Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hale's Ale's "Red Menace" Amber Ale

4 out of 5 Hops

Another Seattle staple brewery, Hale's Ale's, and their delicious hoppy amber, Red Menace. I love the name and bottle label for this beer. The bust of Lenin in the picture is of an actual statue located in Fremont, just north of Seattle, where the brewery is located.Here is the story of the statue. I have to love this beer, if just for the label. Truth is though, it tastes good too. Style could be compared to an American Pale Ale, but with more toasted malt flavor and color. Hoppier than its UK cousin but not infringing on the IPA category. This fine brew is deep red color, almost brown until held to the light. The aroma is toasty, malty, and a touch of piney hops. The taste is initially a mild sweetness, then quickly balanced by moderate hop; about 37 IBU. The Centennial hop only is used exclusively for this beer. Bonus points for Single hop beer! The hop oils cling to your mouth for a while a good way though. The flavor has a slight black tea flavor left behind. Not sure my feelings on that. Mouthfeel is full bodied, but not to the point of being thick and creamy. I could not find the ABV for this beer, but given the original gravity of 1.056 I would calculate it is around 6% or just under. There is a bit of yeast sediment in the bottle, which makes me assume this has been bottled conditioned for carbonation. Bonus points for bottle conditioning! Hale's has been around since 1983 and still going strong. Try the Red, and if you like it, Join the Party!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dale's Pale Ale

5 out of 5 hops

Continuing my series of canned beers, I present...Dale's Pale Ale from Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado! (Applause) Have I mentioned I have a severe mental aversion to canned beers? I think I equate all them with the flavor of American Light Lagers consumed in my fuzzy memories of youth. This American Pale Ale changes my mind though. I pour the beer into a glass, leave the can in the kitchen,walk to another room and sit, close my eyes, smell, and...taste. Wow! This came out of can? I realize cans now are lined for flavor protection and they are more this beer is an indicator how good they can be I will keep trying the cans. I may be converted yet. Well the beer at hand has an awesome aroma of lemon/grapefruit and English biscuits. The taste is lightly sweetened at the front but quickly converted to HOPVILLE, USA! This Pale could easily be an IPA at about 65 IBU and 6.5% ABV. Texture is thick and chewy and the finish is pleasantly oily and leaves a delicious Centennial Hop flavor behind. Speaking of hops..the recipe I found for this is Northern Brewer and Cascade for the boil/bittering, Chinook hops for some more flavor and finally Centennials for aroma. I will be snagging more of this one and also trying their other varieties very soon. Six pack and some fishing anyone?

Tsingtao Chinese Lager

3 out of 5 Hops

China's Number One Beer! I have not drank Tsingtao in a long time. The green bottled version is a staple in Seattle Chinatown restaurants. Many a spicy Sichuanese meals have I enjoyed along side this brew. This is the first time I have tried it in a can though. Not too shabby. I recall the bottled version being a little skunky like a Heineken; I attribute this to the light striking that occurs in the green bottles. Why do they use green bottles?? So, back to the can. This little 3.8% has a light, mellow malt/rice aroma. They use a mash of barley and rice to brew this. The taste is very delicate and smooth with a honey like lager aftertaste. Pleasant surprise. Hops are used just enough to balance the sweetness but do not allow any distinct hop notes. Clone recipe I found calls for Tettnang and Saaz hops. It has a clean, crisp aftertaste and the flavor dissipates quickly. Still...I am not complaining. Goes great with Asian food; especially spicy I think. In fact, I made stir fry tonight just for this beer. I don't know how the distribution is in the rest of the states, but just for the Hell of it, I dare you to try it. Compare the can and the bottle if you are able. Amazing what bottling can change.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Tale of Two ESB's

5 out of 5 Hops...just because

What better excuse to drink two beers than with two interpretations of the same style? Redhook ESB was an early favorite of mine when I began drinking craft beers. It's also one of my go-to beers in a pinch that is readily available here in Washington. Fuller's produces amazing English Beers that are available in the U.S. On to the comparison! ESB stands for Extra Special Bitter, which is a descendant of English Bitter/Pale Ale. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) has guidelines that break down the elements of each beer style. I basically see ESB as an ale with more hop, malt, and alcohol than a Pale Ale. There are more breweries doing ESB's now, but these two have always served as gauges for my comparisons.

