Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Anchor Steam's Christmas Ale

Brewing Company: Anchor Steam
Style: Winter Seasonal
Size: 12 fl oz. or 50.7 oz MAGNUMS
ABV: 5.50%

After a several week layoff, we're back for more holiday reviews. Thanks to my cousin for kicking things off with a great review on Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout. I hope that these reviews reach all of our loyal readers (all 6 of you), in time before these holiday varieties are taken off the shelf. While I'm admittedly partial to Oktoberfests, there are some exceptional flavors out there that MOST people wouldn't know about! In the past month or so, I've gotten people to try darker beers that normally they wouldn't have even thought twice about. "Oh, I don't really like dark beer." Ah, ah, ah... just try it. And while yes there are those people that do not like certain kinds of beer, several of them came back with, "Hey you know, I could definitely drink that. Wow... That's really good!" So for those of you that are daring... or curious about a few holiday micros... pull up a chair and listen in. This could be exactly what you are looking for at the end of the day to enjoy by the fire. And strangely enough, most of these pair very well with leftover holiday cookies. :)

So needless to say, nothing says Merry Christmas and Happy New Year like the Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Ale from Anchor Steam (Christmas Ale for short). These brewers are relentless, changing the recipe (and label design) EVERY year. More spice, less spice, more hops, less hops... I was introduced to this beer last year while I helped my friends Ian and Emily cut down their Christmas tree at Jones Tree Farm in Monroe, CT. This year's variety certainly did not disappoint. The beer appears very dark during the pour, but comes across as surprisingly lighter than one might expect. The head on the beer has a chocolate/coffee tint to it (definitely pour this into a glass for optimum enjoyment!). The nose has a total holiday feel to it with essence of nutmeg and other spices. One would expect a strong taste after smelling this concoction, but the flavors come across as the perfect balance of spice, coffee, and nuttiness... with a lighter malty finish. One reviewer noted that the taste has a roasted pecan and date/fig flavor to it with hints of apple, cinnamon, and juniper.

My brother-in-law was nice enough to buy the family a magnum of the Christmas Ale to enjoy after our Thanksgiving meal up in New Hampshire. I would highly recommend having one following a nice meal. And it's worth pointing out that at only 5.50%, this brew is very drinkable; without knocking you over.


So from all of us at Beer411 to all of you... Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and have a wonderful New Year in 2010!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Brewing Company: Brooklyn

Style: Stout

ABV: 10.10%

I love me a stout in the winter, PERIOD -- Gimmie-gimmie!

I do think however, where beer is concerned, breweries like to throw around the word "chocolate" during winter season. It says to the un-aware beer drinker, will this be a sweet beer? -- Nope -- AND if you aren't a fan of stouts, your love of chocolate won't bring this one home for you either.

To me, the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout was delicious; nutty, rich, and creamy BUT it tasted more like an espresso drink than chocolate. Maybe it hinges on a mocha latte, but lets not get crazy here, this is beer we are talking about!

Note the respectable ABV on this guy -- 10.10%, you can't tell when you are drinking it. It goes down like milkshake, with a zing of hops at the end. The cuz and I split one, and for good reason.

As with most stouts you can't chill with them all night, and it could have been the huge xmas meal I ate before, but I was mighty full after sipping on this creamy delite.

Final Grade - B+

Other Chocolate Stouts to try:

Youngs Double Chocolate Stout

Rogue Chocolate Stout

Belgin Dip Chocolate Stout

ALSO Check out this killer dessert idea for your next shin-dig: Chocolate Stout Float Recipe

Let me know what your favs are -- Happy Tasting!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

What started as a simply Fall/Pumpkin/Oktoberfest beer review... has grown into a seasonal brew review!! After a few weeks of covering Pumpkin Beers and Oktoberfest beers alike, the public demanded MORE!! They asked, "So what are you going to do when the FALL beers disappear from the shelves and we're in WINTER mode?" Well, here's your answer!!!

