Spring Snows Yield Great Treasure

Posted by Jim on Mar 16th, 2012
Mar 16

The transition from February to March brought a rather significant snow storm to much of Maine. As a dedicated beer fan, particularly when it concerns Maine beers and especially when it is the first ever limited bottle release from Maine Beer Company, I ventured out into the snow early that Thursday morning to ensure I got myself a bottle of Thank You Allan. Two weeks later, I’ve decided it is time to try this ale that I risked my safety for.

Maine Beer Company Thank You Allan
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5
This is bottle #9, it has been in my cellar since the release two weeks ago. As I tried to open the bottle, the twist tab on the cage broke—something that has never happened to me before. I was able to remove the rest of the cage with a butter knife and then pop the cork. I’m pouring it into a Maine Beer Company glass.

The beer is golden and clear, with highlights of orange. Lots of carbonation was clinging to the walls of the glass initially, but it dissipated. There is still plenty of carbonation rising from the bottom. The head was a finger thick layer of pure white bubbles. It has settled to a lacy skim.

The nose has a distinct funk to it. It is more lambic-like than something one would find in a farmhouse ale. There are also aspects of white wine, giving it the overall aroma of white grapes. A slight sweetness, reminding me of powered sugar, lingers in the back.

The flavor has a great mixture of hoppy bitterness and wild yeast sourness. At first it is a slightly sweet pale ale flavor, but wild yeast’s flavors quickly make themselves known. Like the nose, traits of white grapes abound. Fruity hops are mostly tasted in the finish. The beer doesn’t taste as hopped as Lunch, Peeper or MO, but if my memory is correct, it is hoppier than Mean Old Tom. Mild bitterness and a slight musty flavor linger on after swallowing.

This beer provides plenty of tingling sensations. Well after I’ve swallowed, my tongue still feels the ghosts of the carbonation bubbles. I’m sure the sensations are heightened by the sourness of the beer. The body is of medium strength…perhaps slightly fuller than I expected. Carbonation is at above average levels. A slight feeling of a coat is on my lips, but not real physical coat remains inside my mouth.

I like this beer. It’s an interesting wild ale with plenty of hops and not too much sourness. I’m glad I opened the bottle while the hops were still fresh and strong, but I imagine the other flavors would still be quite enjoyable with some time on them. This beer has probably sold out and its unlikely many people will get to try it, but hopefully MBC keeps this barrel-aging program up. I know that I would risk another drive out to the industrial park in a snowstorm for their next special release.

A second, bonus review…

Peak Organic IPA

look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
Cellar temp bottle poured into a pint glass.

A: Translucent copper orange body with little rising carbonation but a good sized head of light brown bubbles. Good lacing.

S: Big grapefruit hops make up the aroma. There is some earthiness and mustiness mixed in as well.

T: Lots of hops in the flavor profile. Begins grassy, gets piney and ends up oily and bitter. Tastes like there is a fairly high IBU count to this beer, but perhaps it’s just because the malts are minor compared to the hops. Either way, I like it.

M: My lips are left slightly sticky, and there is a decent mouthcoat that has bitter flavors.

O: I like this beer a lot; it’s probably my favorite beer Peak makes. Too bad it isn’t available year-round. I’ll have to seek it out again next time spring rolls around.

Old Friends

Posted by Jim on Mar 10th, 2012
Mar 10

Avery/Russian River Collaboration Not Litigation Ale

look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5
This a bottle from batch #2 (2008). I purchased it in August of 2009 and it has been in my cellar since then. I am serving it in my Smuttynsoe tulip at cellar temperature.

The beer is a translucent dark copper color. It appears nearly brown until I shine a light through it. Lots of carbonation can be seen within, both clinging to the walls of the glass and rising to the surface. On top is a finger or so of tan and pink foam. Swirling the glass leaves a filmy coat and patchy foam.

The beer smells fairly sweet, with lots of dark Belgian candi sugar. I am also getting some dark fruits, like raisin and plum. There may be a bit of oxidation, but it isn’t very strong.

The first thing I taste is a big mouthful of raisins. Dark malts (perhaps a measure of them have been roasted?) form a strong base, but I feel that the residual sweetness is mostly from the candi sugar. Hardly any bitterness, just some grassy and coffee notes as I swallow. The finish is musty and only a touch alcoholic. Was this beer a little hot when fresh? The flavor isn’t prefect, but still very enjoyable.

