Dusty Bottle

Posted by Jim on Jan 23rd, 2013
Jan 23

Tonight I opened a bottle that I’ve been sitting on for at least two years. It’s a scotch ale from Berkshire Brewing that was aged in Woodford Reserve barrels, brewed to commemorate the life of Greg Noonan.

Berkshire Brewing Company Gude Greg’s Wee Heavy Private Reserve
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I received this bottle as a gift from Dave from the Great Lost Bear back when it was released. I probably should have opened this beer before now, but oh well. Better late than never.

It has been cellared since I took ownership and I’ve poured into a pint glass.

The beer has a dark ruby color with lots of clinging carbonation. Holding the beer up to the light reveals its perfect clarity, but in a low light setting, it’s hard to see through it. There is a decent amount of grey foam on top that settles down to a skim. No lacing on this glass, despite me giving it a hot water rinse and dry before pouring. Swirling leaves patchy foam.

Big bourbon aromas emanate form this beer. I could smell them as soon as I popped the cap. The aroma took me by surprise; after two years, I would think the aroma would have mellowed. I can smell, peat, toasted oak, smoke, and warming alcohol. Malty sweetness is very subtle. In a blind smell test, I think I would mistake this for a glass of straight whiskey. The aroma seems appropriate for a fresh bourbon barrel-aged beer, so I’ve docked half a point for the lack of mellowing.

Where the nose may be a bit overpowering, the flavor profile is really well done. There is plenty of bourbon flavor, but not so much that you would mistake this as anything but a barrel-aged beer. It begins with a nice sweetness—velvety toffee and cherry flavors. Crystal sugars mix in before the bourbon makes itself known. It has mellow alcohol, smokey peat, and oak. These bourbon flavors linger on after swallowing. I was afraid this beer would still be quite hot, but it has mellowed into an interesting, balanced ale. The cherry flavor did catch me off guard. It may have a slight tartness, but I don’t think this beer is showing signs of infection.

The beer is a bit stickier than I would have liked to have felt. A noticeable coat remains on my lips and throughout my mouth. The coat holds onto the sweet flavors; very little of the bourbon remains. The alcohol does provide some warmth as I swallow.

This is good wee heavy that is tending towards great, but misses the mark slightly. Maybe it would have been better if I had opened the bottle sooner, but I’ll never know. I will enjoy what I have left to drink though. If you get a chance to try some (and you’re a fan of the style), I’d got for it, but I wouldn’t go as far as trading rare beers known to cellar better than this one.

Beers for Christmas

Posted by Jim on Dec 1st, 2012
Dec 1

Nissa gave me a Christmas present a little early this year: a six month membership in Bier Cellar‘s beer of the month club. I’m really excited to get a bunch of interesting and mostly unknown (to me) beers each month. We are skipping the madness of Zwanze Day at Novare in favor of time with our kids, but while they are napping, we’re opening the first bottle obtained through the club membership.

To Øl Snowball Saison Ale (brewed at De Proef in Belgium)

look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
A chilly 750ml bottle is poured into an Oxbow tulip glass.

The beer has a golden copper color and is very clear. The head is initially large (it fills about half the glass), but has settled to about 3/4 of an inch in height. It has a light tan color and is made up of small bubbles. Lot so of spiderwork lacing has been left clinging to the glass as the head settles.

Snowball has a really great aroma. It is funky without coming across as sour. There is a touch f sweetness. It reminds me of powdered sugar instead of the Belgian candi sugar often used in saisons. The dry hopping imparts a grassy aroma. It reminds me of late winter, as spring is struggling to bring some green back into a grey world.

The beer tastes very good. The bitterness is fairly pronounced. It adds a spiciness that I am really enjoying. It replaces the pepper flavors that you sometimes find in saisons. The brett is noticeable, but the beer doesn’t taste too funky. It’s mild enough to impart a farmhouse feel to the flavor.

The beer has a fuller body than some other saisons I’ve had. A high number of carbonation bubbles in each mouthful give it a foamy feel. My lips are a little sticky, but it’s not distracting. The coat inside my mouth is light, but it allows some of the grassy hops to linger.

I like this beer a lot. I am intruiged by how far brewers can take the saison style. Ther eis also somethign fun about drinking a Christmas beer brewed by Danes at one of Belgium’s more famous breweries. If you get a chance, I’d recommend you try this beer.

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.

Dry Hopped and Delicious

Posted by Jim on Jun 15th, 2012
Jun 15

Founders Centennial IPA


A slightly chilled bottle dated 05/21/12 is poured into a pint glass.

A clear copper liquid fills my glass. Plenty of clinging carbonation can be seen in the upper half of the vessel. The top inch is filled with a light tan foam head. The occasional bubble rises up from the bottle of the glass.

A strong hop aroma can be detected while the beer is poured. Getting closer to the glass, I can smell big juicy citrus hops. Floral notes are in abundance. It’s an enticing bouquet.

The beer has a strong caramel malt base that holds up under all of the hop flavors. Bitter oils are present through out each sip. It is mostly floral, with a little bit of pink grapefruit. After swallowing, an earthy/pine hop flavor remains. This is a big, bold IPA. I feel as though I can taste every one of the 65 IBU’s.

The beer has a full body and low carbonation. There isn’t too much stickiness, but I can feel some on both my lips and the roof of my mouth.

Big IPAs always seem to come from near the coast (whether it be East or West), so it is refreshing to have such a top notch IPA coming out of Michigan. I tend to associate Founders with it’s malty offerings (stouts, Scotch ales, old ales, etc.), this is my first exposure to one of their hop-centric beers. I am impressed. I’m really glad I can now buy their beers here in Maine. I feel that I’ll be enjoying many bottles of it.

