Monthly Archives: August 2015

Gone to the Dog(fish) Again

Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales

Here’s a tasting coming from Milton, DE to Nanuet, NY at Growler & Gill. I followed that up with three more, okay, four . . . okay, five, suffering nobly you may be sure!


Straw colored with a generous foamy white head. The aroma is yeasty spicy with banana and stone fruit esters over cracker malt. Flavor starts with spices esp black pepper and coriander, the malt comes in, then the lemongrass comes in so that it’s like drinking Thai food…which would be a terrific pairing. Puckers me up a little like pineapple or tannins. That yeast and spice carries straight through tying everything together in a long finish with hops drying things out. 4.8% ABV, 20 IBU.

1-2.DFH_FestinaPeche_BottleShot_240x720_72_RGBFestina Peche

Hazy straw in color, quite effervescent but no head so it’s like ginger ale in that respect. The nose is mostly mildly malty with the faintest hint of stone fruit but not noticeable peach. On the palette it’s mildly tart with no sourness. The bready malt reminds me of a Kolsch gone hazy. With a big gulp swirled around the mouth I could convince myself that maybe there’s some peach in it, but I wouldn’t notice it if I wasn’t expecting it. Of five people trying this on draft, I was the only one to claim to detect even a hint of peach. I thought it might be the keg so I picked up a bottle. Same thing, no peach. The finish gets a little more tart and it’s rather refreshing … but not peach. Last year’s recipe had more peach and I think was more tart too. Maybe last year’s drug-crazed raccoons left more peach behind than this year’s circus-garbed bears. 4.5% ABV

1-Dogfish MidasMidas Touch

Pours amber with a moderate white head. It has an aroma of cracker malt and white grapes with a sweet note. The flavor starts with grape and flows to pervasive malt. The sweetness resolves to honey with a subtle spice note, and that spice builds from sip to sip. I found it mead-like with a good blend of malt, wine and honey. The finish persists sweet and fine, gently emphasizing the grape. To my surprise, some found this bitter, but others who “don’t like beer” liked this very much. 9% ABV, 12 IBU

1-Dogfish SixtyOneSixty-One

Copper in the glass with a persistent medium snow white head. As the cap comes off, you’re hit with an aroma of red wine grapes plus hops. The first close sniff gives citrusy hops and the next brings back the grapes. As the head dissipates crystal and caramel malt emerge. There’s a fruity quality to the flavor and even a mouthfeel like a crisp cider, but the taste reflects the rich hops and the Syrah. The finish has a hint of grape juice on a malt bed with soft bittering hops. Quite refreshing. 6.5% ABV, 60 IBU

1-2.DFH_90Minute_BottleShot_240x720_72_RGB90-Minute IPA

Pours a beautiful amber with a medium off white head. Massive malt aroma leads with medium hops. There are more hops than malt in the flavor, but adding nice caramel. The finish has a lot of hops but very much in balance, enough that some who normally can’t stand IPA enjoy this, even to ranking this #2 of these five, and “one of the two I like” (along with Midas Touch). Personally, I like four of these five. 9% ABV, 90 IBU

Images courtesy of Dogfish Head


This is an IPA brewed with apricot juice. The color is copper or apricot with a fluffy generous head, off-white with hint of orange. The nose is of malt and spicy hops with just a hint of stone fruit, not clearly apricot. The flavor definitely starts with apricot, quite tart, and a bready malt with hint of caramel. The hops come in on the finish, more earth and spice than citrus. Balanced and subtle. 7% ABV, 50 IBU.

1-Dogfish SaisonDuBuffSaison du Buff

A collaboration born of a trio of breweries, Stone and Victory and Dogfish, kind of a Murderers Row of great breweries! This pours pale to straw in color with a big foamy white head. The aroma starts with herbs and spices, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme plus spicy hops with a big shot of yeast and fruity esters. The herbs lead the flavor with lots of malt underneath. There’s melon and orange peel going on too. The finish is long and spicy ramping herbs and melon slowly down into a little pool of spicy hops. One of the most interesting beers, but what else can one expect from Sam+Greg+Bill? All three breweries put it out in 2010, the same recipe in each brewery, and the current releases are from Dogfish in 2014, Victory in 2015, and Stone in 2016. If this bottle was a year old, it has aged nicely! 6.8% ABV.