The beer is thick and strongly carbonated. My lips are left sticky and every part of my mouth feels coated. It contains a dry sweetness and a touch of the musty yeast.

This is a fine ale; I’m glad I got to try it. I’m not sure it has improved with the years I’ve been sitting on it, but it was a fun experiment. I’d certainly drink this one again, as it appears that it is still in production.

Two Doubles

Posted by Jim on Mar 3rd, 2012
Mar 3

Sixpoint Resin Double IPA

look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4
A chilly tall, narrow can is poured into a glass mug. There is a best by date of 30 July 2012 stamped on the bottom. Thanks to smakawhat for sending me this one!

The beer is darker than some other DIPAs I’ve had the pleasure of drinking; it’s somewhere between a brown ale and an amber. A uniform head of tan foam rest on top. It was a small head as I poured the beer, but it filled out at the end. It’s now two fingers in size. Good lacing rings are left behind as I work through the beer.

A strong hop aroma greets my nose as I inhale. Citrus notes dominate. There is a touch of malt sweetness at the back end to balance things out, but obviously, this one is all about the hops.

This is a big bitter beer. The hops keep going and going. It feels like it is more bitter after I swallow—maybe my tongue just needed to catch up. The hops have some citrus and pine qualities and there is plenty of oil. A slight taste of alcohol is there, but the hops generally mask it. Some malt sweetness can be tasted, to remind you this is a double ale.

The beer is thick and sticky, like many beers of this caliber. Carbonation feels average, possibly slightly low. The hops don’t tingle my tongue as much as I thought they would; perhaps all of the oils dull that sensation.

This is an interesting DIPA. It’s not my favorite example of the stye, and I don’t think it’s going to challenge Pliny and Heady for the top spots, but I’m glad I was able to get a pair of cans. The 103 IBU’s are nothing to laugh about. Resin is recommended to any hop head.

Lagunitas Cruising With Ruben & The Jets Double Stout

look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5
This is a cellared bottle I’ve had since August, 2009. I’ve poured it into my Lion’s Pride tulip.

The beer is opaque and colored dark brown. Small spots of ruby are visible where the light makes its way through the liquid. A thin head of tan foam formed as I poured the beer, but now it has settled to a mere skim. Swirling the glass leaves plenty of film and patchy foam on the sides, but the head itself doesn’t reform. Streams of carbonation can be seen rising to the top, but only near the top and right at the sides of the glass.

The beer still has plenty of big chocolate notes in the aroma. There is still some alcohol discernible. Also present is a scent that recalls dark fruits, like plum. It is still an enticing aroma 2+ years after bottling.

The flavor is still good as well, although no longer too complex or robust. Chocolate, raisin, coffee bitterness and alcohol are all present. There isn’t too much sweetness, although you can still tell this is a malt forward beer. There is also still a roasted aspect, but it is minor. I can taste it as the beer first hits my tongue, but it doesn’t last long.

The beer is full-bodied and has medium carbonation levels. The bubbles still manage to tickle my tongue. A pretty good layer of stickiness is left on my lips, but the internal coat isn’t too thick.

This stout is enjoyable, but it is probably past its peak at this point. I never drank it fresh, so I can’t know for sure. If you have a bottle in your cellar, I’d recommend opening it soon. If you never were able to try it, don’t go looking for a bottle now.

Getting to know MO

Posted by Jim on Mar 1st, 2012
Mar 1

Maine Beer Company MO (Madeline & Oliver) Pale Ale
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4
I picked up this bottle today from Downeast Beverage in Portland. It wasn’t even on the shelf yet, I had to pull it out of the delivery box. It was bottled on 2.23.12, or possibly 2.28.12, it’s hard to tell, but it seems unlikely that it left the brewery a mere 24 hours ago. The bottle was at room temperature, so I chilled it in the fridge for about 15 minutes before pouring into my MBC glass.

The beer looks ot be strongly carbonated with a very large white foam head that fills the top third of my glass. The body is a clear tarnished gold liquid with plenty of tiny bubbles rising within. Widespread patchy lacing is left behind as the head recedes.

There is a very nice hop aroma on this beer. Big earthy, pin hops smells dominate. I can tell this is one fresh beer.

