Some Local Flavor from the Cellar

Posted by Jim on Jul 11th, 2012
Jul 11

One of my cohorts in the SMBDC posted on BA that this beer was getting a little thin and that any of us holding on to bottles should drink them soon. I have to say that I think this beer is drinking quite nicely. It was a great surprise to open this bottle tonight and find such a wonderful beer inside. I’m glad I still have one bottle from the original run in my cellar, as well as a bottle from the second batch.

Sebago Brewing Company Lake Trout Stout aged in Bourbon barrels (Batch #1, 2010)

look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5
This is a bottle of the first batch, from way back in early 2010. It has been in my cellar since that time. I am pouring it into a Delerium Tremens snifter. I heard from a friend that this beer may have turned and that I should drink my bottle soon.

A very loud hiss was heard as I popped the cap. I actually felt the released carbonation force the cap off. As I pour the beer, it appears to be 99% foam. It is a dark foam, the color of chocolate milk. It is begining to turn into a liquid, but very slowly. The beer at the bottom of the glass is opaque and a shade of dark, dark brown—nearly black. Swirling the beer leaves a uniform lace coat behind.

The aroma is very pleasing. It isn’t quite subtle, but it isn’t overpowering or in your face. It is complex. There is a good mix of toasted malts, oak, bourbon and a hint of smoke.

This is a bourbon barrel aged stout that isn’t entirely about the bourbon! A dark, roasted malt base has some slight chocolate flavors. Plenty of oak comes through. Peat, smoke and bourbon are present in the finish, but none are all too strong. There is no harshness form the barrel aging process; the 2 years in my cellar have really mellowed this brew. The bourbon is most noticable in the aftertaste. Here you can really pick it out of the other flavors. It also provides some warmth once it is in your stomach.

The beer is heavier in body without being thick. Carbonation is a lot lower than I expected. Despite the large head when I poured, the feeling within my mouth is of a calm beer. I can feel a few bubbles, but it is hardly noticeable. My lips are left a little sticky, as is the inside of my mouth, but I do not feel a film.

I am going to have to go ahead and say that I really like this beer a lot. It’s been a while since I’ve had it fresh so I won’t compare it to this aged variety. I can say that the original batch of bottles is still drinking quite nicely. It is very refreshing to have a bourbon barrel aged stout that doesn’t taste like a shot of bourbon poured into a bit of stout. This is a more subtle, complex kind of beverage. If you have a bottle of this in your cellar, consider cracking it open, as it is drinking beautifully. If you don’t have any, perhaps you should track some down and sit on them for a spell.

I can’t say this is as good as an aged bottle of Sebago’s barleywine, but it is nearly that beer’s equal. It’s an excellent beer and is highly recommended.

A Holiday for Stouts

Posted by Jim on Mar 16th, 2011
Mar 16

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day. As is the tradition of Nissa and I, we will be having breakfast at Bull Feeney’s tomorrow morning. They serve a fine full Irish breakfast, and the large pours of beer taste even better when consumed before noon. Nissa will have to head to work, whereas I have a few hours in the Old Port before I must go pick up Emmett. I’ll probably check out the new porter that will be poured at Gritty’s, or go get a pint of the recently rereleased Bourbon Barrel Aged Lake Trout Stout at Sebago. Normally I finish up with a chalice or two at Novare, but day care is closing at 3 tomorrow, so I’ll have to skip the bier garden this year.

To get myself in the mood, I’m enjoying a few stouts tonight. First up is the classic Cadillac Mountain Stout from Bar Harbor Brewing Company. If I review any others tonight, I’ll add them to this post.

Bar Harbor Brewing Co. Cadillac Mountain Stout
A- / 4.03
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a cellared bottle into my Beamish Imperial Pint. This bottle has been in my cellar since May 2009.

Caddy is a very dark beer. The opaque black liquid fills my glass. The head is foamy, brown and thick. As it settles good lacing is left behind. A little bit of film and foam coats the sides of the glass as I swirl the beer about.

Sweet roasted malts greet my nose as I inhale this beer’s aroma. Milk chocolate covered caramel comes to mind.