1-Dogfish BnBBlack & Blue

Give a copper glassful with a medium fine grained white head. The aroma seems classic Belgian yeasty and estery over rich malt, but with an unusual berry note. The flavor also starts classic Belgian but then the berries explode across the palette and persist into a smooth malty finish. This is not a berry ale but rather a Belgian ale with berries, and an excellent one, also another one to seduce some wine drinkers. Very sneaky: 10% ABV and doesn’t remotely seem like it! 25 IBU

Hmm…now what’s this here?

Raison D’Extra

A Belgian Strong Ale, this is an extreme beer that doesn’t really taste extreme . . . which means that the ABV of 18% could be quite a surprise. This pours amber-brown with brief head, then gives a very full raisin and malt nose. The flavor comes in with caramel and raisin toast and layers of malt. It has a wine-like finish, raisiny like Amarone. The 40 IBU are largely masked by the malt, brown sugar, and raisins.

All right,can’t stop, let’s relax by the pool with one more 90 Minute IPA.

1-Dogfish 90

No, this wasn’t all in one session!

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Do DuClaw

DuClaw Brewing Company

DuClawMoonGunImpey Barbicane’s Moongun

A collaboration with Cigar City, this is a session amber ale, copper with a light tan head. The nose is very malty, caramel and crystal malt, the hops are masked, and there’s a slight hint of vanilla. Hop bitterness leads the flavor, surprising after the aroma, a bit citrusy, followed by roasty, bready malt with a hint of sweetness. It has a slightly foamy mouthfeel. The finish is moderately bitter. 5% ABV 40 IBU

DuClaw HellrazerHellrazer IPA

Pours a pretty gold with a hint of peach and a big fluffy cream head. The aroma leads with a big zap of unfamiliar hops, barnyard and herbal, with some slightly sweet malt underneath. Oh my this is delicious, mango and melon with a creamy mouthfeel but still a fresh sharp edge. The malt backbone holds it together nicely. The fruit continues into the finish with a touch of marzipan. So these are New Zealand Motuek Hops. We like. 7.5% ABV 65 IBU

So where do I go from here?

DuClaw SweetBabyJesusSweet Baby Jesus!

A chocolate peanut butter porter, a new combo for me. It’s black, just black, with a creamy yellowish tan head. I smell dessert: milk chocolate and peanut butter over roasty grain and sweet dark malts. The flavor says this is a porter rather than dessert, delivering more of that roasted grain and bitter chocolate with peanut butter cup just behind. This is not milk-shakey like Boulder Chicolate Shake, instead it’s closer to something like Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. It fills and coats the mouth without cloying sweetness. In fact, if you come looking for sweetness, especially after that dessert aroma, the bitterness could be quite a surprise. My sweet tooth isn’t in the “ON” position just now, so this is just fine . . . and maybe it’s dessert after all. 6.2% ABV 33 IBU

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Briefly: New York, New England & Missouri

A brief assortment:

Mercury War Flag Pilsner WarFlagPils

From War Flag Ales & Lagers, Brooklyn NY, this pours crystal clear straw with a medium but brief white head. It gives a very dry crisp pilsner nose with crackery yeast and a bit of spicy hops. Malty flavor follows with mild fruitiness and a hint of sugary sweetness. The finish continues very dry and crisp as that sweetness disappears. War Flag appears to be a gypsy operation at this time, and “Mercury” is the name of the contract brewery, in Massachusetts. 5.0% ABV

WarFlagPaleWar Flag American Pale Ale

Straw colored with a bright white head, the aroma is of lots of malt, cracker and biscuit, as part of a complex nose. There’s a cool spiciness amid the layers of malt. It has a crisp, malty flavor with a hint of fruit. That initial malt builds to a brief surge by hops, then it fades fairly quickly. A little thin for my taste, but that might be a plus on a hot day. Good, not excellent. 4.8% ABV

HarpoonSummerHarpoon Summer Beer

This is the Harpoon version of a Kölsch, straw-colored with a brief white head. The nose is of crackery malt and light spicy hops. There is not much flavor but there’s a hint of citrus and mild malt. The finish is brief with bitter neutral hops. This would be fine as a lawnmower beer. 4.8% ABV, 26 IBU This could have been sourced from Vermont or from Boston, but I didn’t check the fine print.

Boulevard SixthGlassBoulevard Sixth Glass Quadrupel Ale

From Kansas City, MO, this is amber with a moderate but persistent yellowish head. The aroma is of malt malt malt with a touch of yeast, then caramel and stone fruit. The first sip is a shot of molasses restrained by earthy hops and continuing stone fruit. Later sips reinforce that with a brief wave of molasses resolving into bready malt and dried fruit. The finish is long and sweet with plenty of hops to keep it honest. At 10.5% ABV, this could knock you off your lawnmower, so it’s better for sipping and savoring.