First off, my old friend, Redhook ESB. This is a 5.8%, 28 IBU brew. It has a toasted malt nose with light hints of hop. The taste is malty but the moderate bitterness takes over right away. Hops used are "Alchemy Hops"(proprietary blend:Warrior and Millenium?) and Willamette for bittering, Centennial and Crystal for flavor/aroma. Clean finish, malty aftertaste with some hop.

Next is the Fullers ESB from England. This would be the more "original" style, but to each their own. The aroma is more noticeable and has a toffee/candy/fruity smell. Uniquely Yummy. The other Fullers "London Pride" has a similar aroma; yeast, I presume, combined with the grains. The taste is malty delicious and a slight oily finish. The beer has a very full bodied mouthfeel to it..if that makes sense..not watery in texture;thick and chewy. English Hops used are Target (bittering), Challenger(flavor/aroma), Northdown(flavor/aroma), and Goldings(flavor/aroma/dryhop)..same blend as their Bitters but add the Goldings. ABV is 5.9% and IBU is a rumored 35; which is remarkable since the Fullers tastes less hoppy. Definitely an English beer. Carbonation and aroma may seem very foreign at first, but give it a chance.
I won't go so far as to say one is better than the other. Like any style, each brewery interprets. I say try em both and see what you think. Redhook is very common in the West, and Fullers has a large distribution in the US. Let me know what you think!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Sierra Nevada "Celebration" Ale

5 out of 5 Hops

So I decided to close out my short Sierra Nevada fixation with the 2010 Seasonal IPA " Celebration" featuring fresh hops. I sampled these 3 beers in, what I felt, hop strength and flavor order. Celebration is the same IBU's,65, as Torpedo, but yet the hop flavor seems stronger and hangs in the mouth afterwards. No complaints on the lingering flavor of Cascade and Centennial hops in my mouth; both were used at the end of the boil for finishing and then dry-hopped after fermentation. This beer has a toasted,toffee, and citrus festival aroma and is followed up by a brief malty sweet taste, and then engulfed in hops. The hop flavorings are powerful and leave a light oily resin finish. This ale is great to sip and then sit back and enjoy the flavor. The bittering hop for this elixir is Chinook. (For reference, if you have had a Stone Brewing "Arrogant Bastard", they use all Chinook hops for bittering and flavor in that one.) Ok, back on track. Alcohol content is 6.8%, which is very manageable to enjoy a few in one sitting. And again I love the bottle conditioning with bits of yeast in the bottom. I like to leave a tablespoon or so of beer in the bottom, swirl around the yeast to mix and then savor that flavor. Yeah. Thank you Sierra Nevada. Celebration ale is a Fall release beer, so look for it later this year. I do believe the Spring Seasonal "Glissade" Bock style lager is on the shelf now. To your health!!

Sierra Nevada "Torpedo" Extra IPA

5 out of 5 Hops

The joy of Sierra Nevada continues. I decided to build on my previous post for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale by enjoying their "Extra" IPA. Well, it is "Extra" Delicious. The aroma has a fresh, hoppy and herbal smell with a hint of the yeast. I love the bottle conditioning flavor of the extra yeast! Don't let the "Extra" part scare you away you light beer lovers. The IBU for this brew is only 65, which is solid for an IPA, but not too be confused with a Double IPA. Also, the alcohol is at 7.2% ABV, which is higher than the Pale, but not dramatically. The "Extra" term, I believe, refers to the extra hop flavor created by using a unique, stainless "Hop Torpedo" for dry hopping. Mmmm....hop oil resin. This beer delivers a sweet malt taste at first, then the bittering Magnum hops takeover, followed by the finishing hop flavors of Magnum again and Crystal. The dry-hopping is done with magnum, crystal, and citra hops. For me, the flavor of this beer is really complex and each drink brings a different taste to mind. I attribute the hop oils that have mingled after fermentation in the dry-hopping. Either way, this is an amazing IPA bar none. There are "monster hop"/"hop bombs" out there that boast 100+ IPAs, but I don't find myself really enjoying them the way I like Torpedo. So please, please, please try this year round IPA and let me know your thoughts. Prost!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