Dark malts with a slight roasted quality is the first thing I taste as the beer enters my mouth. As I swallow, the taste of hot fudge syrup is present, but it is only the slightest bit sweet and not syrupy at all. I’m not sure if that quite makes sense; it is chocolately, but not like normal chocolate, hot fudge sauce is the closest thing that I can think of to describe it. There is a sherry-like quality to the beer, but it isn’t too strong.

The carbonation level isn’t very high, but there are still some bubbles to this beer. A coat remains after I swallow, although it is a bit watery and not too flavorful. There is just enough of the beer in it to make me want another sip.

Overall, I am a fan of this stout. This aged bottle doesn’t quite live up to the once legendary status of this beer. I would drink it again, most likely fresh and certainly nothing older than a year old. I had samples fresh at the brewery, and I remember liking it more, but the time and place could have been a factor in that memory. People will tell you that the beer isn’t as good as it used to be, before the brewery changed hands and (supposedly) the recipe changed. I can’t really comment on that, as I wasn’t much of a beer geek back when I had the original recipe and I don’t remember how it tasted. Still, it is a very good stout that is worth seeking out.

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.

Some Beers are Even Whiter than Me

Posted by Jim on Aug 5th, 2010
Aug 5

Allagash White

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

I can’t believe I’ve never reviewed this beer. Allagash White was my gateway beer. I can still remember the Allagash night I went to at my college’s pub, where I got a pint of White in a logo pint glass I got to keep. It started my beer glass collection. Anyway, I’m reviewing a fridge chilled 12oz bottle poured into a different Allagash logo glass (a 25cl flute). I can only fit about 2/3 of the bottle into this glass, so the appearance may change after I pour in the yeast. The liquid is a slighty tarnished yellow, with a small white head. There is a lot of rising carbonation and a bit that clings to the sides. [After emptying the bottle, I bumped this category up from a 4 to a 5. There is a huge pure white head now, great lacing, and a beautiful opaque body. It looks as a wit should.] This beer has a great aroma. It is dry and sweet, with lots of Belgian sugar and yeast. I can also smell wheat, grass and a bit of pepper spice. The beer tastes of wheat and Belgian candi sugar. It has some champagne-like flavors up front, but I wouldn’t say I can taste white grapes specifically. The finish has more spices; black pepper and coriander. The wheat and yeast wrap things up in the aftertaste that lingers slightly. The white has a medium body and plenty of carbonation. There isn’t much coating after I swallow, but it feels like it covers every corner of my mouth white I’m drinking each sip. And oh does each sip come easily. This is such a drinkable beer. On a warm, humid day like today, I could easily drink a number of these beers. No aspect of this beer every gets tiring. Unfortunately, I think this beer gets a slightly bad rap in its hometown. I know that a number of us Portland beer nerds (aka beer snobs) occasionally look down at people who order an Allagash White when there are more adventurous beers available. A lot of us see this beer as Portland’s training wheels craft beer; its fine if your scared, but real beer drinkers will get a strong, more intense beer. Is this a side-effect of the demand for extreme, barrel-aged everything? Perhaps. Either way, White deserve all the respect it can get. This is an incredible beer and a wonderful flagship for one of the best breweries in the country. It is worth ordering, no matter what the other folks at the bar think; just don’t ask for a slice of lemon with it…[Just try asking the wrong bartender at Novare for a piece of lemon; I’ve seen reactions from the sarcastic to all-out death stares]

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!

Local Beer Aficionado

Posted by Jim on Jan 21st, 2010
Jan 21

If you’re like me and are constantly seeking out the interesting beers available in Portland, you’ve probably heard about what happened at the Great Lost Bear over the past two Thursdays.  On January 7, the Bear advertised that they would have the Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada collaboration small beer Limb & Life, followed by a keg of Life & Limb on the 14th.  What happened was that the wrong keg was tapped, so that Life & Limb was poured on the 7th and Limb & Life on the 14th.  I was one of the few people who suspected that there was something amiss on the 7th, as what I ordered certainly didn’t taste like a small beer (although it was better than the first glass of Life & Limb I had, in December at Novare’s Beer Geek Christmas).  Unfortuantely for me, I was unable to attend the event on the 14th to get to try the Limb & Life, so my search for that elusive beer must continue. Don’t feel too bad for me though, I missed it because I was flying home from a 4 night cruise to the Bahamas.  I found a nice surprise in my in box when I returned.  In the weekly Bear’s Growl (the Great Lost Bear’s newsletter) explaining the mix-up, I was featured as one of the folks who brought the mistake to light.  I also got quite a nice compliment thrown in for good measure.  Thanks GLB!

