Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sam Adams Hopflake IPA

Sam Adams had a white IPA before Hopflake IPA - it was called Whitewater IPA. I believe the difference in this one is that it has lemongrass added for flavoring. Oh, that and the hops arranged in the shape of a snowflake on the label. To remind my fellow beer geeks, a white IPA is typically a Belgian or Farmhouse Style ale with a high IBU count (i.e. lots of hops). I like the white IPA style, despite its bandwagoney use of "IPA" as shorthand for anything with more than 35 IBU's. Typically, and Hopflake is no exception, the style melds the smoothness of the Belgian/Saisson/Farmhouse style with hoppiness resulting in a refreshing brew. Hopflake is an okay white IPA, absolutely nothing wrong with it, but one of my criticisms of their seasonal variety packs in the past has been a lack of actual associate with the season - sometimes the same beers show up in the winter and the summer sampler packs. That makes no sense. That all being said, I'll enjoy the rest of this one, and even the second one, and surely someone will be convinced that it's Christmassy due to the festive label.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Sam Adams Ginger Beer

I've been avoiding the Sam Adams variety packs recently, primarily because they've been offering less variety, i.e. three each of four varieties, rather than two each of six varieties, and frankly, what's been in them hasn't been that exciting. I received the Winter Classics variety 12-pack as a consolation prize after having to wait 4 months for a $10 rebate. Ginger Beer is one of the new ones. The Ginger Beer pours a golden copper hue with a tiny white head. Ginger is definitely evident, as well as the advertised lemongrass, but there's also hints of clove and cinnamon. There's 55 IBU's, and outside the spices, it feels like a pale ale. Oftentimes the seasonal offerings don't really match up with the season, but Ginger Beer assuredly has a holiday feel to it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Red Hook "Out of Your Gourd" Pumpkin Porter

From August 16th, 2015
Last of the pumpkin ales currently in my fridge, Out of Your Gourd pumpkin porter is a surefire winner. Pours a chocolate brown with a frothy tan one-finger head, this isn't one of those ales where the flavoring overwhelms the beeriness of the beer...if you know what I mean. Solid roasted malt foundation, sweet, but not cloying. Lots of spices floating around but not clamoring for attention: nutmeg, cinnamon, even a little cranberry. If you're a porter guy or gal, if you're a pumpkin ale aficionado, then this gourds for you!

Notes added September 6, 2016
My appreciation for this porter increases every time I taste it. The head poured a lot deeper this year, four fingers easily with that reverse waterfall effect that characterizes a porter or stout pour. One thing that I did not notice last year was the maple syrup, which evidently gave Out of Your Gourd  its sweetness, but did not seem overly mapley this year, even when I knew it was there. This is by far one of my favorite pumpkin ales and one of my favorite porters.

Wasatch Black O'Lantern Pumpkin Stout

From October 2015
I was looking for Red Hook's Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter, but sadly they were out, but the helpful beer store guy suggested this pumpkin stout from the Utah Beer Collective: Black O'Lantern. It poured a deep mahogany, with scarlet highlights and a brief tan head. The mouthfeel was very thick and creamy, there was pumpkin and spices, but not overmuch, mostly nutmeg. It had an almost eggnogy taste to it, if that makes sense. Pretty decent stout, but if you're looking for a great pumpkin ale, this isn't it.

Updated September 6, 2016
I've changed my opinion since last year. While the words I used to describe the beer are pretty spot on, I think I must have been disappointed that I couldn't find any of the Red Hook pumpkin porter last year. Trying one now, I'm much more impressed than I was last year. Even without the pumpkin this would be a very good stout, the pumpkin spices just add to the seasonal feel.  I'd upgrade my opinion to "this is an outstanding pumpkin stout"

Monday, September 5, 2016

Rubus Black Blackberry Porter

Despite the 90° temperature outside, it is time for the Fall beers, the glorious stouts and porters, the upstanding Oktoberfests and all those other Autumn brews. I've tried a few Brau Brothers beers, but this is my first porter. Rubus Black pours a deep dark brown, almost black. The head is scantier than I expected from a porter, about a half finger that quickly disappears. What you can't help but notice is the blackberry aroma. It's very blackberry-ish, extremely blackberry scented and blackberry flavored. Not that blackberry is a bad thing - I like blackberry, but maybe a bit too much. In addition to the blackberry, there's a 8.9% ABV, and even though there's no mention of barrel aging, there seems like there's a bourbon edge to it. I would guess that some spicy barbecue or Mexican dishes would complement this beer very well. Overall, pretty decent, but an outlier in the taste department.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Brickway Coffee Vanilla Stout

Another offering in the "Session Series" out of Omaha's Brickway Brewery. Using cold-pressed coffee (look it up, I don't know what that is!) from Grey Plume added to their oatmeal stout with a bit of vanilla thrown in. As I poured it from the can I was immediately aware of the strong coffee and vanilla aromas. I'm not always in favor of adding flavorings to beer, as it sometimes distracts from the "beeriness" of the brew; but chocolate, coffee and vanilla consistently add to the quality a well-brewed stout or porter. This stout pours a mahogany brown with a "reverse waterfall" four-finger head which slowly recedes to a thick, tan coating. Aside from the flavorings, this appears to be a dry, that is non-sweet, stout. The ABV is a very sessionable 5% and the hop character that is sharp, but not overwhelming. I can definitely see myself enjoying a few of these on a chilly autumn night.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ales: Stouts and Porters

This article is not about dark beers. "Dark" is not a flavor, "dark" is not a beer style, "dark" is, broadly, a color. I will be discussing beers that are dark, but there are other beers out there that are dark hued but have completely different characteristics from the stouts and porters. Originally porters were a style of beer that was popular among the working class, the porters, of England in the 18th Century. Lagering and advances in brewing technology made it possible to brew an almost clear ale, but the darker malts were cheaper and the darker color became associated with the working class. Initially porters had a higher OG (original gravity) which translated into a higher alcohol content and heavier texture. This gradually changed as brewers looked for cheaper ways to produce their beers, even going so far as to use coloring to give it the expected hue. In the 20th Century craft brewers brought back the old style with it's heavier, creamier consistency. The main difference, in theory, between a porter and a stout is one of degree. Stouts are considered to be heavier and stronger than porters. Early on, a particular heavy or high alcohol porter was called extra superior, extra or double porter, or extra stout. In reality, whether a beer is called a stout or porter is often a matter of what markets better, which name sounds better with the name of the brewery for instance.

Within the stout/porter category, there are several subcategories. One of the earliest was Russian Imperial Stout, so named because it was exported to Russian for the Czar. Imperial Stout was characterized by a very high alcohol content. The appellation Imperial has come to be used for high alcohol versions of  other styles. Baltic Porters are similar in taste, but are typically lower in alcohol content. Milk Stout, also called Sweet Stout is a popular style. Brewed partially with lactose, which is not fermentable by beer yeast, the residual lactose sugar imparts a sweet creaminess to the stout. Dry, or Irish, Stout is kind of the opposite of the sweet stout. It's hoppier and drier; Guinness is a good example of this style.

Many stouts and porters have a distinct chocolate or coffee taste. This is not necessarily due to any flavoring being added, but qualities of the malts themselves.

Stouts and porters are perfect for cooler weather, and also go well with chocolate or other sweet desserts.

Don't be afraid of the dark...beer