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From Munich via Belgium to Oxfordshire

Here’s a taste tour that I would love to make in person.

FranziskanerFranziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Naturtrüb

This pours gold with a big foamy white head. As they say on their website, “Due to the higher carbon dioxide content, it is particularly lively and sparkling.” It has a yeasty nose with peach and banana esters. The smooth yeasty flavor continues the fruit with cracker malt building in, wrapping up with a nice malty finish. This comes from Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu in Munich (inBev) 5.0% ABV

AugustinerAugustiner Bräu Maximator

From the oldest brewery in München, founded in 1294, this Dopplebock is chestnut brown with a generous bubbly cream head. The aroma is of rich dark malt, light coffee and cocoa. It has a medium-full body, brandy-caramel malts, and a slightly funky flavor. The finish is a little bitter with classic hops and a roasty touch. They say “especially suited for festivities during the chilly season” but I found it excellent in high summer . . . in good air conditioning. This is not ideally one for sipping by the pool. 7.5% ABV

LefebvreBrasserie Lefèbvre Blanche de Bruxelles Wit

Shows hazy gold with a moderate off white head. The yeasty nose carries faint fruit and light spice, perhaps coriander. The fruit emerges in the flavor with banana and stone fruit, along with lots of malt, bread and cracker, with lightly spicy hops. The body is quite light. The finish continues the malt and fruit. 4.5% ABV

MikkellerJackieMikkeller Jackie Brown Ale

Described as an American Brown Ale, this is almost opaque dark brown with a very generous off tan head. The nose is of caramel malt, coffee and a faint stone fruitiness. The flavor is very malty, roasty, with bitter chocolate coming in on a medium body. The finish gets smokiness and a light wave of caramel ending with a nice shot of hops. As a gypsy brewer, Mikkeller beers can come from a variety of breweries, this one is brewed at De Proef Brouwerij in Belgium. 5.9% ABV

Wychwood King GoblinWychwood Ale King Goblin

“Brewed only on a Full Lunar Moon.”

This pours hazy copper with a brief off white head. The malty nose comes with dried plum and a hint of spice. The flavor brings the fruit toward raisin with lots of chocolate and crystal malt and a trace of toast. The finish carries the flavor smoothly through a fade-to-black. Perhaps fitting for a King Goblin with a big axe, this seems to hit harder than its 6.6% ABV would indicate!

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New Holland in New Amsterdam

New Holland Brewing

Somehow, here in old New Amsterdam, I’ve never had anything from New Holland. Correcting that omission…

NewHolland MadHatterMad Hatter Midwest India Pale Ale

Gold in the glass with a fluffy lemon chiffon head. Earthy spicy hops arrive as soon as the cap came off, citrus then arrives on a bed of malt. Citrus builds in the flavor, still on a bready malt base. It has a lightly foamy mouthfeel. The finish is fairly bitter but a caramel sweetness sneaks through with underlying malt. This is very tasty, resting on the Three Cs of Centennial, Citra and Cascade. It isn’t as citrusy as the canonical West Coast IPA and I’m not sure what distinguishes Midwest from East Coast IPA. Regardless, it’s very balanced and very good. 7% ABV 55 IBU

NewHolland TasmanianHatterTasmanian Hatter Galaxy India Pale Ale

The same gold capped with Lemon chiffon, it’s not as instantly fragrant but a grassy citrus dominates reminding me of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The citrus mixes with mango and gets stronger as the head dissipates. It has a very earthy flavor with plenty of biscuity malt and a slightly fuller feel than the 3-C version. The hint of caramel comes in a little sooner too. The finish is distinctly less bitter, but still very much in balance. Here we have Galaxy from Australia, Nelson Sauvin (new to me) from New Zealand and Mosaic from the Pacific Northwest. This produces a subtly different profile meeting the same numbers. 7% ABV 55 IBU

A lovely pair of IPAs! I’ll have to receive New Holland again soon!

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A Firm Founders Foundation

Founders Brewing Co.


All things come to those who wait, and I had to wait two days to get my Founders tasting after being thwarted for a time by a power outage at Growler & Gill. Apparently some clown backed a truck through the power lines. The nerve! Of course I then followed the four beers of the tasting with three more at home, purely in the interest of research, of course.

