Getting a Beer Education

Posted by Jim on Feb 25th, 2010
Feb 25

I attended my first Beer.EDU session at Brunswick’s Lion’s Pride last night.  It was a very fun experience.  I got to trade tasting notes and beer stories with another local beer blogger, Katy Too.  I got to hear about some crazy plans Chris Lively has brewing (beer-world-shattering, I-wish-I-could-share-with-you-but-he-swore-me-to-secrecy plans that should be made public over the next few months).  I got to trade Kate the Great Day strategies with the staff and my fellow patrons.  Most importantly, I got to try five incredible Belgian beers, as guided by Ryan’s tasting and general beer knowledge, all in preparation for the Lion’s Pride’s Belgian Beer Fest, which is now just over a week away!  I got a sneak peek at the promotional poster and an updated draft list; both have gotten me very excited for this event.

I was served five 6 ounce pours.  I tried to take review worthy notes of each pour, but there was a lot of information coming at me quickly, so these reviews may not be as in-depth as I am used to writing.  Luckily for me, all five beers are worthy of revisiting, so I may get to  flesh out these reviews at some point.

Urthel Saisonnière

A- / 4.05
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 4

Reviewed from my notes. I was served a 6oz pour in a small wine glass. The kegged version of this beer has been filtered, but the bottles are unfiltered. It possesses a light straw color with a head of white soapy foam. Some pretty lacework was left behind as I enjoyed my pour. It has a strong yeast aroma with a hint of citrus; typical of the style, but of a high quality. The flavor is slightly biscuit-like, but has some sweetness to it as well. There is a slight tartness in the finish that is rather interesting. I could taste some peppery spices as well, but they were subtle. The body is a bit heavier than I expected, based upon the transparent appearance. That’s not to say it’s a heavy beer–I still classify it as light bodied–but it is not as light as I thought it would be. It has a perfect level of mouthcoating. I find it to be quite drinkable. I don’t see myself sticking with this one particular beer for multiple rounds, but I will enjoy this glass very much.

Bink Blond

B+ / 3.95
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | drink: 4.5

Reviewed from my notes based upon a 6oz pour served in a small wine glass. The beer sits in its glass like a yellow cloud with a thin cap of white bubbles. There is a slight yeast aroma to it, plus a hint of grass. I can’t smell much here, but that could be my fault, not the beer’s. It has a sweet and smooth flavor. I can pick out candy sugar as the source of the sweetness. The finish is dry with a slight peppery bite. The body of the beer is rather light, and I can feel plenty of carbonation tickling my tongue. There is very little in the way of a mouthcoat. I find ti to be very drinkable. The slight aftertaste may get old after a while, but I doubt it.

De Ranke Guldenberg

A- / 4.25
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | drink: 4.5

Reviewed from my notes, as based upon a 6oz bottle pour. The beer has a cloudy, dirty straw color, making it rather opaque. There is a thick head of white foam. There is a musty, slightly floral aroma; it’s a good balance of yeast and hops. The taste is crisp and dry. I can taste white grapes and a hint of alcohol. There is a musty and bitter finish that echoes the aromas picked up as a swallowed. It has a light body and an appropriate amount of carbonation for a tripel. There is a very slight coat left after each swallow. Swishing the beer around in my mouth produces a bit more of a coating, but nothing significant. It is a very drinkable tripel. This exagerated taster pour goes down very easily, and I could certainly continue and finish off the entire bottle. This is a beer worth seeking out.

Caracole Nostradamus

A- / 4.2
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | drink: 4

Reviewed from my notes. I was served a 6oz pour from a chilled, freshly opened bottle. The beer has a dark copper color. t is translucent and has a thin tan head that dissipated quickly. After a few minutes there was hardly any head left. There is a robust caramel aroma. I am also picking up on some slight pine tones as well. The beer has a sweet flavor, but nothing overwhelming or indicative of the higher ABV. I found this up front malt quality to be very good, but was incredibly impressed with the finish. There is a slightly sour taste in the finish and after taste. It is reminiscent of a Flemish Brown. I found it to be totally unexpected and very tasty. For a strong dark ale, there is a rather light body to this beer. It also has a lot of carbonation, but not enough to distract from the flavor. There are some welcome estery alcohol vapors in my mouth after I swallow. As I seem to find many Belgian beers, this one is very drinkable. I can see the sour aspects being a limiting factor for some drinkers, but personally, I could go for multiple rounds.

