gives a nice yeasty nose like bread and coconut.  On the palette I get an immediate impression of oranges followed immediately by caramel-sweet malt with a hint of clove and a sort of melon-like fullness.

I like this a lot.

The description is of classic German ingredients and techniques, but I still guess this is a sort of “New World” Hefeweizen, richer and a little heavier than many European examples, if substantially lower alcohol than the Weihenstephaner at  5.2% ABV.

 

 

 

Alesmith Yulesmith Summer Holiday Ale

alesmithMoving into the realm of Ale, the citrusy hops cut right through my stuffed-up nose, leaving a hint of pine.  The malt fills the mouth and then the hops return strongly, again with citrus.

I poured this in one of my new Weizen glasses, more than slightly large for a double IPA, almost large enough to hold the bomber, but not enough to hold the bomber and the 2″ head that I got on the pour.  The head lingered a while, and heavily laced the glass.  A most welcome brew to counter a fairly bad day.  This has a long hoppy finish too.  Summer Yule? Yes, I suppose there’s a “Christmas in July” aspect to this brew; I look forward to trying their holiday holiday ale!

 

 

 

Day of the Dead Beer, Pay the Ferryman Porter, from Cerveceria Mexicana.

DayOfTheDeadIf Dos Equus grew up and attracted someone more interesting, this might be the result.  It pours nearly black with a brief tan head but a lingering ring. The nose is chocolate and tobacco with a sweet note.   On the palette, light smokiness leads.

It has a surprisingly light mouth feel with a slight effervescence, but still substantial enough to call itself a porter.  It feels easy to drink, and at 5% ABV that’s pretty much the case.  Almost not bitter at all, but there’s a bit of hops on the end along with that smokiness, so those who only like it pale won’t care for this.  I’ve been on a bit of a weissbier kick, as you can see above, but this brings me right back to the Dark Side.

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Gone Clubbing Again

Kron1664Kroenenbourg 1664: Pours with about a 1″ head, clear gold, a little bit of lacing as the level comes down. The head dissipates quickly. It has a lagerish nose with an earthy note. There’s a nice little hint of citrus on the palette, and moderate maltiness. I almost said “not much flavor” but that’s not really true, it’s a subtle malty flavor, pleasant for sipping. Then the aroma changes slowly and I caught something almost like distant fireworks. If there’s any sulfur, it works here. The gentle finish continues that moderate maltiness.

 

 

Kron1664BlancKroenenbourg 1664 Blanc: This pours with a generous 1-2″ head and a hazy straw color. Drinking it leaves ample lacing on the glass. The nose is yeasty while the head lasts, then citrus-spicy. Very crisp and flavorful with a hint of candied orange peel on a malty lagerish base. Very refreshing with a long gentle malty finish. Some months ago, someone asked me what my “go-to”

 

PeakFreshCut4Fresh Cut: a moderately hopped pilsner from Peak Organic Brewing Company. 4.6% ABV, 38 IBUs, so on the “sessionable” side. The nice 1″ head dissipates fairly quickly. I sense herbal hops on the nose, as pleasant as fresh-mown grass but definitely herbal rather than grassy. Nice malt quality with a bit of yeast. This is one of a number of lagers that could fool me into thinking “ale.” As I said, the hops are moderate, but they persist on the finish. This is rich for a pilsner.

 

MazelHops4Mazel Hops! Imperial IPA from the Schmaltz Brewing Company, produced in honor of the 20th Anniversary of the Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club. (I guess that constitutes a plug.) This is intensely hopped, in fact I was surprised that it was “only” 81 IBUs. The hops seem concentrated in the nose, with pine and metal and herbs. On the palette there’s an almost a meaty sensation resolving into pine, more hoppy than some that claim over 100 IBUs, if values above that mean anything.