5 out of 5 Hops

Ok. How could I not review this beer earlier..maybe even first? This, to me, is the granddaddy of allllllll US craft beers. I believe this may have been the very first ale I tasted back in 1993. Created in 1980 in Chico, CA this beer/brewery set a precedent in the beer world along with Anchor Steam Beer in San Francisco...but more about them later. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is widely distributed in the US and I am sure you have seen it on the shelf. If you have not tried it, please, please, please drop everything and get some! This ale is the flagship beer for Sierra Nevada and they have not stopped creating other amazing brews. I will review more of theirs' very soon. So..onto to the beer in hand. Incredible citrus and malt aromas followed by a crisp, balanced bitter flavor. IBU bitterness is a moderate 37, but there is more hop flavor than the number conveys. There is an aftertaste that is clean and bitter, but not overpowering. Hops used are Magnum and Perle for bittering flavor and Cascade for aroma. This beer is also bottle-conditioned which allows the yeast to add to the flavor profile as well. Alcohol is 5.6% and pricing is reasonable. This could easily be an everyday beer for me. Flawless! Cheers!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA

4 out of 5 Hops

What can I say, I am a sucker for IPA's. Iv'e seen this beer around for awhile and heard great things about but had not yet tried it. Glad I did. Its a great tasting, bottle-conditioned IPA. The nose is biscuit-y and citrus-y. Bear Republic uses Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, and Columbus hops...a perfecta of citrus/piney hops. The quantity used are more than sufficient at 75+ IBU. Alcohol presence is a median 7.0%. The taste is hop happy but well balanced with malt sweetness and not overpowering. The mouthfeel was a little thin at first, but the finish is pleasantly oily from the hops and leaves a nice hop taste in the mouth. This beer has won several awards and is a real tasty IPA.I love the fact that this beer is conditioned in the bottle and contains live yeast. Bear Republic seems like a real down to earth brewery from California. I hope to try their Hop Rod Rye soon. I have seen their beers in Albertsons and several other places. Don't fear the yeast! I highly recommend picking up this beer in a 22oz or a 6pack. Cheers Dudes!

The "Perfect" Manhattan

So far, I have only reviewed beers, but now I am in search of the perfect "Perfect" Manhattan. What is a Manhattan, you ask? Well it's more or less a Martini made with Whiskey. But wait...there's more. That is a very simplistic analogy because the Manhattan can be so much more and variations of it are immense. Rumors swirl that the Manhattan was created in 1860 by a bartender named Black or in 1874 at the Manhattan Club. Either way, the basic original is Rye Whiskey, Sweet Vermouth, and Bitters. Today there are several versions and I hope to entice you with a few of my favorites.
To begin, there must be Whiskey. Rye whiskey is harder to find now than in 1874, but purportedly a Canadian Whiskey is a close cousin and will suffice. I have used Canadian in an effort to recreate the original. Makers Mark Kentucky Bourbon made an impact on this cocktail and was actually the first version I ever tried. I say use what you have and what you like. I tend to have bourbon around so I use it. My version today contains Evan Williams Kentucky Bourbon.
Next comes Vermouth. Originally, the drink used Sweet Vermouth only but I like to offset the sweetness by adding equal amounts of Dry Vermouth. Dry Vermouth is what makes this a "Perfect" Manhattan. Vermouths are not expensive and will last you a long time so buy a decent brand besides the generic label. Cinzano and Martini Rossi are good. Most bars will make the original with Sweet only and I its usually too much for me.

So here is today's "Perfect"recipe:

1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Dry Vermouth
4 oz Evan Williams Whiskey
2 dashes Bitters
1 Maraschino Cherry
Add ice and shake all ingredients except cherry. Drop cherry into a martini glass and strain the amber richness into glass. Sip and enjoy.

The Review:
Its good, but it may still be a little heavy on the Vermouth's. My next attempt will be a drier version where I shake both the Vermouths and ice alone, then pour out the liquid, just leaving a flavor on the ice, then adding whiskey and bitters.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bridgeport Brewing "Cafe Negro" Coffee Infused Porter