t’ Smisje Great Reserva

A- / 4.2
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | drink: 4

Reviewed from my notes. The notes are based upon a 6oz pour from one of a trio of bottles shared among the patrons of the Lion’s Pride last night. The Great Reserva is a version of the Catherine the Great aged for six months on cognac barrels. It has a dark brown color and a single finger of light brown foam. It is translucent, with a very dark center, but I can see some light sneaking in around the edges. It is most important to note that this does not look at all like I expected a big barrel-aged stout to look. Smisje can make a world class stout that doesn’t look anything like it’s American counterparts. There is a slightly funky, sweet smell. I didn’t pick up on as much of the cognac as I thought I would. The flavor has some sweet toffee malts. I can taste some of the cognac, but again, it’s not excessive. The amout of alcohol is very good and doesn’t overwhelm or distract. It has a medium body (again, not like most big stouts I’m familiar with) and medium carbonation. There is plenty of alcohol and carbonation in each swallow to tickle my tongue. It doesn’t have much mouthcoating; it is more of a cloud of estery vapors that I can feel after I swallow. I certainly wouldn’t call this a session beer, but for a high ABV Belgian stout aged in cognac barrels, it is remarkably drinkable. If you are lucky enough to see a bottle of this beer, buy it!

In other news, I’ll find myself back at the Lion’s Pride again tonight, for Gank the Goblet night featuring Maine Beer Company‘s Spring Peeper Ale.  I think I may also have to order myself a glass of the Kasteel Cuvée Du Chateau, this Belgian brewery’s take on the English barleywine.  This is one of the rare draft selections advertised as part of the Belgian Beer Fest, but since it’s available now, I want to get a glass.  Also worthy of your attention are two beer events taking place in Portland tonight.  Novare will be hosting folks from Unibroue and pouring some rare selections (check out the list, posted at Beer Bloggers) and the Great Lost Bear will have special pricing on Brooklyn Beers, including the Manhattan Project, one of my favorite new beers.

A New List to Ponder

Posted by Jim on Feb 17th, 2010
Feb 17

At some point in the past month, Novare Res created a new challenge for those of us who bested the list of 200 beers to try.  Now, in addition to having a personalized, engraved chalice (as well as the envy of beer needs far and wide), each member of the Uprising gets access to a special new car.  This VIP club, as it is known, features a list with 100 blank spaces, to be filled in by bottles and occasional draft pours of some of the rarest and finest beers Novare has on offer.  In fact, there is a special bottle list that only VIP club members have access to.  There is no prize for complete the card, but really, isn’t the additional beer education reward enough?  Also, there is no cost to join!  Once you’ve finished the Uprising challenge, all you do is have to ask to join the VIP club.  Right now, the VIP club is only being advertised via word-of-mouth but I figured I should give it a bit of an endorsement with a blog post (I hope there aren’t Fight Club style rules about it).

I joined the club this past Sunday, after learning about it from my fellow beer advocate Matt.  I didn’t copy down the entire list of exclusive bottles, but I know it contained all three of the De Proef collaboration beers (with Tomme Arthur, Jason Perkins and John Mallett), the Froach 20th Anniversary beer, Black Albert and Mikkeller Cascade Single Hop IPA.  In the future, more bottles will be added, and as the stock dwindles, some bottles will be removed from the list.  There is also the possibility of special draft selections being part of the VIP club, but it appears the focus of the club is for Eric to share some special bottles with a group of loyal customers who mainly drink the draft list. [if you had a 20 oz chalice, wouldn’t you stick to drafts as well?]  I’m excited to get back and try some more special bottles; I’ve been on the lookout for the Froach 20th Anniversary beer since I first heard of it a few months back.  I don’t know the policy of splitting big bottles from the list with non-VIP members, but if you see me at Novare and want to test the rules, just let me know.