MO has a pretty decent pale ale flavor. Pine flavored hops are the strongest taste; it gives me the impression of twigs and pine cones. The hops aren’t too oily, but there is a lingering bitterness that isn’t sitting right with me. It doesn’t taste off or anything like that, it’s just not what I was expecting. I guess I would prefer a crisper finish. Still, it is very tasty brew.

Although medium-bodied, the beer feels a touch watery to me. The large amount of hops make me want a meatier beer. Carbonation levels are good.

I like this beer. Although similar, it is distinctly different than Peeper. This is hoppier than a lot of pale ales…it’s close to an IPA. Fans of MBC won’t be disappointed with this new product. IF you’ve enjoyed their other offerings, I recommend you give MO a shot as well.

It’s a Trappist

Posted by Jim on Feb 4th, 2012
Feb 4

Westmalle Trappist Dubbel

look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
Since I don’t own a Westmalle glass, I’ve poured my cellar temperature 33cl bottle into a Chimay chalice.

The beer is nearly opaque. It has a brown color with ruby highlights. A decent amount of pinkish tan foam rests on top. Swirling the beer leaves a good amount lacing.

Smelling the beer reveals Belgian candi sugar and some dark fruits, like plum and fig. The Trappist yeast provides some spiciness, but it is mild.

Dark, complex malts characterize this beer. It’s earthy, nutty and like the aroma has some flavors of plum and fig. This bottle is labeled best by 27.05.12, so it’s close to two years old and I believe it may have become slightly oxidized. It is still quite tasty though.

The beer leaves behind decent coating that is very flavorful. Carbonation levels are average and it has a full body. My lips feel ever so slightly sticky.

I really like this beer a lot. It’s a fine example of a true Belgian Abbey dubbel. If you’ve never had this beer, you are missing out!

Not All Scotsmen are Bastards

Posted by Jim on Feb 1st, 2012
Feb 1

Founders Backwoods Bastard
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
A bottle that’s been stored in my chilly basement is poured into a pint glass.

The beer is translucent and colored a dark, dull shade of ruby. It is nearly brown. A light brown foam head rests on top. It’s a thin head but it clings to the walls of the glass rather well.

There is a good amount of bourbon in the aroma. This scent compliments the peat, oak and roasted malts in the base beer. It is rounded out by s light sweetness. The bourbon may be a bit heavy, but overall its an appealing aroma.

Where the bourbon in the nose was strong, its more subtle when I taste the beer. Typical Wee Heavy flavors dominate. Toffee and plum provide some sweetness. Oak and peat are strong flavors. As I swallow, alcohol and bourbon are present, but it doesn’t burn. In fact, it isn’t even as warming as I expected the beer to be. Impressive.

This is a big beer with decent carbonation, but it isn’t very sticky. I can feel a slight film at the corners of my mouth, but that’s it for the lips. There isn’t so much of a coat in my mouth, more like a memory of the flavors.

This is a well done strong Scotch ale. Aging in bourbon barrels just makes it more impressive. Highly recommended to fans of the style or bourbon barrel aging…and everyone else.

The Allies Win the War!

Posted by Jim on Jan 27th, 2012
Jan 27

21rst Amendment Allies Win the War!
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5
A cellar temperature can is poured into a pint glass. A big creamy tan head rests atop a clear, dark ruby liquid. Lots of carbonation can be seen within.

A very pleasing aroma can be smelled from this beer. I picked up on it as soon as I began pouring. There’s the aroma of caramelized sugar and toffee. Some light grassy hops round it out.

The beer has a fine toffee flavor. It is slightly sweet, but also has a good level of hops to balance things out.

The beer is full bodied, but isn’t overly sticky or too strongly carbonated.

I really like this beer. I find it to be a great example of the style. I didn’t even know this beer existed a few days ago! It’s another great beer from 21rst Amendment! Recommended.

A Happy, Hoppy Discovery

Posted by Jim on Jan 12th, 2012
Jan 12

Cottrell Brewing Mystic Bridge IPA

look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5
I received this bottle as part of a mystery 6 pick my wife picked up at a local Whole Foods; included were some Brooklyn, Dogfish and Mission Street beers, plus this one, the only one in the pack I had never tried. The bottle has been chilling in my cellar. It is marked best by April (I’ll assume in 2012).