The Bear's Growl

Me at the GLB

I won’t be making it to the Bear for tonight’s Harpoon showcase (although I’d love to have a Celtic ale, I missed out on it last year), as I want to attend the Pitch the Pint (aka Grab the Goblet) event at the Lion’s Pride.  If you’d like to subscribe to the Bear’s Growl, sign up here.

Three Reviews from the Weekend

Posted by Jim on Dec 15th, 2009
Dec 15

Here are the three reviews I wrote for the beers I got to try at the Novare Res event held this past weekend.

Sierra Nevada/Dogfish Head Life & Limb

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

Reviewed from my tasting notes. Served in my 20oz Uprising Chalice at Novare Res. It pours an incredibly dark ruby color with a thick, tan, foam head. It smells slightly sweet, with an earthiness to the aroma. There are hints of spices and maple. There is a definite sweetness up front in the taste, and it has a dry, alcoholic finish, but the sweetness remains throughout. There are spruce and maple flavors. There is also a hint of coffee bitterness. It’s a very robust flavor. It has a very full body and low carbonation. As for drinkability, it’s a pretty sweet beer–a bit too much for my tastes. Still, I consider this a good beer. I would order it again and would certainly pick up a bottle if I happened across one.

Del Borgo Duchessic

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

Reviewed from my tasting notes. Served in my 20oz Uprising chalice at Novare Res. This excellent beer pours a peach/orange color. It is slightly cloudy. It is very interesting looking. It has a yeast aroma, along with some citrus. It is a very good fruit smell. The main flavors are of peach and grapefruit. There’s a bit of sourness to the finish. It tasted a bit chalky at first, but as I drank it, this went away. I think the beer may have been too cold at first and as it warmed, this chalkiness went away. The approach to cellar temperature really improved things. It has a medium body with no detectable carbonation or coating. It feels great. The drinkability is equally impressive. This beer has just the right amount of sourness. I’m really glad I got to have this beer!

Mikkeller Black

B / 3.65
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drink: 3

Reviewed from my tasting notes. Served in my 20oz Uprising chalice. I knew I wanted to try this beer, but I didn’t really know much about it. Russ, my server, described it as “roofing tar with sugar.”

Appropriately, this beer is black like the night. There is a brown foamy head that leaves impressive lacing. There is a coffee bean bitterness to the aroma. It’s malty and robust. I summed up the taste as strong, dark, bitter, alcoholic. That seems to cover it, except for the syrupy sweetness that instantly hits you as you taste the beer. The 17.5% ABV is also very present in the taste; lots of alcohol. It leaves a sugary coating in your mouth. The body is very heavy and has low carbonation. I could only drink one of these in a sitting, and I’ll probably never order one again. It’s a strong, intimidating beer. I probably should have been better prepared for what I ordered and not made it my last beer of the night. Order this one carefully.

There are still a few special beers available at Novare.  If you haven’t stop by yet to try them, do so soon!

It’s a beer nerd Christmas!

Posted by Jim on Dec 11th, 2009
Dec 11

This afternoon, Novare Res opens its doors for a very special event.  They are presenting a line-up of kegs and bottles that the beer drinking public of Portland haven’t seen since…well, since Eric hosted his one year anniversary event at Novare.  Most of the beers on offer are extremely rare, all will be excellent to sample.  I don’t think my wallet will allow me to try as many as I’d like!  Some highlights include bottle pours of Sam Adams Utopias and De Struise Earthmonk; there will also be kegs of Birra Del Borgo Duchessic Ale, Mikkeller Black and Draft Bear, Sierra Nevada/Dogfish Head Life & Limb, Smuttynose Oaked Farmhouse, and a 2006 cask of J.W. Lees Harvest Ale that has been aged in sherry barrels!  I’ve been looking forward to this event since it was announced, and once the beer list was posted, it’s been nearly all I’ve thought about.