I had already had a few rounds (there was a beer and chocolate pairing going on at the time of my visit), so I decided to inaugurate my card with a 12 oz seelction, the aforementioned Mikkeller Cascade.  Also that day, I reviewed a few other choice beverages, including what my be my favorite Cantillon selection, the St. Lamvinus.

Mikkeller Cascade Single Hop IPA

A- / 4.2
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | drink: 4

Poured from a chilled bottle into my Uprising chalice at Novare Res. It has an opaque, dark orange appearance. There is a thin white head. There is no visible carbonation, but it is a dark beer, so any rising bubbles may be hidden from view. The aroma is surprising. I can smell sweet malts and some fruity hops. They work very well together. It has a crisp, dry bitter flavor. It’s very hoppy! It starts out bitter, then bitter flavors return anew in the finish. Not surprisingly, there is a bitter aftertaste as well. It actually tastes slightly creamy at first. It has a world class level of flavor. It has a lighter medium body. It’s hard to tell if the tickle I feel on my tongue is due to the carbonation or the bitter hops. It feels good either way. I find it to be very drinkable for a bitter beer. I wouldn’t want an entire 4/6 pack, but I could easily finish this bottle. With just these 12 ounces, I won’t get tired of the bitter hops.

Wintercoat Mols Øl

B+ / 3.9
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | drink: 4

Reviewed from my notes. Hand pumped from a cask at Novare Res. The beer is a deep purple color with a soapy tan head. I am watching the head dissolve in front of me. There is some rising carbonation. It has a great cask beer look. I am not picking up much in the way of an aroma, just some slight woodsy notes. I can detect flavors of rye, plum, whiskey and a bite of alcohol. There may be some juniper in the mix as well. It’s a very complex beer. It has a medium body and not a very significant mouth coat. As for carbonation…let’s say if a beer with a lot of carbonation was like a huge mountain range, the Mols Øl is like some rolling hills; it’s not a flat beer, but it isn’t that difficult stomach [I’m not sure that analogy makes much sense now, but when I wrote it in my notebook I thought it was a good comparison]. This beer is not exactly what I was expecting from a Danish casked beer. The spices and complexity makes it hard to drink fast–I want to give each sip a lot of attention–yes it is still pretty drinkable.

Cantillion Saint Lamvinus

A+ / 4.55
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 5

Reviewed from my notes. Review based upon two 4 ounce pours I had, each served in a tiny wine glass at Novare Res’ Valentines Day beer and chocolate pairing. The beer has an opaque plum/cranberry hue. There is no head or visible carbonation. It is a beautiful looking beer. It has a great fruity, funky aroma. It is slightly champagne-like. A mildly sweet fruit flavor is the first thing I taste. Tartness kicks in as I swallow and lingers briefly. I am definitely tasting wine-like flavors (red grapes, mostly), but all in a great funk wrapper. It’s delicious. It has a crisp, dry light body. The tingly funk feeling is a great substitute for the carbonation bubbles you can usually feel in beers. There is a slight mouth coat. For a sour beer, this is amazingly drinkable. It really isn’t all that sour. I wish I had a bigger pour! It is definitely a sipper, but extremely enjoyable. Personally, I can’t see myself ever getting tired of this beer. It is near perfect.

Sebago Frye’s Leap IPA

B+ / 3.8
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | drink: 4

Reviewed from my tasting notes. Served at the Old Port Sebago location in a logo glass. The beer has a translucent, tarnished orange color. There is a thin head made of white soap bubbles. I can see lots of carbonation rising within. It’s aroma is earthy and has scents of grassy hops. It is not an overpowering smell. The beer tastes like a mouthful of hops. There is sweetness, citrus and lots of bitterness. The bitter flavor stay on long after I’ve swallowed. It’s body is lighter and feels slightly watery. It does have a good mouthcoating–a fine layer of sweet and bitter flavors/feelings. The carbonation compliments the bitter flavors. I find this to be a pretty drinkable beer, especially for a bitter IPA. The bitterness may prove to be too strong after a while, but this single pint drinks very well. A solid, reliable, local IPA that is worth revisiting.

