Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Beer411 Wants To Know... What Ale's You?

AleSmith Brewing Company
Location: San Diego, CA
Style: Stout
abv: 12.0%
Website: AleSmith.com
Twitter: @AleSmithBrewing

Let's cut to the chase.

I don't want to waste your time on this festive Christmas Eve. Besides, what are you doing on the computer when you should be wasseling among the leaves so green, or grabbing that last minute gift, or visiting with family.  Seriously... I mean, Katie and I appreciate your loyal viewership, but do us a favor.  After you finish reading this post (assuming that you are reading this ON Christmas Eve), turn off your computer, or pocket that smart phone for a little while and breathe in some of that Christmas Spirit with your friends and family.  With, your favorite beverage nearby, of course.

I'm throwing the numbers at you from the get-go.

BeerAdvocate Rating: 98 (world-class)
RateBeer: 100 (yes, as in PERFECT)
Untappd: 4.3 out of 5 (11,962 ratings)
Awards, awards, awards...

I'll admit, I kinda knew what I was getting into when I decided to fire up the AleSmith Speedway Stout for the final post of this holiday season.  I've never had it, but I know... You gotta go big when it comes to #1.  This is the beer that needs to leave a lasting impression on the Beer411 readers (and hopefully it won't be December 2014 when we decide to write on here next!).

AleSmith is a well respected brewery from what I've heard.  Sadly, they are also one of those breweries that does not distribute to Connecticut.  And unlike my post on the White Birch Brewery, this story does not have a happy ending where I found this bottle at some store with a great selection.  No... I happened upon this beer at a local Beer Themed Yankee Swap put on by the Relic Brewery.  There were about 20 of us that took part and when everything was all said and done, I ended up with this tasty treat.  Now, as I examined the bottle, I noticed something in small print, "This beer ages very well and will continue to mature for many years to come."  But you can bet your partridge in a pear tree, that I wasn't about to wait.

On the pour, we have a dark, dark beer.  Black as night.  Or, according to the website, "Jet Black".  I poured pretty aggressively and ended up with about 2 fingers of tan head.

The nose was full of coffee smells.  Rich, robust coffee.  Combined with unsweetened/semi-sweet chocolate notes.  Hints of vanilla and earthiness as well.

I have to sit down this is so tasty.  There's a coffee/chocolate 1-2 punch right out of the gate.  As the flavor develops, there's malty sweetness, followed by vanilla and toffee/caramel.  The cool thing about this beer is that while you may not like strong coffee, the sweetness balances very well to offset the bitterness.

Low carbonation, creamy and delicious.  Full-bodied, as expected, but it's not as thick as Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (of which I had a little last night).  Slight alcohol warming on the finish, but you would NOT guess that this is 12%.

Given the high abv (and the since it only comes in 750 ml), this is one that you'll want to share with a few people.  Highly recommended if you can find it.  For food pairings... A family friend dropped off some homemade peanut brittle that was awesome with this.

Thank you all of our retweeters, Twitter favoriters, Facebook sharers, Facebook Likers, Google+ 1er's and anyone that might have spent a little time on our site.  We really appreciate all of your support.  I hope that you enjoyed our 12 Beers of Christmas.  I love finding new beers with every season, and this blog gives Katie and I an excuse to dig a little deeper, especially over the holiday season.

So from all of us at BEER411 to all of you, have a happy and safe holiday!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Ready to Hibernate with Great Divide

This beer was a happy find for my co-taster Phil and me as we wind down our Beer411 Xmas countdown.

We are down to #2 … can you believe it?
We bring to you:

Great Divide Brewing Co.
Hibernation Ale | Denver, Colorado
ABV: 8.7%

We found this pint to be a little lighter than the winter beers we have been tasting, less heavy on the spice, which was refreshing. It was similar to a brown ale --- with a lot of that hearth appeal that makes it perfect for winter drinking.

