Saturday, November 27, 2010

MINI-REVIEW--Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

One of our favorite breweries, Stone is based in Escondido, California. This beer comes in at 8.7% ABV. This was our first foray into Black IPA territory and it was worth the trip! Pours a cola color with a thick, frothy mocha head. Now's where it gets strange. Expecting something along the lines of a stout with chocolate or coffee notes, instead our noses are greeted with pure citrusy grapefruit nirvana! The taste is even better--100% grapefruit juice, with not much carbonation and a surprisingly thin mouthfeel when compared to the way it looks.

We give this black (!) grapefruit bomb 4 out of 5 stars.

MINI-REVIEW--Sweetwater Border Hopper Ale

From their Dank Tank Series comes this Double IPA at 8.6% ABV. Sweetwater is based here in Atlanta, Georgia. Pours a dark copper with a creamy head. The smell is pure grapefruit goodness. Taste is a burst of grapefruit then perfectly balanced with a malt finish although the malt flavor is subdued and subtle. This balance allows Border Hopper to be smooth, clean and refreshing with no bitterness in the end. All in all, one of the best DIPA's we've tasted with a balance up there with Bell's Two Hearted Ale.

An easy 4 out of 5 stars for this refreshingly delicious ale!

Review--Chops & Hops Restaurant in Watkinsville, Georgia

Aimee couldn't wait for the picture before diving in. It was THAT good!
On Black Friday we decided to visit Chops & Hops for an early dinner. We had heard nothing but good things from several of our Athens friends and had the pleasure of meeting the owner/chef, Richard Miley, at the cask ale fest at Aromas earlier in the month. The place is huge with multiple floors for dining and impeccable decoration with 15 taps and a superb bottle selection. We also liked how they managed to convey an older building feel inside even though it's a relatively new building. We started off with a glass from a new brewer in town called Wild Heaven. We had their Ode to Mercy, an Imperial Brown Ale. We both finally decided to try the special for the day...BBQ pulled pork melt on a hoagie roll with cole slaw and seasoned fries. Absolutely delicious with a glass of Avery's IPA for Aimee and a Napa Smith Organic IPA for James. Richard also had us try a sample of the Chipotle grits--super cheesy with a nice kick! We then moved on to a recently created dessert that you must try. A slice of their Andes mint chocolate pie paired with Terrapin's Moo-Hoo. Unbelievable goodness in every bite. We finished our visit with a brief chat over a Dogfish Head Burton Baton with Richard. We left pleasantly stuffed and thinking about when we would visit again! If you're in the Athens or Watkinsville area, please stop by and check out the gastronomic delight that is Chops & Hops and tell them we sent you!

Friday, November 26, 2010

MINI-REVIEW--Founder's Backwoods Bastard

This is from Founder's Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan and comes in at 10.2% ABV. This Scotch Ale has been aged in oak bourbon barrels. Pours dark brown with a tan head. The aroma is of oak and vanilla with coconut macaroon! A very slick mouthfeel leads to a flavor we can best describe as liquid coconut macaroon with lots of vanilla and an almost butter cookie finish. This is one tasty beverage!

We give this a solid 4 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended!

MINI-REVIEW--Founder's Old Curmudgeon Ale

This ale from Founder's Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan comes in at 9.8% ABV. It pours a light amber color with a cream head. The aroma is bready with a touch of cinnamon. The taste is very complex with a bitter dry hop sensation (not so much a flavor), with caramel and butterscotch and a balanced maltiness that keeps the hops at bay.

We'll give this one 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review--Brew Masters TV show with DFH Midas Touch and Bitches Brew

We finally had a chance to watch the new Discovery Channel's "Brew Masters" show with Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery out of Milton, Delaware. We figured what better way to enjoy the show than with some Dogfish Head brews? We had a couple bottles of Midas Touch that had aged for about a year and a fresh bottle of Bitches Brew, the focus of this episode. We enjoyed the show and Sam's larger than life personality, but are hopeful that future episodes will not focus solely on Dogfish Head. While DFH and Sam are certainly a large part of the craft beer revolution, they're only part of the equation. It's always fascinating to see how they get the flavors into the beer and the trials and tribulations that even professional brewers have to face. All in all, it was an interesting glimpse behind the curtain at the wizards that create beer. Now for our tasting reviews...