My cousin and I have had a great time trying out new labels n' such - but we want to hear from YOU!! If you have a beer you want us to review... let us know!!! If you have a beer that you want to review... go for it!! I'd be happy to add it to the site.

Here are a few beers that I hope to cover in the next few months:

Harpoon Winter Warmer
Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout
Anchor Merry Christmas Happy New Year Ale
Clipper City Yule Tide (New release!)
Stone Brewery Russian Imperial Stout
Bad Elf, Very Bad Elf, Extremely Bad Elf...etc.

There hopefully will be others... but those are the ones that I just quickly thought of. So throw another log on the fire, put on some wicked comfy pj pants that Mom gave you back on Christmas Eve... and pour yourself a nice cold one.

Besides... who doesn't like research??

Friday, October 16, 2009

Shipyard's Smashed Pumpkin Ale

Brewing Company: Shipyard
Style: Pumpkin
Size: 22 fl oz.
ABV: 9%

The review of the season is HERE!!! As I write this entry, I bring you all good and bad news. The good being that I feel like Shipyard has a GREAT idea on their hands. They've successfully create a "heavy" Pumpkin Ale (compared to the Pumpkinhead Ale and Post Road's of the world). The bad news is that not only was it an EXTREMELY limited release, it has more or less disappeared from the shelves as Packies are now beginning to turn a blind eye to Fall/Autumn/Oktoberfest beers. Hard to believe that the season has already come and practically gone. So take in this review, and be on the lookout for this one next year!!!

I'd like to dedicate this review to the Girosky brothers, because without them - this would not have been possible (Kudos to my buddy Ian as well for finding a bottle at his favorite packy in Naugatuck). The first bottle that I had the pleasure of tasting was bought RIGHT AT the Shipyard Brewery in Portland, ME (thank you Chris!!). Then, it was hand delivered to me by his brother, my good friend Matt - WHICH was then dropped off RIGHT AT MY DOOR!!! These guys rock. And after I acquired said delicious beer, it turns out that Southington Wine and Spirits was NOT going to get any cases in! No fault on them... they tried and were even TOLD that they would get at least a case. But, nada. Ok... enough back story... let's DRINK!!

As I put earlier, Shipyard basically took their Pumpkinhead Ale concept, and kicked it in the ass. This beer gives you almost 4% ABV more (sitting at a tasteful 9%). Of course, there are STRONGER Pumpkin Ales out there (i.e. Weyerbacher's Imperial Pumpkin) but you know right away that this has a bit more bite to it. Poured into a glass the color had a copper almost amber tinge to it. The head on the beer was white and thin. While there isn't much of a smell to this beer once you pour it into your chalice (probably because it's from the bottle), this variety has much more spice to it (attributing to its "heavier" flavor). You get a mouthful of pumpkin spices, with hints of nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon. The hoppiness of this brew is a bit more than other pumpkin ales, but still remains subtle. The malts give it a nice medium body with a touch of bitters at the finish.

Please keep in mind that all of these flavors and tastings are grading a beer out of the bottle... I mean, according to Beer Advocate, there is almost an entire letter grade different from the folks that reviewed this beer on bottle from those that tasted it on tap! Maybe next year I'll take a trip up to Maine and find out for myself!

Overall, I would definitely buy this beer if I see it again. And I do have to say to my co-author, if PumKing is your current favorite, this beer may give the "King" a run for its money!!

Final Grade: A-

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Arrogant Bastard Ale

Brewing Company: Stone Brewery
Style: American Strong Ale
Size: 12 fl oz. or 22 fl oz.
ABV: 7.20%

I know that this blog was intended for seasonal beers. But this label got my attention and it seemed fitting seeing that Halloween is right around the corner. So for those that have daring pallets... step into my office.

Over the past few weeks, I've gotten to know the Beer Manager at Southington Wine and Spirits. He knows a ton about micro brews and I try and learn something new every time I stop in. Last week, I noticed a whole new line of beers that I hadn't seen before from the Stone Brewery out in California. And I trust the managers selection... he recommended that I give the Arrogant Bastard a try.