Something interesting: the label copy says “Drink this now no seriously…right now. Enjoy all these delicious hops, freshy fresh. Do not cellar.” So this is heavily hopped, and hops are a preservative. I’ve also read and heard that high alcohol acts as a preservative. At 8.9% ABV. this seems to have a lot going for it as a beer that would hold up for a long time . . . but does that mean that it’s as good as it is when it’s new? This seems like a topic to explore in the future. I’m afraid I can’t do a test, I drank it all. Oh, well.

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(Not So) Far Above Cayuga’s Waters

Poor Cornell. Never has a school’s song suffered so much at the hands of so many as has that institution’s “Alma Mater.” — Ed Cray

As for me, I have nothing but the deepest respect for my Alma Mater; here, let me illustrate:

Lake_Cayuga

Far above Cayuga’s waters,
There’s an awful smell,
Some say it’s Cayuga’s waters,
Others say “Cornell.”

I lived in Ithaca for five years, and unfortunately the Ithaca Beer Company wasn’t around then . . . which means it was more than 17 years ago and I’m not admitting how many more. The brewery is down in the valley near lake level rather than far up on the hills. In any case, they would have improved the whole experience and greatly raised the quality of the swill that the fraternities served. The tasting at the Growler & Gill showed how.

Ithaca WheatThe Ithaca crew led off with the Apricot Wheat Ale, described thusly:

Our easy-drinking wheat beer is light in color and body…perfect for those looking for a lighter taste. The combination of wheat and barley gives Apricot Wheat a different malt character than our other ales. The hint of apricot gives this beer a pleasant nose and fruity finish.

My impression was of a very pale ale where the nose led with a slightly musty apricot and candy, followed by a creamy mouthfeel with nuttiness and a hint of apricot cookie, with the apricot getting stronger on the finish. This was a bit like starting the meal with dessert, but very pleasant indeed and suitable for a session at 4.9% ABV.

Next up was Green Trail Easy-Drinking India Pale Ale, which pours a light amber with a light white head that holds a ring for quite a while. It has a mild piney nose. On the palette it leads with malt, a touch of herbs and a hint of pine. The hop bitterness sneaks in subtly. It’s a mild IPA which might be a good offering for friends who do not yet worship at the altar of Hops. I don’t know if telling them “it’s Easy Drinking” is necessary, they should figure that out. At 6.0% ABV it falls in between the “sessionable” IPAs and the heavier varieties. By the way, this ale plays well with Beemster cheese.

Next up was Flower Power IPA, the offering that I’ve seen the most. They describe it this way:

Ithaca FlowerEnjoy the clover honey hue and tropical nose. Simultaneously Punchy and soothing with a big body and a finish that boasts pineapple and grapefruit. Flower power is hopped and dry-hopped five different times throughout the brewing and fermentation process.

I found it to be fairly deep amber, flowery like a garden with herby notes, not sweet in the nose but complex. Hops take the lead on the palette, and then a sweet malt spreads through. This gives a mix of complex hops compared to the spare Green Trail. It’s easy to see why this is their flagship. I’ve had this before but it seems more complex and fresh on tap. It also tames hot salami.

They wrapped up with a new offering: Cruiser Berliner-style Weisse. This pours a straw color with a light head. It’s quite light at 4.2% ABV.  The nose seems almost like something is wrong as the sourness of the style announces itself. I’m sorry, but the mouthfeel is a little harsh and the flavor reminds me of, well, bile. This will be better with food as its acidity would cut through things like creamy Brie cheese. As a style, sour ale has not won me over and if I’m going that way I’d rather go all the way with Rodenbach.

All in all, it’s clear that beer in Ithaca has come a long way in [mumble] years.

While at the G&G I also had the Rushing Duck Naysayer Pale Ale. This is a medium amber with a light caramel nose. It’s a gentle sipper, a true session beer, malty with a certain warmth almost like touch of cinnamon. Pleasant and holds up well in the glass.

 

Images courtesy of the Ithaca Brewing Company
“Lake Cayuga” by Original uploader was Cornellrockey at en.wikipedia
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