Midas Touch--9% ABV. A "Handcrafted Ancient Ale with Barley, Honey, White Muscat Grapes & Saffron" from the label. This particular beer per Dogfish Head's site: "This recipe is the actual oldest-known fermented beverage in the world! It is an ancient Turkish recipe using the original ingredients from the 2700 year old drinking vessels discovered in the tomb of King Midas." Pours a golden color similar to a white wine with a white head that dissipates quickly. An aroma of grapes greets our noses. The taste is delicious with grapes and barley strongly present and finishing with a touch of honey. Almost like eating a grainy cracker spread with honey with grapes and tea on the side. A bubbly texture more beer than wine. Talk about a meal in a glass!

Bitches Brew--9% ABV. Per the label: "Ale brewed with honey and gesho". Per Dogfish Head's site: "In honor of the 40th anniversary of the original release of Bitches Brew, Miles Davis' 1970 paradigm-shifting landmark fusion breakthrough, we've created our own Bitches Brew - a bold, dark beer that's a fusion of three threads imperial stout and one thread honey beer with gesho root, a gustatory analog to Miles' masterpiece." Pours solid black (like vinyl!) with a mocha head. The aroma is of malted barley but has a sweet mesquite barbecue sauce scent to it! The flavor is delectable, smoky, sweet and tangy all at the same time. The flavor of the mesquite is still there, working with the honey and gesho root to make one unique imperial stout! A winner and we're sorry that we only picked up one bottle. Luckily, another batch is on the way, so grab this while you can!

We give solid 4 stars for both of these original Dogfish Head craft brews!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

MINI-REVIEW--Southern Tier's Oat Imperial Oatmeal Stout

Out of Lakewood, New York comes Southern Tier's Oat with an ABV of 11%. Black pour with a tan head and an aroma of pure malty goodness and oatmeal! Sweet oatmeal flavors with an alcohol bite to keep the sweetness in check. Smooth and delicious! Southern Tier has done it again with their brewing alchemy. It says Oatmeal Stout and that's exactly how it tastes.

We give it 4 out of 5 stars. Another winner from Southern Tier!

MINI-REVIEW--Terrapin's Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout

From Terrapin in nearby Athens, Georgia comes Moo-Hoo with an ABV of 6%. Pours black with a tan head and an aroma of creamy chocolate malt balls (like Whoppers). Chocolate flavor up front with just the right amount of carbonation to give the thin mouthfeel substance.

We'll give this 3.5 out of 5 as we were a little disappointed in the lack of chocolate flavor. More subtle than we had hoped for.

MINI-REVIEW--Bell's Special Double Cream Stout

From Bell's Brewery out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, this beer weighs in at 6.1%. Pours black with a tan head and an aroma of chocolate malt. This beer literally tastes like chocolate flavored coffee with a nice roasted malt finish. Very tasty.

We'll give this one 3.5 out of 4 stars.

Review--Michelob, Shiner and Capital Brewery Bocks

For our next Macro vs. Micro review we have one that has been requested by multiple people, namely Michelob's Amber Bock. Bocks are not very easy to find as we discovered while shopping for the review so we have two bocks and a doppelbock (or double bock), which is basically very similar but twice the strength. First up, we have Anheuser-Busch's Michelob Amber Bock from St. Louis, Missouri. No real mention of ingredients or ABV but it comes in at 5.2%. Pours a mahogany color with a big 3-finger creamy head. Looks very nice. However, the aroma quickly tells us that we're going to be tasting a Macro. Same sort of bitter beery scent. Hard to really describe but all Macros seem to have this in common from the adjuncts used in the brewing process. The mouthfeel is thin and carbonated. The taste is sort of veggie with just a hint of caramel in the aftertaste. Probably the best of the Macros we've tried but that's really not saying much. Not a whole lot in the flavor department at all.