About the Brewer:
During the late 80s, Brian Dunn spent 5 years overseas building farms in developing countries. Having grown up in a family that appreciated good food and drink, Dunn expanded his knowledge and passion for beer during his travels. Dunn eventually returned to Colorado, started homebrewing and went to graduate school. Upon graduation in 1993, when Denver’s craft beer scene barely existed, he set out to found what would eventually become one of America’s most decorated and celebrated craft breweries.

To date they have 45 employees and Great Divide has grown into winner of 18 Great American Beer Festival medals, recipient of 5 World Beer Cup awards, 12th in Ratebeer.com’s 2013 “Best Brewers in the World,” Ratebeer.com’s 2013 Top Brewer in Colorado, and 7th in Beer Advocate’s 2010 “All-Time Top Brewers.”

Not too shabby.
It’s nice to see something else being poured out of the Rocky region that isn’t a Coors Light

What they say about the Hibernation Ale
Hibernation Ale has been a celebrated winter tradition since 1995. This robust, dry-hopped ale has a malty richness balanced with a complex hop profile and hearty, warming character.

The pour:
A dark auburn, copper brown -- with a light khaki head that left a pretty lacing on the glass.

The nose:
Roasted malts, nuts, oak, burnt caramel, smokey, a little coffee and cocoa at the end

The taste:
Simply delicious. Medium mouth-feel, very easy to drink. Nutty, biscuity, smokey, smooth, a little dark cocoa and coffee. This pints has a good amount of carbonation on it and the alcohol gives you a gentle nudge at the finish, along with a bitter bite. It’s well balanced and warming.

The pairing:
My co-taster and I enjoyed this brew with meatloaf nachos. Yep. You heard me right. We had some leftover meatloaf, that was made with a lot Jack Daniels BBQ sauce, A1 and worcestershire sauce. We crumbled it over chips and cheese and all the fixins’ and these two were fast friends. The smoky beer paired with the BBQ flavored meat and cheddar cheese was a match made in heaven. This beer would be great as a standalone fireside warmer, but if you are going to pair it, I would say gouda cheese, a burger, ribs, pulled pork or anything in the BBQ realm would do nicely.

This is a sixer I would pick up and drink over and over this season.
A nice little winter change up. I will definitely keep my eye out for more Great Divide brews in the near future. I am very impressed.

Ok Toenee… tag you’re it.
Whacha got for our BIG finale?
Merry, merry Christmas cuzzin!

Friday, December 20, 2013

If you don't know White Birch, you're barking up the wrong tree.

Brewery: White Birch Brewing (Hooksett, NH)
Style: Smoked Imperial Brown Ale
ABV: 7.0%
Website: whitebirchbrewing.com
Twitter: @Bill_WBB

Whenever I'm up in New Hampshire, I always try and grab a few local treats that I can't get in CT.  Almost every time, this Hampshirian Haul includes a bottle from White Birch Brewing.

There I was back in November, staring at a variety of White Birch brews.  Then I noticed a particular style that I've NEVER seen before.  White Birch called this beer their Tavern Ale and the style was a Smoked Imperial Brown Ale.  What the what?!  I've had Brown Ales... I may have even had an Imperial Brown Ale (although I can't recall)... I've even had a few smoked beers... but all at the same time?!  On top of my cleared peaked curiosity, it also had the DRAFT Magazine stamp of approval hailing as one of the Top 25 Beers of the Year (in 2011).  Congrats White Birch... Hook(sett), line, and sinker.

I'm not going to lie... I couldn't wait until our 12 Beers of Xmas countdown to crack this baby open.  So back in November, about a week or so after I came back from New Hampshire, I randomly had this beer over some steak and vegetables.  Yes, so much yes.  I thought that this beer would have been PERFECT for the countdown!  But, alas, I only grabbed one bottle...  But wait... 