I have to admit... it was the name that drew me in first. Then as I examined the logo of the devil, I noticed their tag line: "You're Not Worthy." Then I read the back of the label and was instantly sold. The description on the back label is absolutely that of an "arrogant bastard". Check it out for yourself:

"Arrogant Bastard Ale: This is an aggressive beer. You Probably won't like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory --- maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it's made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beer will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make a beer taste better. Perhaps you're mouthing your words as you read this."

And of course.. you have to recognize the last line on the bottle:

"Questions or comments? If you don't like this beer, keep it to yourself --- we don't want to hear from any sniveling yellow-beer-drinkin' wimps, 'cause this beer wasn't made for you."

Ok, enough about what the bottle looks like... let's move onto the color & taste. It pours a nice dark amber color with a light brown head. The taste is incredibly complex hitting you instantly with hop/maltiness and finishing with a bitters. I feel like the bitter taste resembles that of a grapefruit. And at 7.2% ABV, it hits you harder than most beers... but with a name like Arrogant Bastard, I kind of expected it. It's not a "hop bomb" as some call it, but somewhere in the middle of a Double IPA and a Barley Wine.

Now what happened next was a little bazaar. I found that while the beer warmed up slightly... the tastes started really evening themselves out. At first what came across as a very strong bitter ale, was now much more mellow; drinkable and enjoyable. I highly suggest that when trying this beer, you maybe want to let it "breathe" before jumping right in. When I had it, we poured it right out of the fridge and jumped right in. Not the way to go. Instead, open this beer and let it sit on the counter while you enjoy something first. Then, jump into the world of the Arrogant Bastard.

If you are looking for a little extra credit, I also had the pleasure of sampling the Arrogant Bastard Oaked variety. A little more expensive than it's Arrogant cousin, but the oak'y taste really comes through on the end. Pointed out by my friend Ian, it had a nice maple finish to it.

Final Grade: B+ (A- Oaked)

My apologies for straying from out seasonal mentality. But this was something that I absolutely wanted to share with the Beer411 public. Be on the lookout for the next review thanks to the Girosky brothers - 2 hand delivered bottles from Maine. SHIPYARD's SMASHED PUMPKIN!!! 1st RELEASE!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

New England Brew Lovers

Sharing the news: more info @ http://www.prescottpark.org/brew.cfm

28 Breweries, 91 Brews, 1 Great Cause
Sample some of the finest craft beers, enjoy great food and music, and support the Prescott Park Arts Festival!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Two Sessions: Noon - 3:00 PM and 5:00 - 8:00 PM Admission - $25 advance / $35 Day of Fest Redhook Ale Brewery, 35 Corporate Drive, Portsmouth, NH

Admission includes entry to the event, 4oz souvenir sampler cup, beer samples, and live music and entertainment.

Enjoy some of the best craft beer, great food and music, and support a great cause.
Get ready for some great sampling! Here's what you'll find:

Allagash Brewing Co. -Allagash White, Allagash Curieux

Long Trail Brewing Co.-Long Trail Ale, Blackberry Wheat, Traitional IPA, Harvest Ale

Boston Beer Co.-Oktoberfest, Boston

LagerDogfish Head Craft Brewery-Punkin Ale, 90 Minute IPA, Palo Santo, Raison D'Etre Pennichuck Brewing Company Inc -The Big O Oktoberfest Lager, Engine 5 Red Ale,

Pozharnik Espresso Russian Imperial Stout Cask

Redhook Ale Brewery-Longhammer IPA, Winterhook 2009, Treblehook Barley Wine, Schmidty's Vise

Shipyard Brewing Co.-Shipyard Pumpkinhead, Shipyard Pugsley Signature Series XXXX IPA
Widmer Brothers Brewing Co.-Drifter Pale Ale, Hefeweizen