Next up we have Shiner Bock from Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. Once again, no ingredients or ABV but this one is at 4.4%. Pours mahogany in color with a 1 finger cream head. The scent is veggie with sweet malt. This one tastes a little sweeter with a fuller body than the Amber Bock, but really not that much different.

Finally, we have Capital Brewery's Autumnal Fire doppelbock from Middleton, Wisconsin. No ingredients but listed as 7.8% ABV on the bottle. Like we said earlier, this one will be much stronger than a standard bock. The appearance is dark amber in color with small tan head. The smell is seriously veggie here with strong malts in the end. We differed in our review here so...upon his first taste, James said "that's good!" A nice slick mouthfeel with slight hoppy bitterness but overall well balanced between the malts and hops. The malts are still very prominent as they should be, but the hops keep the whole thing from becoming too sweet. Aimee really liked the mouthfeel and found the flavor super veggie and malty but with a hoppy bitterness that sneaks in the middle but finishes veggie.

END RESULT--While Michelob's Amber Bock is ok, you would be doing yourself a favor by checking out what other beers might be out there in a similar vein. The Shiner Bock is a step up and we'd take that over the Michelob. However, if you want a prime example of what a bock could and should be, check out Autumnal Fire from Capital Brewery- the easy winner in this round.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

MINI-REVIEW--Samuel Adams Boston Lager

We recently picked up a Sam Adams Winter Classics variety 12-pack and we'll be reviewing the various beers as we make our way. First up is the ubiquitous Boston Lager which comes in at 4.75% ABV and pours a golden slightly orange color with a white head. A scent of hops with a bit of citrus greets our nose. This is a rock solid beer with a good balance of malts and hops and a grain backbone. If you're ever out and about and your only options seem to be Macros, take heart, as Sam Adams Boston Lager is usually right there giving you a great choice!

We're going to give this 3.5 out of 5 stars as many times we've run into situations where this was the only option, and the Boston Beer Company's flagship brew saved us!

MINI-REVIEW--Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock

Another from the 12-pack, this is the first year that the Chocolate Bock has appeared and is a welcome addition! The Chocolate Bock is 5.6% ABV and pours black with a frothy tan head. The scent is a bit vegetably and not particularly appealing. However, the flavor more than makes up for that! This beer has a wonderful chocolate syrup flavor with just enough carbonation to make for one very tasty beer. A bit thin for us but this isn't a stout, so that's to be expected.

We gave this 3.5 out of 5 stars, losing some points for the aroma. Overall, though, this is a delicious, chocolately treat that had us thinking 'This is Sam Adams??'

Review--Trappeze Pub in Athens, GA

Last night, we had the pleasure of visiting Athen's premiere beer bar, Trappeze, during their Stout Fest. Upon entering, we were told by the hostess that they were so busy we'd have to wait for a table. We just wanted to sit at the bar anyway, so no worries. Once we sat down, the quick and attentive staff got us set with our first sample of the night, a couple of 1/2 pours (we love the 1/2 pours, as you can sample more without breaking the bank!) from the special cask they had tapped for the evening, Terrapin's Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout. We're not going to review any of the beers here as tasting in a public atmosphere can be problematic. Aimee decided to get a flight of one of her favorites from Terrapin--the Wake-N-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout. The flight consisted of a sample of vintage 2008, an oak-aged vintage 2008 and the new 2010. James proceeded with Bell's Expedition Stout (one of his favorites), followed by Southern Tier's Oat Imperial Oatmeal Stout. We then decided to order some cheese and picked a three cheese plate. Beautifully garnished with a mix of fruits and nuts and completed with toasted bread and bruschetta.