The beer is translucent and colored dark copper. A large off white foam head fills the top portion of my pint glass. As it settles, lots of lacing is left behind. There is some visible carbonation within the glass, but it is hard to see.

The beer has a big, earthy hop aroma. I could smell the hops as soon as I opened the bottle; it only became more strong as I poured. The hops come across as somewhat oily. The are notes of grass and forests, but there isn’t a strong pine presence.

This is a tasty IPA. Hops are strong and present throughout each sip, but they aren’t overpowering. This is a hoppy IPA, but nowhere near DIPA levels. Some sweetness is also present, but it works well with the hops. Lots of earthy flavors are present, mirroring the aroma.

The beer isn’t very sticky. The hops are a little oily and provide a lot of tingling sensations. Coating is small, but does have some good hop flavors.

I like this IPA. Since it was a beer I was unfamiliar with, I will say that I am both surprised and impressed. I will have to drink this one again.

Happy New Beer

Posted by Jim on Dec 31st, 2011
Dec 31

Continuing a tradition started last year, Nissa and I split a bottle of a limited release Allagash beer.  Tonight’s selection was the New Belgium collaboration Vrienden.

Allagash/New Belgium Vrienden (Portland Version) – 4.43/5

look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This bottle has been in my cellar since the day it was released at the Allagash Brewery. I’m serving it in an Allagash flute at a chilly temperature.

The beer has a very light copper color; it’s nearly tan. There is a great number of tiny bubbles rising within the beer. A rather large white foam head rests on top. It has settled some—leaving behind a few rings of foamy lace—but it still over a finger in thickness.

Vrienden has a grassy farmhouse funk aroma. I believe some of the grassiness comes from the hops, but I imagine that at least a portion is from the dandelion greens added to the brew. The funkiness is mild, but prevalent enough to let you know that you are in for a beer that lives on the wild side.

This beer comes across as very tart. Lots of grass and floral flavors are tasted first. Powdered sugar sweetness comes in next, but it is quickly overshadowed but the tart flavors. The tartness has a slight citrus quality to it (like a lemon), but there isn’t any of the grapefruit flavors you find in some hoppy beers. It provides a welcome fruitiness to the beer without making it taste like a fruit beer.

This beer has a fuller body and plenty of carbonation—the bottle opened with a resounding POP. A touch of stickiness is left on the lips; the coating left within my mouth is also sticky. It is a thin coat and is holds onto some of the tart flavors. Some puckering is felt by the beer; but as a drink more of it, the physical reaction grows less strong with each sip.

This is another impressive wild ale from Allagash. I’m a little sad that I only have one bottle of this left, but I bet there are still a few kegs of Vrienden sitting in the brewery. I would certainly order a glass if I saw it offered.

Grabbing the Bull by the Horns

Posted by Jim on Oct 28th, 2011
Oct 28

Bull Jagger Portland Lager

B+ / 3.85
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4
I picked a bottle of this up at Oak Hill Beverage today and popped it right into the fridge. There’s no date on the bottle, but since this beer premiered on shelves earlier this week, I know it’s fresh. Being the new brewery in the Riverside Industrial Park, I’m pouring this beer into a logo pint glass of their neighbor Allagash.

The beer is translucent yellow with some orange tones. Plenty of carbonation bubbles cling to the sides of my glass. The head is egg shell colored and about a finger thick. It has settled down to a modest layer of foam that caps the liquid. Swirling the beer coats the glass with a tiny film and some patchy foam.

The aroma has some fruity and grassy hops. Some pale and grainy malts are also present.

This lager has a solid flavor profile. A slight sweetness has hints of toffee. The hops are grassy and provide a basic level of bitterness that compliments the style nicely. A good balance of the sweet and bitter flavors linger on after I swallow; they provide a earthiness that is a nice ending.

This beer certainly has a fuller body than any mass produced lager that comes in a can. A good level of carbonation plays games on my tongue and really foams up if I swish the beer around in my mouth. The coating is a little stickier than I’d like, as are my lips, but this is a minor complaint.

I enjoy this beer. I hope it succeeds, as Southern Maine breweries who make golden beers exclusively don’t have the best track record (any remember Sparhawk or Growstown?). Brewing in accordance to the German Purity Law is an admirable goal. I’m excited to see what else Bull Jagger can create. There are some fine products coming out of the Riverton Industrial Park; Portland Lager fits in with them nicely.

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