Tuckermans Brewing-Tuckerman Pale Ale, Tuckerman Headwall Alt, Tuckerman 6288
StoutMartha's Exchange-Oktoberfest Lager, Dark Rosaleen Stout, Another Ale

Smuttynose Brewing Co.-Pumkin Ale, Big A IPA, Star Island Single, Robust Porter

Otter Creek Brewing-Oktobergest Autumn Ale, Copper Ale, Quercus Vitis Humulus,
Wolaver's Will Stevens Pumkin

AleKona Brewing Co. -Longboard Lager, Fire Rock Pale Ale, Pipeline Porter

Cambridge Brewing Co. -The Great Pumpkin Ale, The Wind Cried Mary, Youenjymystout, Golden Ring Abbey Pale Ale

Magic Hat Brewing Co. -#9, Lucky Kat, Roxy Rolles, Odd Notion

D L Geary Brewing Co. -Geary's Pale Ale, Geary's Hampshire Special Ale

Woodstock Inn Brewery -Pigs Ear Brown Ale, Pemi Pale Ale, Red Rack Ale, Autumn AleGritty
McDuffs -Halloween Ale, Original Pub Style, Gritty's 21 IPA

Sebago Brewing Co. -Frye's Leap IPA, Midnight Porter, Runabout Red Ale,
Single Batch Series - Local Harvest Ale

Moat Mountain Smoke House & Brewing -Moat Octoberfest, Moat Brown, Moat Weiss

Portsmouth Brewery -Dirty Blonde Ale, Bottle Rocket IPA, Octoberfest Lager

Kennebec River Brewery -SledHead Red, India Pale Ale, Penobscot Porter

Lowell Beer Works -Octoberfest Lager, Pumpkinhead Ale

Boston Beer Works -Wet Hop Ale, Harvest Ale

Elm City Brewing Co Ltd -Roggen Beer, Tilt yer Kilt, Cream Ale, Leaf Peeper Amber Ale

Gardner Ale House -Oktoberfest Lager, mas Altbier, Chair City Pale Ale,

Naked StoutMilly's Tavern -Milly's Pumpkin Ale, Farmhouse Saison, Hopzilla Imperial IPA,
Endless Summer British AlePeak Organic Brewing Co. -Peak Organic Espresso Amber Ale, Peak Organic Nut Brown Ale,Peak Organic Pale Ale, Peak Organic Maple Oat Ale

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fisherman's Pumpkin Stout

Brewed by Cape Ann Brewing Company, Massachusetts

Ok -- maybe it is my Irish roots coming through, but my favorite way to enjoy a pumpkin beer is to turn it into a black and tan. Yes -- that's right. Float the golden, fall essence on top of a dark, creamy Guinness. Well the Fisherman's Pumpkin Stout gives me everything that I want without having to over explain myself to the bartender.

The Fisherman's Pumpkin Stout is a meal in a glass; espresso, coffee, cinnamon, nutmeg glory in a rich, creamy beer good enough to eat.

I sipped its goodness alongside a slice of sweet potato pie and floated away to food/drink coma-ville.

I give this guy an A- for two reasons:

1) It gives this Irish gal all she has been looking for and

2) The beer is not a partay starter, you cannot drink it all night. This is a one-two max brew .. skip dinner and go for the gold. Compare it to red wine, or my inability to hang at my old age, but after two, creamy, delicious beers I was ready to be put to bed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

There can be only ONE!!!

THE QUEST FOR THE PERFECT PUMPKIN ALE CONTINUES!!! Now, I just have to say how I'm really enjoying this Blog. I hope all of the readers are too!! By the way, the results are in after I posed the question: "What is your favorite beer season?" 30% enjoy Summer beers while 70% are more into the Fall/Oktoberfest variety. Although, perhaps its this blog that swayed the vote slightly seeing as we are currently all about Fall beers. But I have to agree - this time of year is definitely my favorite!!

