I’ll order a Pumpkin full of Bourbon

Posted by Jim on Nov 16th, 2010
Nov 16

Clipper City Heavy Seas The Great’er Pumpkin
An Imperial Pumpkin Ale aged in Bourbon barrels

A / 4.3
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | drink: 4

Poured from a cellar temperature bottle into a Smuttynose Big Beer Series goblet. The beer has a translucent orange color, with notes of brown to give it a slightly tarnished look. A bubbly tan head settled to a skim with a ring of large bubbles at the edges. Tiny carbonation bubbles can be seen within.

This beer smells very good to me. Woodsy bourbon and oak are present, but so is warm pumpkin fruit. There is just a hint of spice mixed in as well. A touch of hot alcohol gives away this aroma as belonging to a strong beer, but otherwise it smells like an appealing pumpkin dish. This is by far the best pumpkin beer aroma I’ve come across.

This beer has an interesting blend of flavors. It’s hard to tell where the pumpkin ends and the bourbon begins. The pumpkin does feel stronger as I first sip, with bold fruit flavors present here. Smokey bourbon and oak move forward as I swallow. Some alcohol burn is present here. Pumpkin spice lingers on after I swallow.

Great’er Pumpkin is a smooth, full bodied beer without too much carbonation. A decent coat is left behind. It has a pumpkin flavor and gives off alcoholic vapors. This warmth is similar to how a sip of bourbon feels going down.

It won’t be difficult for me to finish my glass of this imperial beer. I wouldn’t want to have too many glasses of this in a session, simply because it is so strong. I would like to pick up a few bottles of this next fall to spread out across the season. It’s a very enjoyable beverage. Who would have thought bourbon aging a pumpkin ale would work so well?

Happy 30th Sierra Nevada!

Posted by Jim on Nov 10th, 2010
Nov 10

Tonight we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company at the Great Lost Bear with 10 different SN beers available on draft!  This included all four of the XXX Anniversary limited releases!  To get you (and myself) in the mood, here are my reviews of the first three beers in the series (astute readers will remember that I already posted one of these reviews here, sorry for the repost); my review of the Grand Cru will be posted sometime after tonight’s tasting.  Also, if you are unable to make it to the GLB tonight, all the beers will be flowing again tomorrow as part of the Thursday Night Showcase.

Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary – Fritz and Ken’s Ale

A- / 4.15
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 4

Reviewed from my notes. Served in my Uprising chalice at Novare Res. The beer is super dark with a thick brown foam head. As I drink the beer, a patchy lace of foam is left behind. It has a robust coffee and dark chocolate aroma (does mean it smells like mocha?). There is a great balance of the malts and just a slight bit of grassy hops. Once I sip the beer, I can taste milk chocolate, roasted malts and a bit of alcohol. There is some sweetness, but not too much–it doesn’t taste as sweet as some other RISes I’ve had. The finish features a flavor that reminds me of vanilla beans. I’m interested in how this will age, as it tastes great now. It’s neither too hot nor too sweet, a problem than can affect some fresh imperial stouts. Each mouthful feels thick and creamy. I can also feel the carbonation. The coat that is left behind is top-notch; it’s stick but not too sweet. This beer feels like an important stout. This beer is very drinkable. The alcohol is never an issue. The stickiness may be a bit much for some people, but I’m pairing this beer with a glass of water and that works for me. I think I could easily finish off an entire 750ml bottle of this.

Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary – Charlie, Fred and Ken’s Bock

A- / 4.1
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | drink: 4

Served from a just-tapped keg at the Great Lost Bear; poured into a tulip glass. The liquid is a golden orange/copper color, kind of like a sunrise. There is a good white foam head that is slowly settling. Very little carbonation is rising. It i surprisingly still inside the glass. The bock has a flowery nose, lots of hops and grain. This is a rather cold glass of beer, so I imagine that a bottle pulled from my cellar would have a more impressive nose. This has an interesting flavor. It’s hard to classify. There is a slight alcoholic vinegar blast in the finish that is it’s most striking quality. I use the descriptor vinegar, but I don’t mean it in a bad way. The rest of the flavor has a strong floral taste, lots of pale grain and whole hops. The aftertaste is a bit sweet. It’s pretty interesting. I haven’t had too many bocks, so I don’t really have a frame of reference for this beer, but I am enjoying what I’m tasting. It has a medium body and a thin mouth coat. Carbonation is average. This si a pretty drinkable beer, but the alcohol does come through a bit, which would limit consumption. I think I could finish an entire 750ml bottle myself, but I wouldn’t want more than that. All in all, a great beer to celebrate Sierra Nevada’s anniversary.

Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary – Jack and Ken’s Ale

A- / 4.15
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 4

Served from a cellar temperature bottle into a tulip glass. The beer pours dark and opaque. It’s colored ruby brown. As I pour, a large tan head forms; it is easily 2 inches tall. After a bit of time, the foam is forming into a series of bubbles or various sizes. Looking into the head gives the appearance of Swiss cheese. Very good lacing is left behind as I swirl my glass.

This barleywine has a nice toasted malt aroma. There is a little sweetness, perhaps toffee or caramel. I can detect plenty of plum aromas. There are some nice hops that give off the essence of pine. A bit of alcohol rounds things out and lets you know you are about to sip a strong beer.