About two weeks ago I found myself down at Amity Wine and Spirits, which has an EXCELLENT selection.  And what the... who the... why the... I don't believe it... there it was.  Apparently we're now getting White Birch Brewery in CT!!  And they had the Tavern Ale!!  Bottled purchased, stored away for the countdown, and there you go... at #3 on our Beer411 Holiday List.

SPOILER ALERT... the Tavern Ale in its Smoked Imperial Brown Ale glory, pours.... well, Brown.  Dark Brown, so dark that you cannot see through at all.  On top, about a 1/2 inch of deliciously inviting khaki head.

There a good amount of smoke on the nose.  Very unique.  Smells like someone is cooking bacon nearby.  Slight hints of coffee, chocolate and some nuttiness as well.

Great medium body on this one that truly stands up to the smokey quality.  Sometimes when I have a smoked beer, they can be thin and overpowering.  Not so with this one.  The sweetness provided by the malts, brown ale, and imperial style are very balanced with the smoke in the Tavern Ale.

Lower carbonation and a nice sweet finish.

Well, unlike a CT only beer or a MA only beer... this is an offering where most of New England wins.  If you live in NH, you can probably find this.  Chances are, distribution passes through MA so I'd be surprised if it WASN'T available.  And now... according to my find about two weeks ago... you can NOW get it in CT!!  Dare I say, I think this might be my favorite one on the countdown thus far.  Yeah, you know what?  I'm gonna say it... This is my favorite beer on the countdown thus far.  Boom, I said it.

I shared this beer with Mom and Pop over some honey ham and baked beans.  But honestly, you could have this before dinner... with dinner... or after dinner in front of the fire.  There's a whole lotta goodness in this bottle.

Coming up next... #2 and #1 on our countdown!!  Stay Tuned!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hardywood's Gingerbread Stout is a Bottle of Christmas Spirit

Hardywood Reserve Series
Gingerbread Stout
9.2% ABV
2013 release

First off, this post is brought to you by the Christmas Spirit – 100%

I was minding my own business, tweeting Hardywood Brewery to find out if I could get my hands on their Gingerbread Stout anywhere in Mass. for our 12 beers of Xmas countdown and then “poof” a ghost of Christmas past appears (a friendly one!!) – an old high school buddy, @josh_Conrad, who I haven’t seen or talked to in more than a decade offers to ship me some!

He lives in Virginia and this beer is brewed in his hometown. Despite his proximity to the pint, it's still NOT easy to acquire … he sends me a pic of line:

… eeeek! (He assures me that he was going anyway). Apparently this is the normal scene when distributing the GBS at Hardywood. A follow up tweet tells me that they are capping the takeaway limit that day to one bottle per person! “OH No! What is this stuff made out of gold?” (yes, but we’ll get to the review in a minute)

Well all I can say is @josh_Conrad is the champ of all champs. I am not sure how many bottles he ended up walking away with that day or how long he stood in line, but all I know is two icy cold bombers arrived yesterday and I could not be more grateful. Cheers to old high school buddies and going above to make this blogger’s holiday season a little brighter. Merry Christmas!!

Now onto the beer, which is made of gold.

The Brewer Says:
Brewed with baby ginger from Casselmonte Farm and wild flower honey from Bearer Farms, Hardywood Ginger bread Stout captures the terroir of central Virginia in a rich creamy libation with a velvety mouth feel and intriguing evolution of flavors from milk chocolate and vanilla to honeycomb and cinnamon to a snap of ginger in the finish.

Their Mission:
To become one of the most respected brewers in the United States through integrity in our ingredients and in our business practices, through respect for brewing heritage, and through the inspired creation of extraordinary beers.

The Pour: dark brown that settles jet black underneath, half a finger of light brown fluffy head, good retention and some lacing

The Nose: HEAVEN! Floral honey, Dried fruit (apricot??), ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate and biscuitty gingerbread cookies, yum!

