Monthly Archives: February 2016

Winter Beers, Round 1

The coldest days of the winter are coming to the lower Hudson Valley, so it’s time to explore some beers that can stand up to the cold . . . though the coming single digits are more conducive to a hot toddy!

Coney Island The PlungeConey Island The Plunge

Perfect for brutal weather and the insanity that compels hundreds on New Year’s Day to jump into the frigid North Atlantic, specifically New Yorkers at Coney Island, the source of this beer. Described as “Belgian-style ale with ginger, orange peel and fennel seed,” this pours a cloudy apricot color with a brief medium off white head. It leads with a complex spicy nose of stone fruit over light malt. The flavor swaps the sequence and starts with the fruit followed by the spice. The whole thing is crisp and refreshing, less yeasty than many Belgian styles but keeping the estery nature. The finish is subdued stone fruit and malt, but flickers of spice continue. 6.9% ABV

1Heavy Seas Winter StormHeavy Seas Winter Storm

Sounds perfect for the unfortunate cruise ship passengers who just discovered why the winter North Atlantic is feared. “Category 5 Ale” starts cloudy brown with little head, but the head still laces the glass. The straightforward malty nose tends toward dark bread and a hint of toffee. Flavor is on the dark malt side of straight ale, earthy with a bit of pruny fruit. There’s something a little harsh in flavor and finish. Good but not excellent. 7.5% ABV

1Weyerbacher Winter AleWeyerbacher Winter Ale

Dark brown in the glass with a light ivory head. The aroma is like brown bread, dark malt with a hint of molasses. On the palate comes rich malt with a surprisingly light body and roast grain coming in. That roastiness builds into the finish and hops dry things out, and finally some spiciness emerges. 5.6% ABV

1Bells XmasBell’s Christmas Ale

Pours slightly cloudy amber with a medium yellowish head. The aroma is gentle with bread and cake malts and hop spiciness. The very malty flavor comes with a fairly light body and light effervescence, leading to moderate bitterness in the finish. This is a good straightforward ale, not fancy, and its holiday “spice” comes from hops and barley. A Christmas ale for real ale fans. 5.5% ABV

1Tsjeesus ReservaTsjeesus Reserva 2013

The bottle says “Belgian Xmas Ale Boubom Barrel Aged. Bottled July 2014.” This is cloudy amber, quite effervescent with a moderate tannish head. The nose is super malty toward the dark side with subtle fruitiness and a distinct bourbon note. It’s a malty mouthful with bourbon notes and no apparent spicing. The finish is smooth, steady malt with a developing tinge of caramel. 10.0% ABV

1Great Lakes XmasGreat Lakes Brewing Christmas Ale

A pretty glass of chestnut-tinged amber with a very brief off white head. The aroma is spicy-fizzy, if that makes sense, with cinnamon and ginger. There is plenty of malt and just a hint of barnyard below the spice. On the palate comes a light ginger ale body with increasing spice flowing into the finish, with a light honey sweetness that grows from sip to sip. I like it more each sip. At the very end some hops dry it out. Quite drinkable–refreshing–though not outstanding. 8.5% ABV 30 IBU

Now bundle up and keep warm.

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Again from the Smithy

Samuel Smith

“The Old Brewery Tadcaster”

From the traditional gravity-fed brewery to the unique slate “Yorkshire Squares” fermentation, Samuel Smith delivers styles not common on this side of the Atlantic.


SamSmith IndiaIndia Ale

This gives an amber glass with a generous vanilla cream head. The nose of bakery malts come with mild earth & spice hops. It delivers rich malt on the palate with a hint of caramel immediately banished by hop bitterness. This is no hop bomb but still the hops assert themselves, a British IPA recalling the roots of the style. Moves to a long lightly hoppy finish. 5.0% ABV

SamSmith ApricotOrganic Apricot

“Brewed at Melbourn Bros ancient brewery in Stanford, Lincolnshire” then it proceeds to Tadcaster for bottling.
It is gold tinged with apricot with a brief medium white head. There’s a light apricot nose, a tiny bit sour, over cracker malt. Then comes clear clean apricot flavor with a creamy texture. This avoids sweet and avoids bitter, delivering fruit but not sugar, real fruit not artificial. Ends with a smooth fruity finish. 5.0% ABV

1sam_smith_organic_raspberry_ale_smOrganic Raspberry

I reviewed this before, and I’ll quote myself: “the Organic Raspberry Ale is . . . really intense, like raspberry preserves on the nose and palette. This one and the Organic Cherry were my intro to their fruit beers, and the Apricot takes its place in a strong lineup.