Next up came De Molen's Disputin (name changed from Rasputin due to legal issues) Russian Imperial Stout, followed by Bell's Special Double Cream Stout. Last pour of the evening was Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout. Now, you might be saying to yourself 'Wow! That's alotta beer and probably expensive, too!' Not the case. Half pours are where it's at if you want to sample several beers without getting hammered and keep your tab fairly inexpensive. We're not going to go into the final amount but we will say that after sampling 10 different beers and the wonderful three cheese plate, we were impressed with how much it didn't cost! Do yourself a favor and stop by today for the last day of Stout Fest. If you can't make it today, put Trappeze Pub as a destination on your next visit to Athens!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

MINI-REVIEW--Bell's Kalamazoo Stout

This is an American Stout from Bell's Brewery out of Michigan coming in at 6% ABV. Pours a mahogany color with a malted milk ball (Whopper) head. The scent is of roasted malts, coffee and just a touch of licorice. Wow! What a flavor! Considering that the Expedition Stout has a much more potent ABV (10.5%), Kalamazoo holds it own. Thin and chocolatey with a bold flavor and a bitter almost burnt coffee aftertaste. Wonderfully roasted smoky malt flavor. Another winner from Bell's, we like the fact that it's lower in alcohol which means you can have a few of these with friends and not be undone! However, we're not going to rate it as high as the Expedition because the mouthfeel was a bit thin for what we like in a Stout. Especially after the Expedition milkshake! We give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

MINI-REVIEW--Bell's Expedition Stout

This is a Russian Imperial Stout from Bell's Brewery out of Michigan. Comes in at 10.5% ABV, so it seems perfect for a chilly night like tonight! Pours pitch black in our black it almost has a purple tint. Nice, thick mocha colored head and a roasted malt aroma. This tastes fantastic! Sweet with the roasted malts shining through, with a slight bitterness and full-on coffee and chocolate flavors with a consistency so thick, it's almost like a milkshake! If you like stouts (and James loves them), do yourself a favor and track this one down. We give it a very strong 4 out of 5. James would even go so far as to give it a 4.5.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

MINI-REVIEW--Sierra Nevada's Celebration

Hi! Aimee again! Celebration is a winter seasonal from Sierra Nevada out of California coming in at 6.8% ABV. Pours a nice amber with a cream head. Has a strong aroma of piney hops. This tastes seriously of dry bitter hops with an earthy undertone and not much malt for balance. I found this one to be astringently bitter and that bitterness stays on the tongue long after finishing. Even for a hop head like me, this was a bit much for the palate. Overall though, being a "Fresh Hop Ale" and using Chinook hops for bittering, I can see where this could be a wonderful beer for those who really like that piney, bitter Chinook bite. I'll give it 3 out of 5. Average.

MINI-REVIEW--Victory's Festbier

Hi! Aimee here, going solo this weekend due to James' illness. This is a Fall/Oktoberfest seasonal beer that comes in at 5.6% ABV from Victory Brewing out of Pennsylvania. Pours a nice fall amber color with a cream head. The scent is all malt at first, then turning wheat-like then finishing with a veggie scent of cabbage?? The taste is slightly malty but really tastes like it smells with that same cabbage sort of flavor. Wow! This would go perfectly with sauerkraut and German food in general, which I'm assuming is where they were headed. Overall though, on it's own, I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars. Average.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

MINI-REVIEW--Southern Tier's Mokah Imperial Stout

This one is a blend of their Jah*va (see earlier review) and Choklat. It's brewed with the Jamaican roasted coffee from Jah*va and the bittersweet Belgian chocolate from Choklat and comes in at 11% ABV. It pours black with a fluffy tan head. The smell is of fresh coffee beans, chocolate and vanilla. This is going to be tasty! It doesn't disappoint, as it has a creamy, chocolate flavor with just a hint of coffee to prevent it from being too sweet. This is a fantastic after dinner dessert beer with a just the right blend of Belgian chocolate and Jamaican coffee. We gave this 4 out of 5 stars and encourage you to run out and grab some for after your next dinner!

MINI-REVIEW--Southern Tier's Jah*va Imperial Coffee Stout

Another Stout with coffee added, this time with the coffee being Jamaican roasted coffee. The ABV comes in at 11%. Similar to the Wake-N-Bake in appearance, pouring black with a tan head. The scent is a subtle coffee flavor with a bit of milk behind it. This has a nice coffee flavor, not bitter, more of a creamy and chocolatey flavor, thick in the mouthfeel, with a strong alcohol presence, but no alcohol flavor. Similar to a Milk Stout. We gave this one 4 out of 5 stars. Delicious!