The Taste: Follows suit with the smell! Mouthfeel is medium bodied, smooth and silky, with moderate carbonation. Immediately I get roasted malts, milk chocolate, vanilla, sweet caramel and cinnamon – then comes the spicy gingerbread flavor – that coats the tongue, with a milky-chalky, fizzy finish.

This is a well-done beer. I love that Hardywood uses local products in their brews and from the website, I takeaway that this is a company that really cares about their community, does a lot for charity and puts out quality (over quantity) products. I am only sad that they are so difficult to get, because I WANT MORE!

The pairing:
Hardywood suggests crème brûlée or fresh chocolate pudding, rich desserts with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla or chocolate to really bring out the flavor of Gingerbread Stout. I say, this is great as a standalone dessert, maybe a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top? Stout a la mode?

I am so happy to follow up my last post with something deserving of the Beer411 xmas countdown!! Cheers to good beers. Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Only one place to go for #5, The Bruery's 5 Golden Rings

Brewery: The Bruery (CA)
Style: Beligian Strong Pale Ale
ABV: 11.5%
Website: thebruery.com
Twitter: @TheBruery

When we've had our countdown in years past, I had heard about The Bruery's annual Winter Releases of their OWN "Twelve Beers of Xmas".  Since 2008, each chilly season, they come out with ONE new offering in their holiday lineup: 4 Callings Birds, 3 French Hens, 2 Turtle Doves and even a Partridge in a Pear Tree!  PERFECT!!  I'll use their NEXT release in the Beer411 Countdown!!  Oh, but there's one small detail... 

Unfortunately, for those of us on the East Coast, offerings from The Bruery are hard to come by since they are located in Orange County, CA and don't distribute to CT.  So when the opportunity came to set up a beer trade with one of my friends from the Beer Coasters, I jumped at the chance!  A beer trade is very simple... you find someone to trade with via BeerAdvocate, Untappd, or any other craft beer site... send a few bottles their way and they send a few your way!  Usually shipments include rare bottles or things you can't get in your area.  In this case, I received The Bruery's 2012 release, 5 Golden Rings!!

On the pour... hazy golden in my snifter glass.  Imagine... yellow with some orange hues.  There isn't much carbonation on this guy.  Maybe about pinky finger of head that quickly dissipated.

Strong Belgian yeast on the nose... I'm getting a lot of fruity esters.  Pineapple sweetness, perhaps a little banana as well.  Subtle spices, and juuuuuust a hint of booze.  Let's taste...

And there's the booze... If I needed a reminder that this is 11.5%, I just got it.  Much sweeter on the taste than I had anticipated as well.  I think that spice that I was getting on the nose is clove.  Lots of citrus flavors, too... orange, banana, pineapple.

Mild carbonation and tasty all around... This is the love child of a Belgian and a Winter Warmer.  You can imagine the amount of flavors going on between those two styles.  As far as pairings go, I'm going to give the nod to my buddy Brandon from UConn who know lives out in Oregon.  Back in 2006 he gave me a recipe for a chipotle pulled pork using a slow cooker with a fiesta lime salsa.  Spicy, sweet, smoky... topped with a flavor blast of salsa made up of pineapple, mango, kiwi, lime juice and red onion.  That would be SPOT ON with this offering.  Spicy, sweet, boozy.

Sorry to my friends on the East Coast... the chances of you finding this one are slim to none.  Special shout out to my boy, Beer Coaster Crazy Dave for the hook up!!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

There's no single stout like it ….

Shipyard Mint Chocolate Stout
Portland, ME
9% ABV

These dice aren’t lucky ToeNee … I finally met a stout that I don’t like.
In the words of my boyfriend, “This is not a good beer.”

The Brewer Says
The Mint Chocolate Stout is a dark, silky beer with aromas of chocolate and licorice. There are notes of chocolate and coffee upfront followed by a subtle spearmint finish.