The flavor is robust. Roasted malts are present that posses flavors of plum, raisin and a touch of black licorice. Some brown sugar sweetness comes to the front as I swallow. Alcohol flavors the after taste, along with a touch of roasted malts. It is not quite charcoal, but it certainly tastes charred to me.

The mouthfeel is very impressive. The beer is thick and creamy, but not sticky or viscous. The carbonation is crisp. A little bit of sweetness coats my mouth after I swallow, but it doesn’t feel like a large coating. There isn’t any warmth from the alcohol, which is surprising to me, as it id readily apparent in the nose and taste.

I enjoy this ale. It is certainly a sipper. I’m also not upset that I’m splitting this bottle; I could drink it all, but it would take a while. I will savor this bottle, and I have a second aging in my cellar, but I don’t think I will get any additional bottles. Bigfoot, although not for sale right now, will be my SN barleywine of choice.

Chimay Gift Pack

Posted by Jim on Nov 7th, 2010
Nov 7

I tried to make it to Novare‘s Chimay event this afternoon, but I forgot that they had switched to their winter hours; when I showed up at 1, the lights were off and the door was closed.  Oh well…it looks like no Chimay drafts or cheeses for me today.  Luckily, in late October, I picked up a Chimay gift pack from Bootleggers in Topsham.  The box contained a 33cl bottle of each of the regularly available Chimay beers, plus a logo glass.

Chimay Première (Red)

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

A cellar temperature 33 cl bottle poured into a Chimay goblet. A translucent brownish liquid with copper highlights fills my glass. Atop is sits a big head of tan foam. The head settles to a skim. Swirling the beer about leaves an impressive even coat of foam on the sides of the glass. Some small bubbles rise from the bottom.

A sweet malty aroma greets my nose as I inhale. I can discern sweet plums, Belgian yeast, and a bit of molasses. It smells very much what I expect this style to smell like.

The flavor isn’t very sweet, but I do taste a lot of molasses and brown sugar flavors. There is also some plum and raisin. The finish has that characteristic Belgian funky bite to it; it’s a flavor that is alcoholic and not quite vinegary, slightly tart, and catches your attention. I remember it being strong in the Cuvee Van De Keizer Blauw; it isn’t that strong here, but very noticeable.

This is a full bodied beer. It leaves a mildly sticky coat that has a lot of molasses and plum flavors contained within. Carbonation is at above average levels.

I find this beer to be easily consumed. In the past I’ve worked my way through the 750ml large format bottles’ I wish this was one of those times. I’ve never grown tired of this beer. All of the flavors work well together and keep me coming back for more. This is an exceptional beverage; we’re lucky that it is as available as it is.

Chimay Trippel (White)

A- / 4.25
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | drink: 4

Poured from a cellar temperature 33 cl bottle into a Chimay goblet. The beer has a tarnished gold color and a pure white head. The head is made up of tiny white bubbles and was about two fingers in height, although it has slowly settled. Some lacing is left behind. A noticeable amount of carbonation is rinsing from the bottom of the glass.

This triple has a very nice aroma. There is a lot of orange peel. A hint of spice mixes with the Belgian yeast to provide a crisp scent. Crystal sugar provides a bit of sweetness.

The flavor is characterized by a subtle sweetness and a mild peppery kick. A little bit of alcohol is present; it is more noticeable after I swallow. Flavors of lemongrass are also apparent.

This beer has a full body and a lot of carbonation. There are so many bubbles that if I hold onto a mouthful before swallowing, it foams up without me swishing it around. It isn’t a sticky beer, and the coating is slight–both impressive aspects. The foaming is kind of off-putting though, hence a lower score.

Despite this foaminess, I will easily finish my glass. The spices aren’t overpowering and are easily consumed. This isn’t my go to triple, simply because there are local Belgian style versions that I prefer, but for an authentic Trappist version, this is a great example.

Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue)

A+ / 4.75
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 5

Poured from a cellar temperature 33 cl bottle into a Chimay goblet. The beer has a dark brown color; It is to dark for any light to penetrate. The head is about a finger in thickness and composed of egg shell colored foam. Fairly even lacing is left behind as I swirl the glass about.

The aroma is very interesting. Slightly sweet, it reminds me of a red, velvety candy. There is some molasses. Aspects remind me of ginger snap cookies, although I would say that there is any ginger in the nose. There is only the slightest bitterness, but a grassy aroma is present. A hint of the alcohol is also hidden in the mix.

A smooth, prune and plum like flavor greets my tongue as I sip the beer. A bit of molasses is also apparent. The finish is crisp and effervescent. It has that neat twist that the Chimay yeast provides which has none of the mustiness Belgian yeast strains often impart on a beer. It is an all-around exception strong dark Belgian flavor.

The Blue has a medium body and a lot of carbonation. The bubbles are not distracting, but can certainly be felt, especially if you hold the beer on your tongue briefly before swallowing. A coat is left behind, but it isn’t sticky or thick; it is much less intense than other 9% ABV beers.

For such a strong beer, this is incredibly drinkable. I don’t think I would have much of a problem if this were a 75 cl bottle. There is a reason this beer is so highly regarded. If you haven’t had this beer before, you owe it to yourself to check it out.