Bonus review from a Monday afternoon tasting: Nøgne-ø/Jolly Pumpkin/Stone Special Holiday Ale

A / 4.3
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 4.5

Poured from a cellar temperature bottle into a Gouden Carolus chalice. It has a dark ruby/brown color, almost like a glass of cola. There is a modest tan foam head that settled down to a skim of foam. No light can penetrate through the sides of the glass, but near the top of the beer some light filters through and I can see bubbles rising to the top. The aroma can be classified and spiced malt. I am picking up nutmeg, sweet candy and a bit of juniper. It’s very interesting. It has a big roasted malt flavor. You can taste the rye a bit of the nuttiness from the chestnuts. It also has a touch of warm alcohol that lingers on, along with some forest-like flavors (probably the juniper I picked up in the nose) and finishes up with a slight coffee bitterness. I was surprised at how thick this beer was when I first tasted it. I rolls around your mouth and doesn’t want to leave once you’ve swallowed. It has the kind of body that demands respect and attention. It is hearty enough to earn the name winter warmer. Despite the big body and flavors, I find the beer to be quite drinkable. At no point do the spices overwhelm, nor does the ABV. This is an ideal beverage for a long winters night. Highly recommended!

The Best Rings Not Made from Onions

Posted by Jim on Feb 11th, 2010
Feb 11

Nothing says “Olympics” like the worlds largest dinosaur statue.  See this and other photos of the torch relay at

Rugged Trail Nut Brown Ale

Posted by Jim on Feb 10th, 2010
Feb 10

Tröegs Rugged Trail Nut Brown Ale

B- / 3.35
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drink: 4

Poured from a cellar temperature bottle into a pint glass. There is no freshness date on the bottle, but I’ve had it for a number of months, so it may be past its prime. The beer is a very dark brown; not as dark as dark chocolate, but close to that. There was a modest head of tan bubbles that quickly settled to something that’s less than a skim of foam, just a few small bubbles and a little foam lacing, but I can see bare spots as well. Swirling the beer around gives a minimal amount of lacing. There’s a little sweet malt in the nose; maybe some raisin; and some warm, toasted grain. All of the aromas are very slight though. The beer has some sweet malt flavor up from to compliment the aroma. This gives way to a nutty, biting flavor. At first I thought it was an off taste; but after taking a few more sips, I like it. The flavor is a bit watery for my tastes, and I’m the first to say that I’m not a big fan of brown ales, but I like this one. This beer has a light body, but it is also complex. The watery flavor makes it feel light at first, but the robust, nuttiness in the finish gives the beer some punch as you swallow. Very little mouthcoating, just a hint of sweetness can be found if you go looking for it. This beer drinks very easy. I can’t think of any real objections, other than it’s not a challenging beer. The Rugged Trail will never command your full attention, but would be great to drink whilst engaged in other activities.

In other news: 500th post! Woo!

A near perfect meal

Posted by Jim on Feb 9th, 2010
Feb 9

Nissa and I took advantage of locals night at the Lion’s Pride yesterday.  The special pricing includes $12 for a large plate of shrimp scampi or generous cut of prime rib.  I guess it’s called locals night because not many tourists are still in Brunswick on Mondays.  We drove up from South Portland for the meal, and I certainly found it to be worthwhile.  It’s amazing to me that more people aren’t taking advantage of this offer.  I know we are all experiencing tough economic times, but if you are able to afford a meal out, this should be near the top of your list.  The steak I ordered was very tasty.  It had been way too long since I ordered a piece of prime rib.  I wouldn’t say that the cut I had last night is better than the sirloin tips that are always on the menu, but I am still very happy with my choice.  As soon as Nissa and I decided to have dinner here, I was picturing what find beer I would order to accompany my meal.  For me, it was a no-brainer: a glass of Pannepot Old Fisherman’s Ale.  This s one of my favorite beers.  It’s high cost and rarity makes it a special occasion beer for me, and this nice dinner seemed like a good opportunity to order one.  here’s my impression of this terrific brew.