What We Say
The pour: Jet black with a light brown, one finger head

Nose: 100% doublemint gum, followed by anise and then little alcohol

The taste: effervescent for a stout, medium to full bodied mouthfeel and very dry – any chocolate that is used in this stout is so dark and bitter that it is not combating the overpowering spearmint flavor that stays on the sides and back of the tongue. This is tough to swallow. I wish I had more to say – it’s just not flavorful or balanced. I feel like I chewed chocolate and gargled with mouthwash after.

The pairing: just trying to mask the flavor on my tongue, we chased it with some ginger bread cookies we baked recently and that was actually a good choice. The ginger and the mint played nicely together and the royal icing helped to soften the dry, bitterness and sweeten the overall flavor.

A quarter into the 16 oz bomber … and dump. Seems like Mint Chocolate is best served as an ice cream, not a beer. Better luck next time Shipyard.

Sorry folks for the brevity of this post!
Calling the Stinch the Grinch? Tell me why you liked it…

Monday, December 16, 2013

Keeping it local for the 7th Beer on our Xmas Countdown.

Brewery: Two Roads Brewing Co
Style: Biere de Garde
Abv: 7.3%
Website: www.tworoadsbrewing.com
Twitter: @2RoadsBrewing

People ask me all the time about beer.  IPAs, Stouts, Porters, Scotch Ales, Pale Ales, Saisons...

The question is, have you ever heard of a style: Bière de Garde?

Thaaaat's what I thought.  Sit down, let's discuss.

Another style that is under-appreciated in my book is Bière de Garde or as Wikipedia translates, "Beer for Keeping".  Originating from the Northern region of France, this beer was brewed in the Winter and Spring months to avoid any issues with the yeasts in the Summertime.  The beer would be brewed, bottled and "kept" only to be enjoy later that year.

Keeping with the local theme, we head to Stratford, CT  to visit the Two Roads Brewery.  About a year or so ago, they opened their doors to potential contract brewers in addition to crafting beers of their own.  They originally came out with 4 year-round releases that would appeal to the masses.  A pilsner, saison, an ipa and a double ipa.  They've also experimented with a few seasonal releases.  Doppelbock, Maibock, Rye Imperial Stout, Pumpkin Ale, Black Ale, and most recently... the Holiday Ale, which is a Bière de Garde, or as they refer to it... a "Biere de Noel".

I poured this beer in my Oxbox snifter glass.  Amber color with red hues glowed throughout.  White/light tan pillowy, frothy head rested on top.

Sweet malty smells rose out of the glass... there's a very slight hint of caramel.

The taste... pretty on point with what I'm getting on the nose.  More of the malty sweetness comes through.  Notes of honey and biscuit.  Light and toasty as well.

Medium bodied, slight cinnamon on the finish.  It also coats the inside of your mouth a bit, leaving a sweet spicy taste.

This is a very safe beer... wait, let me rephrase... this is a very safe style.  If you're the type of person that doesn't like IPAs or heavy stouts... If you're the kind of person that just wants a Sam Adams Winter Lager and be done with it... then this might be a good beer to try.  It's a very sneaky 7.3%, mild spiciness, a little on the sweeter side, but again, not a barleywine "I'm going to get a cavity" sweet.

I have to be honest though.  Personally... I don't think I'm a big fan of the style.  When I go for a HOLIDAY beer... I want a bold coffee stout, a creamy porter, a hoppy ipa, a spicy winter warmer, or a boozy scotch ale/strong ale.  I want something that is going to make me go - Wow.  This beer... it's good.  But it doesn't make me go - Wow.  but not everyone is like me, either.  I think it's definitely got a place at your holiday table.  You could pair this with a lot of things - I had it with some toffee candies and that seemed to work real well!

You won't find this offering in 6pk... so head to your 22oz bomber aisle.  And you won't break the bank on this either... I bought mine for around $6.

Kicking off the 2nd week... Beer411 Style.  Your dice, KayTee.