FoundersAll-Day-IPA-ShieldAll Day IPA

Pours light amber with a medium white head lacing the glass. Great complex hop aromas, citrus and pine and herbs over light malt. On the palette there’s a cool silkiness, then hop bitterness arrives in force with more citrus. The finish smoothly fades through hops with some malt emerging, a long mild finish. 4.7% ABV 42 IBU


Rose gold in the glass with brief white head fading to a lingering ring. The nose starts with a little shot of malt immediately overtaken by raspberry jam. The flavor is a great balance between raspberry and malt, then the finish continues those and ends with a tiny drying pulse of hops. This is a beer that can impress wine drinkers who generally don’t like beer. 5.7% ABV 15 IBU

FoundersDirty-BastardDirty Bastard

Here’s a Scotch Ale, chestnut brown with a big persistent off tan head that coats the glass. The aroma starts with firm malt and bourbon. Mouth filling and palette coating, the flavor leads with bourbon and vanilla followed by dark malt with noticeable earthy hops. Dark malt continues to build in the finish, lingering long with that liquor note. 8.5% ABV 50 IBU

FoundersPorterRobust Porter

Pours opaque darkest brown with a tan ring. The nose is coffee and malt. The massive roasty malt flavor moves into a dark coffee finish ending with a surprising shot of bitterness. 6.5% 45 IBU

FoundersRedRyeIPARed Rye IPA

Copper in the glass with a medium yellowish head. It’s super malty with a spicy mix of hops and rye and a bit of toffee. The flavor comes in waves, first a bitter fruitiness, then crystal malt then caramel with a shot of spice cake. The finish starts with a hint of dried fruit, then a wave of spicy hops over a base of malt. Spice continues on a long finish. 6.6% ABV, 70 IBU

DoubleDoubleDouble Trouble IPA

Fills a golden glass with a ragged bubbly white head. Earthy hop aromas come with resin over strong bakery malt, rye bread. The flavor starts with dried apricot and a malt backbone sliding into a pool of hops. Those hops dominate the finish and wrap up a very satisfying IPA. 9.4% ABV, 86 IBU.

FoundersDarkPenanceDark Penance Imperial Black India Pale Ale

Pours very dark brown with a moderate buttercream head. The first sniff is equal parts roasty malt and earthy hops, then some dried fruit and floral notes come in. The flavor makes my palette sit up straight and take notice. Roasted grain leads a rich medley of malts and hops with dark chocolate, something like dried cranberry, and a hint of toffee. The mouthfeel is medium full with a surprising crisp touch. Double Trouble is very good; this is outstanding. The finish shows remarkable balance for such a hefty brew. 8.9% ABV 100 IBU but the balance restrains the bitterness.

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The Beaker People Reach Utopia

Sam Adams Utopias

Thousands of years of brewing lead to this point. I have wanted to taste this for a long time. It is one of the strongest beers in the world, and possibly the strongest made “naturally” with heroic yeast and no ice skimming. The Boston Beer Company spent many years developing yeasts that die at higher and higher alcohol levels, allowing fermentation to higher and higher levels. Their website calls it “Sweet fire, with a rich malt and wood complexity, Samuel Adams Utopias is unlike any other beverage in the world.”

samUtopiaI have to agree. This pours a syrupy dark tawny brown with absolutely no carbonation. Swirl it–as you should–and legs coat the glass. The nose is like brandy with intense caramel and a light noble hop edge, and that’s the only thing light about it. The flavor is intense, starting with brandy, and then figs, plum and raisin come in making it like a very fine aged tawny port. The finish goes on forever. Wow. 27% ABV

Of course the other notable thing about Utopias–other than the unique bottles–is the extremely high price. I think this was the 2009 vintage, in which case the release price was about $150. At Growler & Gill in Nanuet, NY, it is on the reserve by-the-glass menu at $20 for a one-ounce pour. My brother-in-law talked me into trying it. He was wishing that he could get a shot of something like tequila to wrap up the session, and I described what I had heard about the 54 proof Utopias. Compared to a pour of a high grade scotch, for example, $20/oz isn’t as outrageous as it sounds for a beer. So here I am as a beer geek and airplane geek who paid $400 for a half-hour ride in a B-17 bomber. If you think of this as a bucket-list item, $20 is easy to justify. If you would pay, say, $150 for a Taylor Fladgate 30 Year Old Tawny Port, then the Utopias are worth the price, and stronger than the port. This is worth the price.

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