Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Holidays, Hops and Malts

I love the holiday season. And by "holiday season" I mean mid-October until, well, April when it starts to warm up a bit. It's a time for big, heavy and hardy beers; spiced beers; and beers that just warm you all over. Yes, I know beers are cold and thus not conducive to warmth, work with me here and just enjoy the vision and sentiments. Anyway, I have been doing a lot of tasting recently so you don't have to. I know, I'm a giver like that. At least that's what I tell myself when I step on the scale. Note to self, if you're gonna drink like it's 7, 7 n-n-n-o tomorrow, get to a gym once in a while. So, like I just mentioned, I've been trying a lot of beers the past several weeks and I figure now might be a good time to share. Yes, I realize I might have done this before all the parties and all, but where's the fun in that? Here's a reason to go out and celebrate Little Christmas - just my little inconsequential gift to you. No, no need to thank me. No, really.

River Horse Variety Pack: I'm a big fan of variety packs - something about spice and life or something like that. I love them because it gives me the opportunity to enjoy what that brewer believes might be a good combo for beer drinkers or some brews they're introducing. Or I just buy them because they come in a really cool box. Dude, there's a hippopotamus on the box. A hippopotamus! How could I not buy it? In this particular 12-pack were Hop Hazard Pale Ale, Special Ale, Lager and (my favorite just for its name) Hop-A-Lot-Amus. I'm not reviewing each beer, but let's say it's not a pack that you'll find much wrong with. All-in-all, these are very solid offerings, none of which disappointed. But, let's go back to my favorite, Hop-A-Lot-Amus. This is an unfiltered Double IPA. Repeat after me: UN-FIL-TERED(uh). There is a lot of sediment floating around this beer so if that's not your bag, baby, you might want to avoid this one. As far as aroma goes, there's some malts up front, but the hops do fight for your attention, eventually winning out and you will detect a piney, citrusy aroma. The bitterness of the hops really does mask its 8.5% ABV which may make for awkward situations (read: falling on the floor) if you're knocking back a few while seated. I think it's a pretty good Double IPA and won't disappoint you drinkers with a penchant (that's French for hankerin') for hoppy beers.

Berkshire Brewing Company Cabin Fever: Last year, The Dubyas were invited to a party in early December. On tap at this particular party was Cabin Fever. It was a 1/3 barrel, a "log" as it's known in liquor store parlance. And damn was it ever good. Flash forward two weeks later and you would have found another Cabin Fever log at Casa Dubya. Flash forward once again to this most recent Thanksgiving and you would have heard me squee like a schoolgirl when I found a few bottles at our local "packie." And, of course, at our most recent holiday open house, another log just happened to find its way to our humble abode. I really can't say enough good things about this seasonal. It opens with a nice maltiness with hints of caramel and some spices. The hops only add to this complex aroma with some bold fruitiness. There's a noticeable hoppiness on the tongue, but not overpowering, which is tempered by the nice breadiness of the malts. There's no outright spiciness like that found in other winter warmer-style ales, but there is a faint, sweet candy-like quality on the finish. Honestly, I haven't been disappointed by a Berkshire Brewing offering yet - Gold Spike, Steel Rail, Berkshire Ale, Lost Sailor - have all been great brews and ones that I find myself going back to often.

Woodstock Inn Brewery Red Rack Ale: Back in September I wrote about Woodstock Inn's Pemi Pale Ale. I mentioned that this beer intrigued me and I was anxiously looking forward to popping into the Inn during our trip to New Hampshire for Thanksgiving. Well, we did visit...twice. Unfortunately, I wasn't in an all too adventurous mood and stuck to the Red Rack Ale. Sort of a "I know what I'm gonna get" mentality. And, well, I'm at the brewery dammit. Anyway, it's a solid amber, but I think it could use a little more fullness. That is, some of the flavor you'd expect from a quality craft beer are washed out. It has a nice floral hops scent with malty, bready undertones. It maintained a pretty consistent yellow-tan head throughout. But when it came to the taste, I feel like it was lacking; like they missed an opportunity to give it something more. Now, that's not to say I won't try it again, but after the Pemi Pale Ale, it was a little disappointing.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: Oh, Sierra Nevada, how quickly you have become my favorite. Can you open an east coast brewery so I can come and bow to your greatness? Huh? Was that out loud? That's internal monologue...internal! Well, what can I say about Sierra Nevada beers that I haven't already? Not much really. Celebration Ale is not what you'd expect of a winter offering. Why? One word: hoppy. Hoppy, hoppy, hoppy. Not spicy, not mulled, um, er, mulled-y and definitely not malty. No, this is another great pale ale offering from Sierra Nevada. It smells piney and citrusy so you know you'll get a mouthful of hop flavor. There is an ever-so-slight malty aroma but that quickly has its ass kicked and sent on its way. It has a medium mouthfeel and well-balanced carbonation which makes it easy to drink - if you don't have plans to drive it could easily be a great session beer. I must go buy some more of this. Allow me to reiterate: you can not, I repeat, can not go wrong with a Sierra Nevada beer.

Harviestoun Brewery Old Engine Oil: Now, c'mon and be honest, wouldn't you just want to drink this beer because of its name? Old Engine Oil: Viscous, Chocolatey, Bitter. Sounds good to me, sign me up. I had this beer over the weekend at J. Timothy's, which, if you live in this area or are ever visiting or lost, you should stop in and give it a try. Anyway, Old Engine Oil pours much like you think it would: thick and black and right off the bat you get hit with chocolate and coffee making it the perfect substitute for breakfast. There is a slight hoppy aroma but not overwhelming by any stretch. You will notice the chocolate taste right away followed closely by coffee. There is a slight fruitiness to it but the malt is much more prevalent, very much like one would expect in a stout. It is definitely a filling beer but with an easy drinkability and some kick to it. It is the type of beer that makes me want to look for more Harviestoun varieties. In fact, I'd love to find the Ola Dubh - that looks really good.

Beers that I still need to drink that are just sitting in the fridge waiting: Brewery Ommegang Three Philosophers Quadrupel and Barrington Brewery Yule Fuel.

1 comment:

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

The Sierra Celebration Ale might be my favorite beer ever.

If it were a man (and single) I would marry it.