For some reasoning behind my excitement, be aware that the SA Utopias is a 27% ABV beverage that is more like cognac than beer and retails for $150+ a bottle.  The Earthmonk is only brewed once every two years and is limited to 5000 bottles; it is highly sought after.  The Duchessic is an Italian saison that has been blended with Cantillon lambic and sounds incredibly delicious.  The two Mikkeller beers are both very difficult to obtain in a bottle; to have kegs of them on hand is unheard of.  One is a black as night stout brewed with champagne yeast; the other is an impressive pilsner.  Although Mikkeller is Danish, both of these beers were brewed in Belgium at the De Proef Brouwerij.  The Life & Limb is the current hype beer in America.  Everyone wants to try it.  No one can find it.  Only four cases of bottles were delivered to Maine, two to RSVP and one each to Whole Foods and Tully’s.  It sold out almost instantly.  This is the first chance most of us will get to have it (and probably the last time until January, when it will be on draft for one night at the Great Lost Bear).  Smutty’s Farmhosue is one of, if not my favorite beer they produce.  Having an oaked variety available is like seeing your favorite band perform your favorite album in concert; it won’t be exactly the same as you remember it, but it will be a great experience.  Lastly, JW Lees Sherry is a close cousin to the JW Lees Port, perhaps my favorite beer of all time.  To walk into Novare tonight and not order it should be criminal. [Yes, I believe that, even with all of the other great beers available.  That’s why we have Home Runners.]

The full list of beers, as well as other details, are available at the Novare Res website.

21rst at 76

Posted by Jim on Dec 4th, 2009
Dec 4

Tomorrow is Repeal Day, the 76th anniversary of the ratification of the 21rst amendment, which repealed the 18th and made alcohol legal once again!  One way I’m honoring that great act is by buying and consuming some exceptional beers.

I made a trip to Downeast Beverage yesterday afternoon, whilst waiting for 4 pm to roll around and for Novare Res to open its doors.  I really shouldn’t go here alone, especially with a fat wallet, as I always see so many beers I want to purchase, and I usually end up buying most of what I want.  I limited myself to four bottles, all of which look to be exceptional.  I picked up a 750 ml of Fantome Noel, which is the third different Fantome selection I’ve added to my cellar since the fall.  It’s such a great brewery, I feel really lucky that I am able to find so many different Fantome products in Maine.

I also bought myself a bottle of Weyerbacher XIII, their anniversary beer from 2008.  I already had a bottle of the Twelve and the fourteen should still be on store shelves; once I pick one up, I’ll have a bit of a vertical going.  That’s pretty exciting!

Lastly, I bought two 12 oz bottles of J.W. Lees Harvest Ale.  One is from 2007, which I’ll save until 2017 so Nissa and I can drink it on our tenth wedding anniversary.  The other bottle is the port cask aged variety and it dates from 2005.  This is my favorite style of the cask aged series.  I’ll probably drink it soon, maybe for Christmas or New Years.

Tomorrow, on Repeal Day, Nissa and I will be traveling to a home in Biddeford to take part in the first meeting of the Southern Maine Beer Drinkers Group, a collection of beer enthusiasts who met on Beer Advocate.  There will be some exceptional beers on offer tomorrow.  I’ll do a full write up of what I got try after the meeting.

Finally, tonight is the First Friday Art Walk in Portland.  I’ll be headed out to the Two Point Gallery to meet the folks behind Rum Riot Brewing Company.  There isn’t much information on this group (at least not that I could find), but apparently they only offer there beers in two ways: on draught at a specific gallery on First Friday or in a bottle/growler by contacting the brewery directly.  I hope that their beer is good, as I’d love to think I’ve discovered a new source of excellent beer from right here in the Portland area.  If you get a chance, make your way to 564 Congress at 5pm and join me for a beer you most likely have never tried before.  Plus, it’s free!

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