Pannepot Old Fisherman’s Ale

A+ / 4.65
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 5

Reviewed from my tasting notes. Served in a snifter at the Lion’s Pride. The beer is colored a very dark shade of brown; it is too dark too see anything through it except for a faint glow caused by a bright light. There was a small head of tiny tan bubbles It quickly settled to skim of foam. There was a little bit of lacing left by the settling, but a great amount of lacing occurred as I began to drink the beer. The Old Fisherman’s Ale smells nothing like an old fisherman. It is mainly sweet, with plenty of spices. I think I can detect aromas of clove and date, but identifying smells is one of my weak points, so I can’t do this aroma justice. I find it be very pleasant and a perfect compliment to the amazing flavor this beer possesses. I taste plums and dates. It is a bit sweet, but not as sweet as other Quads and high alcohol brews. In fact, there is just a hint of alcohol, mostly in the finish. You can feel and taste it evaporating after you swallow. For a spiced beer, this is taste perfection. The body is of medium consistency, while the level of carbonation is on the lighter side. There is some mouth coating, but it is very slight. It is not syrupy or sticky; as I described above, it feels like it is just a thin layer of alcohol the pleasantly disappears. This is especially impressive, considering the strength and style of this beer. This quality mouthfeel lends itself to making Pannepot incredibly drinkable. The spices never get overwhelming. If you order a glass of this, or pop open a bottle, you could sip it slowly for a long time, or just as easily, you could order round after round. The alcohol never impedes the drinkablity (the Old Fisherman’s Ale is dangerous that way). I would drink this beer all the time, if it wasn’t so rare (and expensive). It’s an exceptional product that I can easily call my favorite Quad.

The Lion’s Pride always has a bunch of posters up advertising upcoming events and specials, so I was surprised when I saw an announcement on their blog that was not advertised in the restaurant.  The week spanning March 5 through the 13th is the date of the Lion’s Pride First Annual Belgian Beer fest.  Beer nerds far and wide know the reputation of the Belgian Beer festival held annually at Ebenezer’s (the Lion’s Pride’s sister location), so to have a similar event this close to home is something to be very excited about.  Chris, the host of these events, is always very generous with the rare beers he offers to those lucky folks who make the pilgrimage to the event, and this one looks to be no different.  The blog has a number of beers listed, but the event listing at Beer Advocate actually has a bit more information, so I’ll copy that list for you to look over:

On Draught:
A whole bunch of Allagash Goodies will be on draught
De Dolle Mad Bitch Oct.2009
DeDolle Stille Nacht 2007
Tsmije Plus
Tsmije Tripel
Tsmije Kerst
Tsmije Catherine The Great
Tsmije Wostyjte
Tsmije BBB (CASK)
Oude Beersel Framboise
Oude Beersel Unblended Lambic
Pannepot 2007
Tsjeeses 2008
De Glazen Toren Jan De Litche
De Glazen Toren Saison De Epmere
De Glazen Toren Canister
Cuvee De Angelique
Konnenings Hoeven Quad
Chimay Tripel
Cantillon Gueuze
Cantillon Cuvee De Champions 02-03
Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek 2006
Cantillon Vigeronne
La Trappe Brother Isdor
Abbey ST Bon Chien 2006
Abbey ST Bon Chien 2007
Abbey St Bn Chien 2008
BFM Le Muele
BFM Toriple
Brooklyn Flemish Gold
St. Bernardus
And a few other rather interesting things being poured as well 😉

It’s easy to be excited about everything on that list.  Considering that something as amazing as Koningshoeven Quad is the low point (as in, easiest to acquire outside of this event) , I don’t know how a beer fan could not be incredibly excited about this event.  I find it too hard to even list the stand-outs—they are all stand-outs.  But on March 5 I’ll have to decide what to drink first, so based upon what information I have now, I think I would have to order a Kabert.  Don’t go looking for a beer Advocate listing for Kabert, you won’t find it, this beer is too rare.  It’s a special blend of Portsmouth’s Kate the Great and De Struisse’s Black Albert.  Is it possible for two of the greatest beers on Earth to be made even better?  I’ll let you know on March 5th.