Wednesday, April 26, 2006 

Wolaver's Witbier

63 / 100

I don't know why I do it. Hopefully I will remember this in the future: TREAD CAREFULLY NEAR AMERICAN WITS.

I love wits. Wits are one of the more everyday drinking session Belgian ales. Hoegaarden = yum. Almost all American versions of this Belgian classic are not very good (sans Pranqster, Allagash White, and Ommegang's Witte). They miss with the wheat and then get carried away with the coriander. Hoegaarden's use of coriander is so subdued in the refreshing yeasty background. Then there's American versions, like Wolaver's, that smack you in the face with a coriander kick.

Wolaver's Certyified Organic line came about in 2002, an offshoot of the fine of Middlebury, Vermont. Back in Boston, I drank Otter Creek beers regularly, but the Wolaver's imprint is something I've just recently seen on the West Coast.

I felt bad using my Hoegaarden tumbler on this subpar ale. It just didn't hold up.

Monday, April 24, 2006 

De Proef Zoetzuur Flemish Ale

87 / 100

I'm finding that my fondness for sour ales is growing. No sour is better than a proper Flanders Red Ale Sadly, there are few quality high quality ones readily available. The most common available is Duchesse De Bourgogne but my last few have been somewhat disappointing. I was exited to see that my local shop has now added De Proefbrouwerij's beers to it's shelves, especially since it would give me the opportunity to try Zoetzuur.

Zoetzuur pours an amber-red color with a slight pink head. The aroma hints at cherry and the strong Belgian yeast strain, Brettanomyces: a husky, clove-spice flavor. The taste is slightly sweet and tart, as well it should be, with a sour cherry aftertaste. It's sour yet refeshing. The pucker is pleasant.

This is a fine beer - a good bridge for anyone willing to cross the lambic line into more beery Belgians, but not ready for the lose of sweetness.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 

Stoudt's Double IPA

84 / 100

Several months back, I was told by the very helpful and quite friendly owner of Hollingshead Delicatessen in Orange County said that this would likely be the last time I would be able to buy this fine beer in California. Apparently those thousands of miles in between this coast and the brewery in Pennsylvania put it Stoudt’s beers at a disadvantage in the expansive California market in regard to price. When recently searching my favorite local shop, Cap N Cork, I found he was wrong.

I had do the ole rub my eyes thing to be sure I was seeing what I was seeing. There it was: a whole row of Stoudts - something the Cork had never had in the past. Sure enough, the freshness dates on the bottles ensure that these were new and just arrived.

I opened it up and poured it into my snifter. It had a stark, cloudy orange color with a finger head. The hop clobbering aroma was less than I craved but sweeter than I imagined. There were hops there but also roasty malts and sweetness. The taste was slightly fueled with alcohol, at least initially. It let up and had some pine hops and the roasty malts. The sweetness in the background added a nice kick and it got better as it went along. I could have easily polished off another one, but at 10% ABV I decided to hold off.

If you're looking for a great Double IPA, this will do you right.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006 

Fuller's Vintage Ale

81 /100

I picked up 2 bottles of the 2005 edition of Fuller's Vintage Ale back in early December. It comes singularly in an elaborate packaging, complete with box and each individually numbered. Seeing as the one I proceeded to open was # 69817, I no longer felt I was exclusive. Well unless they start numbering around 69000.

Since 1997, Fuller’s have made an annual Vintage Ale. They recommend storing this beer for 3-4 years to reach its peak condition. Without knowing what it tastes like to begin with, there will be no way of judging how well it has aged down the line. Beer enthusiasts recommend getting 2 of any beer that will be cellared: one for now / one after aging. Although it’s been a few months, it hasn’t been too long.

I poured this into a snifter and it looked beautiful – a nice thick caramel color with a ¼ tan head. The aroma was not overbearing. There were malt flavors that came through and hint of sweetness. The taste had a chewy malty backbone with toffee and coffee flavors. A bit of alcohol presence came through, a property that will dissipate with aging. Even still, this is a fine beer and I’m sure it will be even better in a few years.

Monday, April 17, 2006 

Alaskan Smoked Porter

83 /100

I am easily discouraged by smoked beers. Smoked beers or "rauchbiers" came to us from Germany. I'm not the biggest fan, generally. Often the smoking is too intense and it feels like I’m drinking a chimney and oddly enough, I don’t like drinking chimneys. Hesitantly, I try the latest batch, the winter sasonal 2005, of Alaskan Brewing Co’s Smoked Porter.