Kate and I will try and give everyone a new question each week to keep you coming back for more. And don't forget to sign up to be a BEER411 FOLLOWER on the right side of the page!!

Anyway, last Thursday, we decided to put our pumpkin palates to the test. I convinced several brave souls to join me in a blind pumpkin ale tasting. No bottles or breweries or brand names to sway our votes... no price tags or popularity...not even the size of the bottle would sway our vote!! (get your mind out of the gutter, we're talking beer here!) The conditions were that everyone participating was asked to bring (1) 6 pk of Pumpkin Ale. I moderated so that no one brought duplicates.

Initially, I thought that we would have 3 or 4 different kinds btw the few people that showed up. Then, what started as 3 or 4 grew into 8!! Ultimately, here was the lineup that we ended up tasting:

Now, I'm not going to go through each and every beer that we tasted (However, all of the information on each one is listed below...FYI.) I want to inform everyone on the way we went about this tasting. What we liked, what we didn't like - and how each pumpkin ale compared to the other. I will say that each one of these ales was very drinkable... just some more than others. You'll also notice that there were several NOTABLE varieties missing... No Dogfish Punkin... No Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale... No Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin (new this year)... No Heavy Seas Pumpkin Ale (also new this year)... It's also worth pointing out that everyone's tastes are different. But the results were needless to say... interesting.

8 unmarked beers were poured into glasses and placed in front of us... we compared the smell, color, taste and finish of each one. Some were spicy... others bland... some didn't have much of a smell... others had a VERY pungent Pumpkin smell...

After everyone had a chance to sample... we started by each picking out our favorites. (The envelope please...)

Ladies and gentlemen, this year's 1st annual Impromptu Pumpkin Ale tasting award goes to...

...Post Road Pumpkin Ale.

Yes, this was one of my favorites. Out of the 6 people that were there, 3 picked the Post Road, 2 people picked the Shipyard Pumpkinhead and 1 picked the Weyerbacher. I'd have to say, it was tough, because I also REALLY liked the Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale. (See - I TOLD you it was good this year!!)

So what the heck does all this mean, Tone?! You tried a bunch of Pumpkin beers. Yeah great. What's in it for me?! Ah, grasshopper... here's my advice. If you are looking to spice up your beverages for a party this fall season, here are the 3 beers that I suggest you go with:

1. Post Road Pumpkin Ale
2. Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale
3. Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale

However, if you are someone that enjoys a more "complicated" taste and you aren't too afraid of a higher ABV%, jump into the world of Weyerbacher. I have to say, it was a very good beer too... but drinking a few of these might render your brain a little dumb.

Lastly, the one beer that really was in a class of its own... the Southern Tier PumKing Ale. In this type of tasting, it really did not go at all with the other beers we had. The smell was OVERPOWERINGLY Pumpkiny... and the taste was almost "buttery" or "creamy". I have to say when I had this beer about a week ago, it was very very good. However, I feel like in this sort of scenario (with all of the other beers being tasted at the same time), it caused the PumKing to get a low score on everyone's sheet. Moral of the story... if you go with this beer, make sure you start with it and don't plan to have a lot. Because if you stray from this variety and then go back (which most of us did during this tasting), I think you'd be overpowered with spices and texture. Recently, I read a description on a random beer blog that kinda hit the nail on the head. Drinking the Southern Tier is like Pumpkin Pie WITH the Whip Cream. There you go.

As for the other beers that we sampled... they were good. Just nothing to write home about. Saranac, Sea Dog, South Hampton... good, not great. Of course - the results could be TOTALLY different if it was out of the tap. :)

~Happy Hunting~

(From Left to Right)
Brewery: Weyerbacher
Style: Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Size: 12 fl oz.
ABV: 8.00%

Brewery: Smuttynose
Style: Pumpkin Ale
Size: 12 fl oz.
ABV: 6.00%

Brewery: Saranac
Style: Pumpkin Ale
Size: 12 fl oz.
ABV: 5.40%

Brewery: Sea Dog
Style: Pumpkin Ale
Size: 12 fl oz.
ABV: 5.00%

Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery
Style: Post Road Pumpkin Ale
Size: 12 fl oz.
ABV: 5.00%

