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!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

4 out of 5 Hops

Extra is right, Arthur Guinness. This is one bad mamajama, and its a hefty 7.5% ABV. This stout is in your face out the gate with roasted barley and coffee aroma. The taste is initially malty and sweet, but soon turns to a dry, roasted bitterness going down. Looking at some clone recipes for this one I believe the roasted barley and Challenger hops combined comprise the bitterness instead of just hops in other beers. This one is not for everyone. The flavor is darker and bolder than the widget draught bottles or the on-tap beer. Its what I always imagined a Guinness would taste like when I saw it in a glass. The draught version is lighter and creamier with a chocolate hint versus coffee in the FES. This version only recently hit the shores of the US in September 2010. Long overdue, since it has been enjoyed in other parts of the world for many a year. Hopefully the market here supports this one. I like this and I highly recommend picking up a four pack if you like stouts since we don't know if it will stick around. Sláinte!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Half and Half" Harps Lager and Guiness Stout

3 out of 5 Hops

I only gave this combo a 3 out of 5 due to the Guinness bottle. Its really hard to get the right flavor at home without the nitrous pour. I only recently tried a Black and Tan at a pub, but it had Bass Ale versus Harp Lager. I don't know if this is just an American drink or if the Lucky Irish enjoy this as well. My guess is they laugh at this sort of thing. This is also my first taste of Harp Lager. It is a German Pilsener style beer that is light and refreshing. ABV is 5.0% and IBU is at 23.5. Not a bad lager at all. The Guiness is another story. Try as they may, the widgets are just not giving me the draught body and flavor. Oh well. Guinness itself is a great dry stout and calorie count is a low 125, for you dieters. ABV is a meager 4.3 and the taste is decent...just not the same as a bar. To pour a Black and Tan, pour the pale or lager first halfway. Next, pour the Guinness or a large, flat spoon slowly and let it run off the sides. The taste is good. Ale and lager together give this an interesting flavor. Its a nice pour for around the house or to show off for friends. Obviously, the first half is mainly stout and the second half is the lager. Sláinte!

Deschutes Brewery "Jubelale" Winter Beer

4 out of 5 Hops

Deschutes Brewery from Bend, Oregon brews this unique Winter Beer. This beer pours a deep red color with aroma notes of toffee, malt and spice. This is a favorite beverage of mine around Christmas time. It is a relatively low alcohol winter beer at 6.7%. IBU is sitting at 60 which makes this on par with an IPA. The hop flavors are unique and complex. The brewery doesn't list the blend, but a source I found shows Galena, Cascade, Willamette, Tettnanger, and Golding Hops. This is a crazy blend that gives this beer a flowery/spicy taste versus a citrus/piney flavor that many beers such as IPA's and Pales have. I dig it! At this Abv I can actually enjoy a few at one sitting. My only regret is this is only brewed at winter. I recommend trying this in place of your next stout or porter craving. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Elysian "Night Owl" Pumpkin Ale

5 out of 5 Hops

Another awesome brew from Elysian Brewing Company in Seattle. Forgive my local prejudice, but this is an amazing fruit seduced beer. Fruit beers can be a little strange and sometimes too sweet, or no fruit evidence at all. This is Elysians' original pumpkin ale. Each year they brew several versions of pumpkin beers in the fall. I have tried the stout, but I prefer the Night Owl. Their is a spice aroma that is distinctly pumpkin pie minus the baked crust, but not overpowering. Taste is a balanced, lightly hopped, malt flavor with a spice and pumpkin after taste. Several grains are on the bill which would lend to a more complex taste. Hop bill is all Target, which is a dual purpose English style bittering and aroma hop. I love the use of a single hop throughout a brew; typically two or more hops are used for most beers. Single hops give you a chance to fully appreciate its flavor. In a fruit beer, you don't want a highly hopped flavor that would detract from the fruit. IBU is at 20 for this one, which seems low by most hop head standards, but no complaints here! This review is a little late for acquiring this beer, so look out for it later this year.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Widmer Brothers Drifter Pale Ale

4 out of 5 Hops

Widmer Bros "Drifter" is a moderately hopped Pale Ale from Oregon, USA. Aroma is a tasty citrus/orange with malty bread. The taste is toasty/toffee at the front and citrus at the finish. Alcohol level is 5.7% which puts it in the higher session beer category. This beer is enjoyable outdoors ice cold in the bottle as well as in the glass at room temp. I believe Widmer Bros always strives to release quality brews and this is no exception. My wife and I both enjoy this beer and its a great go-to beer in a pinch for a BBQ or Sunday football game on the tube. Its also readily available here in the Northwest. I am really enjoying the malt and mouthfeel of this beer as I write this. Aftertaste is relatively dry and an enjoyable hop flavor. This beer, like all Widmers', feature the proprietary "Alchemy" blend of Warrior, Millennium, and Horizon Hops. Aroma and dry-hopping is courtesy of Summit (citrus/tangerine flavor) and Nelson Sauvin (unique fruity hop). For a large scale production beer, I think they make it consistently delicious. Try one today, six packs on sale often!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fuller's London Pride English Bitter

4 Hops out of 5

Don't let the word Bitter fool you. It's a term for British light ales; not the old "bitter beer face" guy from Keystone. Bitters come in 3 varietys: Ordinary, Special, and Extra Special (ESB). Generally, the amount of increment alcohol level in each of these. This is my first taste of Fullers Bitter, but I have had the ESB before. The aroma has a bread and citrus quality. Taste has touch of fruity tartness and malt. Aftertaste is clean and delightfully bitter in the mouth. This is a great session beer at 4.7% ABV; meaning you can drink several in one "session". I think the Brits have the right idea when it comes to full flavor and low alcohol content. I get overwhelmed by the Hopbomb, high alcohol Pales and IPA's from here in the states. Two pints of those and I am done..lightweight. This beer has a great citrus hop taste and bittering level. The hops are unique to me and I have not knowingly enjoyed them before: Target, Challenger and Northdown varieties. These you can deduce are very "English" hops. My wife enjoyed this one as well, ladies. So I lift my Imperial Pint towards the Union Jack and say "God save the" I love this beer. Stay tuned for a "Tale of Two ESBs" where I compare Fullers ESB and Redhook ESB (a great goto beer thats readily available). Cheers, mates!