MINI-REVIEW--Terrapin's Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout (Wake-N-Bake)

This Stout is a favorite of Aimee's because it has so much coffee flavor. James, on the other hand, isn't as much of a coffee fan, so we'll let Aimee take charge of this one. Coming in at 8.1% ABV, this beer finds Terrapin and Jittery Joe's Coffee teaming up to produce a solid black beer in our glass with a chocolate-colored head. The aroma is pure coffee heaven! Very bubbly on the tongue, with a sweet coffee flavor up front that finishes with a wonderful bitter espresso and alcohol bite at the end to balance it out. Aimee gives this 4 out of 5 stars! This was for the 2009 vintage. Bring on 2010!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's freezing in GA! Part 2

Also, in typical GA fashion, we've now swung back into the mid-seventies! However, this past Saturday night was even colder, so we decided to continue digging in the cellar to see what could warm us up. We found a bottle of Founder's Nemesis which, in 2009, was a Wheat Wine. It changes every year, but this was perfect for the night. Wheat Wines are similar to Friday's Barleywines except for having a large amount of wheat malt as opposed to barley malt. The second bottle we found was from Smuttynose titled simply Wheat Wine Ale. This bottle was also from 2009. Nemesis comes in at 12% and Smuttynose at 10.7%.

Nemesis pours into our glass with practically no head, an orange-gold color, and opaque with a few yeast floaties. As we expected, this beer (having been aged in maple bourbon barrels) has that strong alcohol/bourbon aroma but ends with a scent of macaroons? Sometimes, it's hard to place a particular smell, so you just do your best. The taste was very sweet, but with a strong alcohol presence, much like a liqueur with that smooth, velvety finish, but without that burn. Also very lively on the tongue, which was a pleasant surprise.

Smuttynose also pours with minimal head and orange-amber color. The scent is all malt at first but there seems to be a slightly bitter, citrus hops undertone. The first thing we tasted was sweet, malty, buttery goodness, but this followed with an alcohol finish that helped to balance out the sweetness and prevent it from being cloying. This beer reminds us of fall--you can taste the crisp air and see the autumn colors. However, we still liked the Nemesis better with that wonderful maple bourbon flavor.

END RESULT-Founder's Nemesis for 2009 gets 4 out of 5 stars.
Smuttynose's Wheat Wine Ale from 2009 gets 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Of course, you can't go wrong with either!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

It's freezing in GA!

Per usual, we've had our couple weeks of fall (spring's the same way) and now we've headed right into winter. The nights are already supposed to be below freezing this weekend! So we decided to pull out a couple high alcohol beers to help warm us up. We've got Heavy Seas' Below Decks Barleywine (aged in Cabernet barrels) and Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot Barleywine. Below Decks comes in at 10% ABV (alcohol by volume) and Bigfoot is 9.6% ABV. We found a bottle of the Bigfoot with a 2009 date so it's had time to age a bit. First, we'll have the Below Decks. It pours a reddish brown color with a cream head. Nice aroma of red wine (from the cabernet barrel) and malt. The flavor is wonderful, sort of a dry red wine but changes to a caramel malty flavor to balance it out. We really like this one! Below Decks is more of an English Barleywine, so it's not very hoppy, unlike the American Barleywine, which is what we're about to try with the Bigfoot. Bigfoot pours a ruddy brown color with a tannish thick head. The aroma is hops with a malt finish. Oddly enough, very malty with a Belgian candi sugar flavor to it that finishes with a sharp, hoppy bite. It goes from being extremely sweet to very bitter all in the same taste. Seems the age has mellowed out the hops a bit and brought the sweet malts up front. However, it's still hoppy, making us wonder what it would taste like fresh! Of the two, we preferred the Below Decks but the Bigfoot was a pleasant surprise and we'll have to get a fresh bottle to see what it's like. Oh, almost forgot to mention, we achieved our goal of warming up nicely!

END RESULT- Heavy Seas' Below Decks Barleywine (aged in Cabernet Barrels) gets 4 out of 5 stars.
Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot Barleywine (2009 bottle) gets 3.5 out of 5 stars.