Brewery: South Hampton
Style: Pumpkin Ale
Size: 12 fl oz.
ABV: 5.5%

Brewery: Shipyard
Style: Pumpkinhead Ale
Size: 12 fl oz.
ABV: 4.50%

Brewery: Southern Tier
Style: PumKing Ale
Size: 22 fl oz.
ABV: 9.00%

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen

Brewing Company: Paulaner Salvator Thomasbraeu AG Germany
Style: Oktoberfest
Size: 12 fl oz.
ABV: 5.80%

In lieu of my cousin and I’s fall drinking experiment, I have jumped ship from my normal U.S. October suds to sample Oktoberst from its roots, the Paulaner Salvator Thomasnraeu Oktoberfest, bottled and brewed in Germany. Oktoberfest is a sixteen-day festival held each year in Munich, Germany. It is one of the most famous events in Germany and the world’s largest fair, with some six million people attending every year.

Since I won’t be making the trip via plane this year, I will experience it via palate.

The Paulaner Ocktoberfest has a nice combo of sweet and hops, a strong nose of cinnamon, and a slight licorice finish. As far as fall beers goes, it has good weight -- not too heavy, but thick enough to keep you warm on a crisp fall day. All three friends in company that ordered it liked it, but didn’t get another one, which leads me to score it as a B. If they toned done the sweetness just a tad, I think we would have ordered another round.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale

Brewing Company: Shipyard Brewing Co.
Style: Pumpkin
Size: 12 fl oz.
ABV: 4.50%

What better way to start off this blog, than with Shipyard's most famous seasonal favorite this time of the year... Pumpkinhead Ale. Maybe it's just because it's the time of the year but this beer is simply AWESOME this season. About two months ago, my girlfriend, Michelle and I took a trip up North to visit family in Maine. As luck would have it, we had some time to check out the Shipyard Brewing Company up in Portland, ME. A GREAT place to visit - but this isn't about the Shipyard Brewery... it's about their Pumpkinhead Ale. Needless to say, our visit certainly planted the seed in our minds of what was to come when the Fall rolled around...

So fast-forward to about two weeks ago... and their it was. Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale, sitting in the cooler, chilling to perfection. Like a long lost friend that you hadn't seen in a year. And if you ask me (and well, you ARE reading this so technically you ARE asking me, haha), it has lived up to the hype. I found that it doesn't knock you over the head with an overpowering pumpkin flavor. It also isn't too sweet which can be a MAJOR downfall when it comes to flavored beers. (If I wanted candy... I'd eat candy!!) The hints of cinnamon and nutmeg are subtle. Very easy to drink - which can be bad, but at ONLY 4.5% ABV (Alcohol by Volume), it's not going to end your night early.

Overall Grade: A-

Welcome to Beer411!!!

After much deliberation on Facebook with my cousin Kate and I, the time has come to put all of these great ideas to PRINT!! That's right. What's the best Pumpkin Ale you ask? Where can I get a really good draft? Who's got the best Oktoberfest? We have your answers here. Welcome to Beer411!!

Over the next several weeks, you'll be getting reviews/stories/testamonitals of all types of seasonal favorites. (Don't you just LOVE this time of year!?) And if there's something out there that you HAVEN'T tried yet and want us to give it a go... LET US KNOW!! Our hopes that you can refer back to this website before you hit the packy so Kate and I can steer you right!!

Also, we want to hear from you and here YOUR reviews!! YOUR STORIES!! I encourage you to comment on a particular favorite... or ask questions on what seasonal favorite you might want to go with!! Bottomline is that this website is for you guys... Kate and I vow to give you our best reviews from all types of beer that is particularly in season. And if we can get enough interest in this site... perhaps we'll extend it to the Holiday favorites!!

Welcome to Beer411!!!