4 out of 5 Hops

Coffee and Beer?? Wtf, you say? No surprise for me. This is the Northwest and you cannot keep me far from good coffee and I daresay great beer. It's natural around here to combine these beverages. It's like a fleece pullover and cargo shorts all year round; it works for us. Will the Coffee Porter work for you?? If you like Porters and Stout(Porters), then I think you will enjoy. This concoction is courtesy of Bridgeport Brewing in Portland, OR...Oregons' oldest craft brewery they say. They produce many outstanding beers; I just had a pint of their IPA while out last week. Anyhow, the aroma in the glass is a subtle rhapsody of chocolate, coffee, roasted barley, and a hint of flowery hops...Mt Hood, maybe? The first taste rocked my taste buds with roasted coffee and barley. My mind adjusted on the second taste I was really happy with the flavor. To me, dark beers are very manly and this one is a sipper to be appreciated by those who like darkness and balanced bitterness. The aftertaste is dry with a slight coating of the mouth; not complaining mind you. Alcohol level is at 5.5% and the IBUs are at 30. Keep in mind that number may only account for the Hop bitterness units and not include flavors from the roasted barley and coffee added during the conditioning phase of this dark beauty. I like this beer, which may not be surprising...and I suggest enjoying this on a rainy day, snowy day, or anyday for that matter.

Elysian Brewing Company "Mens Room Red" Ale

4 out of 5 Hops

"Hola Bitch Hola!" is the familiar call from a local Seattle afternoon radio talk show called...The Mens Room. It don't get any classier from there. Our local rock station KISW talk show teamed up with Elysian Brewing in Seattle and created this fine red ale you see before you. This is a real decent session beer at 5.6% ABV and a 45 or so IBU. Aroma has a toasted barley note and a wee bit of piney/citrus hop from Chinook bittering and finishing Cascade hops. The taste is balanced and crisp with a medium bodied mouthfeel and a clean dry finish. I would classify this as akin to an Irish Red or a toasted colored Pale ale. Its less sweet than an amber, but more malty than a pale. I think it tastes great as a sit-down with friends brew. I don't get a lot of "remarkable"/"hidden" flavors, but it beats the Hell out of any lite lagers that are mindlessly consumed. Plus, proceeds from this bad boy go to charity; specifically veteran family ones. Bravo to Elysian, who is totally awesome, and the Mens Room, who are not bad for a talk show! Available in 22oz bottles and on tap around Seattle. As they would say, "Party in our tummy"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale 2010

4 out of 5 Hops

So continues my reviews of Winter Beers. Samuel Smith is an English brewery dating back to 1758 and uses a rare and unique fermentation process in stone square vessels. The bottle also features a unique label design for each year; this one quotes the bard, Bill Shakespeare. This is my first tasting of this beer, but I have enjoyed their Oatmeal Stout previously. This winter warmer alcohol level is at a manageable 6.0% ABV, which is on the lower side for a winter beer(works for me). This is also a non-spiced winter beer. Barley, water, hops and yeast only. The aroma is malty and hoppy. First taste has a bit of fruit flavor in it and a clean crisp finish. Hop bitterness is similar to an English IPA/American Pale; not overly hoppy. The hop test for me is letting my wife taste and then look for the "too bitter" and "sour face" head shake. This one passed the test and she likes it too. As I have said before, I am an English Beer fan with malt flavor dominating and lower alcohol levels. I am slowly learning more about the English traditional hops as well. This beer features East Kent Goldings and Fuggles; both common British hops. Carbonation level is also enjoyable. I had the impression British Ales were made with less carbonation than American beers and expected "flat" beer; not the case. So while I truly enjoy this beer, I wonder if it should be labeled a Winter beer. That being said I could drink it all year. Served in singles, my wife got this for me at Central Market in Poulsbo. Cheers, mates!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dogfish Head Chicory Stout

5 Hops out of 5

Well, if you have ever watched an episode of Brewmasters on Discovery Channel, then you know Dogfish Head prides itself on "Off-center beers for Off-center people". Chicory Stout is a good example of this motto. It may not be as extreme as some of the other brews, but it is still unique. If you are a stout fan, then you enjoy some bitterness, coffee, and chocolate flavors, right? Well, add to that list , Chicory Root, Mexican Organic Coffee, St Johns Wort, and Licorice. Whoa! you say? Trust me, they know how to blend ingredients and make it tasty. This is a dark stout with usual coffee notes and bitterness from roasted barley, but add to that a hint of herbal-ness. It works and has a great aroma. Alcohol content is perfect at 5.2% ABV. Additional bitterness and aroma are courtesy of Cascade and Fuggles hops. I picked up a single of this stout at World Market, so I highly recommend you grab a bottle and taste for yourself. Several of Dogfish Head beers are also available there if you are ready for some unique ingredients and tastes. Prost!