SamSmith Imperial StoutImperial Stout

Opaque darkest brown in the glass with a medium tan head. Starts with a roasty, slightly boozy nose with a ton of malt. On the palate comes a full mouthfeel with layers of malt, bready and cake-like and especially dark. There’s a note of spicy hops that comes in on the lingering malt finish with a hint of dark fruit. 7.0% ABV, strong by their standards.

SamSmith ChocolateOrganic Chocolate Stout

This pours a nearly opaque dark brown with a brief tan head. The serious chocolate aroma is like walking into a chocolate shop, then this resolves into an aroma like a chocolate malted shake. The first sip starts like cocoa and slides darker like semi-sweet chocolate. It has a relatively light body and even a certain crispness beyond the chocolate. Some roasty notes emerge on the finish. This is a chocoholic’s beer! 5.0% ABV

A fine session for Anglophiles and those who appreciate traditional styles.


Images courtesy of Samuel Smith Brewing
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Hitting the Brix

Brix City Brewing

Degrees Brix (symbol °Bx) is the sugar content of an aqueous solution, and Newark NJ is called the Brick City . . . never mind that the brewery is in Little Ferry, rather far from Newark. The tasting room features an wall-sized map of old Newark with numbered markers for about 65 breweries that were in the city in the late 19th Century. Prohibition and adjunct lagers killed those off, so it’s time for a new generation.

This is the brewery in walking distance of my office. It’s just as well that the tasting room isn’t open at lunchtime! The beers are listed in the order in the photos, but not in the order in which I drank them.

Brix 1

Brews Willis IPA

Slightly cloudy gold with a moderate white head. The nose is of strong fruity hops and a hint of pine. Coming back to this after Just Another IPA, the aroma doesn’t seem that hoppy at all. The flavor gives nice stone fruit with an immediate hoppy edge. Malt emerges on later sips. There is lots of flavor and it’s easy to go back for more. Hops build on the finish with citrus peel emerging. 6.2% ABV.

Cheap Labor Pale Ale

Clear golden straw with a generous white head. Aroma of stone fruit & cracker malt. Coming off the Tripel, the hops leap right out, stronger than an English IPA. Light citrus and light stone fruit lead the flavor of a very straightforward beer that resolves into a quite bitter hoppy finish. Quite sessionable at 5.2% ABV

Just Another IPA

Quite cloudy apricot-nectar color with a light white head ringing glass. It has a dusty herbal earthy nose with stone fruit notes over biscuit malt, subtle. The flavor gives a sort of fruit & bread quality like eating a plum with a lightly sweet doughnut. Unusual. The finish is like bitter lemon peel with almost a balancing sweetness, but it doesn’t reach balance. Not a favorite but really interesting. The apparent strength belies it’s 9.5% ABV.

Belgian Tripel

Clear pale amber with virtually no head. There’s almost an apple cider nose with yeast coming over the top with light esters. Doesn’t look like a Belgian but certainly tastes like one. The esters come right out with peach and pear and banana, with biscuit malt and a tingly quality that must come from the hops. Long fruity lightly sweet finish. Sneaky strong at 10.5% ABV.

Brix 2

Gloria Belgian Blond Ale

Slightly cloudy light straw with a brief white head. The nose is very Belgian, yeasty & estery. Very clean and refreshing flavor with really spicy hops. Goes great with lightly flavored food, ham & cheese and Italian potato salad. The finish is lingering banana with spice. 5.5% ABV

Porter Authority

Dark brown with chestnut highlights and a medium off white head. The nose is roasty with coffee notes. On the palate comes a smooth mouthful of roasty malts with light coffee notes and a light crystal sweetness underneath. The body is relatively light for a porter. The finish continues smooth and roasty, quite refreshing, a very good porter. 6.3% ABV

Chuck Bowman Black IPA

Black with a generous light tan head coating the glass. Nose of fruity hops with toffee & liqueur notes, slightly hot. Mildly creamy body with malt going immediately to sharp hops. There is a very light sweetness balancing everything nicely. Good stuff as the finish continues those flavors with some malt building back in. 6.9% ABV.

Brix Baltic Porter

Opaque brown with a brief off tan head. Very roasty, a very malty nose and almost a meaty quality. Oh, very refreshing! the medium body emphasizes grain over dark toffee over coffee. There’s a long tingly finish continuing the flavors of the palate. 7.5% ABV

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