It pours darks as night, with the slightest tan head. It’s a foreboding darkness in liquid form. The smokiness is evident from the first scent. It’s not subtle but it’s also not intense. Slight maltiness breathes through the powerful smoke. The taste is very unique. Of course, the smokiness is the first thing that hits you: almost a woodstove cedar flavor that could warm a ski lodge. The flavor lingers. It takes a few sips to get find enjoyment, but then it’s a very pleasant porter. This is the finest smoked beer I’ve had. If you fear getting oversmoked like I did, give this a try. It might change your perception.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006 


84 / 100

Ahhhh Sloeber. Sloe drinking a Sloeber. Some things just make sense.

As you see on the left, the Sloeber is doing a little dance and tipping his cap at you as if to say, "C'mon, give it a go!" How could you refuse?

Sadly, my Sloeber didn't dance like that (perhaps I didn't have enough?). The good people at Brouwerij Roman in Mater-Oudenaarde, Belgian are the creators of this delicious pale ale. Like it should, it pours a nice yellow straw color with a faint, crisp head. The aroma is yeasty, but hints of sweetness and tart - part citrus, part sour apple. Quite tasty.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 

Russian River Salvation

85 /100

Thankfully, Russian River Brewing Company just recently bottled another one of its fine beers. Since RR bottle their phenomenal ales so infrequently, this is cause to rejoice. Sadly, the only RR bottle readily available at local liquor shops is Damnation. While Damnation is delicious, I really wish I could get their beers more frequently.

The only place I could find Salvation, and Redemption; their previous bottle release was from the Russian River website itself. The good news is that even with shipping the bottles came out to just over $11 for a 750 mL, money very well spent and the order came quickly.

Salvation, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, was refermented - a second yeast added, when bottled. When poured into the tulip glasses, it had a dark, almost mahogany color. A slight head topped the well laced medium bodied ale. The aroma was big – the yeast shined through with flavors of raisin, banana and clove with the malt background.

The taste has an earthiness to it: it starts fruity than the roasted malt coffee kicks in followed by the subtle oak flavors. It’s very well balanced. This could class with any of the better Belgian Strong Darks: Gulden Draak, Chimay Grand Reserve, etc – something few American made Belgian beers could do.

Russian River suggests, “All in all, this beer could use some bottle age to mellow out.“ I think this is quite delicious right now, but I do have one saved cellaring. Russian River never lead me wrong before.

Monday, April 10, 2006 

Fantôme Saison

97 / 100

Miller High Life proclaims itself, "The Champagne of Beers". Quite a misnomer, I guess the French do have reason to hate us. Were I to point someone in the "Champagne of Beers" direction, the first stop would be the saison and there's none finer than Fantôme Saison.

The bottle top has a wire cage, a traditional cap AND a cork, making it getting to it's sweet nectar that much more rewarding. The cork pops like a champagne bottle and instantly the brilliant aroma hits you. It's sweet and tangy - a pleasant mixture of peach, strawberry and citrus. Very comforting. It pours nicely into the two chalices as the missus and I eagerly await. The murky golden straw color looks nice with it's billowy froth.

The taste too, has a citrus flavor but well balanced with sour notes and apple tang. a hint of coriander and clove fill it out. The body is light and refreshing, the 750 mL split between us two, was not enough. We were sad to see it go.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006 

Avery The Maharaja Imperial Pale Ale

84 /100

I'm of the lot that prefers to call excessively hopped IPAs - "Double IPA". "I2PA" is a trendy way to make it internetty. "DIPA" cuts to the chase. For Avery Brewing Co , with other big beers such as The Czar and The Kaiser have a theme going, only "Imperial" will do.

A seasonal release for the summer, is now available in California's better liquor shops in early April. It pours a dark amber color with a remarkable 2 finger head. It looks glorious. It smells glorious too - full on hops: a great balance of piney and sweet. The taste fills out with a nice, smooth tanginess. It has that bitter bite but is cut with the almost honey resin.

It's very easy drinking for the 9.9% ABV. I was a bit shocked to see it running that high. I've found Avery to be a decent brewery, but there wasn't any beer I'd go out of my way to get. Until now...