New England Rye

Posted by Jim on May 26th, 2012
May 26

Harpoon Rich & Dan’s Rye IPA

look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5
The beer has a very clear consistency. It is the color of clean, shiny copper kettle. There is a lot of carboantion clinging to the sides of my glass. A very large head of off-white bubbles fills the top third of my glass—there is so much that I can’t pour all 12 ounces into this pint glass. Very good lacing is left behind.

The beer has a very nice aroma. I could smell big hops aromas as soon as I began pouring. On closer inspection, there is also a healthy dose of rye in the nose. The hops are both earthy, like a pile of crisp leaves, and citrus-like, recalling orange zest.

The beer’s flavor comes across as very balanaced, even though it is a hop forward beverage. The rye spices are tasted immediately. Soon, more traditional hop bitterness comes forward. The bitterness stays through the finish, although here it is more oily than it was earlier. The malt sweetness is also tasted here, but it isn’t too sweet. It’s like a watery malt syrup (without that viscous feeling).

This beer is slightly thicker than average for the style, but the carbonation, while a little intense, seems to be par for the course. My lips are left a little sticky. The mouthcoat is noticeable, but not too sticky.

This is a very good Rye IPA. I’m glad that Harpoon has decided to release it in 12 oz bottles. I imagine that it will find it’s way into my fridge somewhat regularly.

Rising Tide Rarity

Posted by Jim on Apr 29th, 2012
Apr 29

Before heading out to Harrisburg PA last November, I had to run out to Downeast Beverage to secure myself a bottle of Rising Tide‘s first one-off bottling, Polaris, which is their Weizen Stout aged in bourbon barrels. I have since learned that it will be brewed and bottled again, which is exciting news!

Rising Tide Polaris

look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
A cellar temperature bottle is poured into a pint glass. This is bottle number 163 of 336.

The beer is completely black, with a decent of amount of tan foam resting on top. The liquid is too opaque to make out and rising carbonation. Lacing is good.

The beer has a strong bourbon aroma. It’s like sticking my nose into a glass of Jim Beam. I’m not really smelling any of the roasted malts that make up the nose in Ursa Minor (the base beer). There is a little bit of malty sweetness, but for the most part this beer smells boozy. If it still smells like this after 5 months of aging, I wonder how hot it was when fresh?

Luckily, the bourbon in the flavor isn’t as overpowering as in the aroma, although it is still strong. It provides some good oak and peat moss flavors, and a smokiness that works very well with Ursa Minor’s roasted malts. There is a slight chocolate flavor here that I didn’t pick up on in Ursa Minor, and Polaris doesn’t have any obvious wheat characteristics.

The body is thick, but not as thick as some other stouts. It leaves a slight stickiness on my lips. The mouthcoat is also sticky, but retains some decent flavors. Despite the strong aroma, there is no heat from the alcohol.

Although not an amazing bourbon barrel aged stout, this is an enjoyable beer. I think I would have liked to let it age a little longer, but I was in the mood for Rising Tide tonight, so I cracked it open. If you were one the people who sought this beer out, I think you’ll be happy with it. Hopefully, this is the first of many barrel aged releases that Nate has in the works. There is a lot of potential here, but I am left wanting slightly more. Still, no part of me regrets checking Facebook obsessively until I saw Polaris was on sale and rushing out right away to secure bottle. I only regret not picking up a second bottle (but with such a low bottle count, I wanted to leave plenty on the shelf).

Two “from Vermont”

Posted by Jim on Apr 9th, 2012
Apr 9

I still have two bottles in my cellar that I obtained while in Vermont back in August. One is a limited release from Hill Farmstead, the other an Austrian beer I learned about while visiting the Blackback Pub and Flyshop.

Hill Farmstead Civil Disobedience #1

look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5
A cellar temperature bottle poured into a large red wine glass. I was lucky enough to get one of the last bottles available from the brewery, purchased a week after the release. It’s been in my cellar since that time.

The beer is a clear golden liquid with many streams of carbonation rising within. There is a large white foam head. It has settled down to about two fingers worth of thickness, leaving plenty of lacing.

Even while pouring this beer, I could smell a healthy amount of Brett. The Brett is still apparent while I actively inhale from my glass, but there is a lot more going on here than just the wild yeast. I smell orange and lemon citrus, Belgian candi sugar, and some grassy hops.

The beer has a light, grassy flavor. There is plenty of orange and lemon. I really like the sweetness a touch of funk in the finish. There is a great mustiness in the aftertaste that works really well.

The beer is slightly thick, with plenty of carbonation. Despite all of the bubbles and the sour flavors, there is hardly any tingling sensation. Nor is there much stickiness. A slight coat has plenty of fruit and grass flavors.

This is a really great beer. Like everything else brewed here, it is worth checking out. Too bad this one was a one-time only brew.

Meinklang Ancient Grains Ale

look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4
A cellar temperature bottle with a best by date of 2012-05-31 poured slowly into a glass mug, keeping the sediment in the bottle.

The beer is translucent and golden orange in color. Lots of carbonation can be seen within, both clinging to the bottle of the glass and rising to the top. The head is large, white, foamy, and made up of many sizes of bubbles.

There area lot of grassy hops in the aroma, as well as many different grains. There is some citrus and some sweetness; the overall aroma reminds me of lemongrass.

The beer certainly has an interesting malt profile, thanks to all of those uncommon grains. The sweetness is subtle, and the bittering hops are especially strong. They seem to fade out after I swallow before the malt flavors do, which is rare. Although different from any other pilsner I’ve had, I like this beer.

The beer has a medium body and a lot of carbonation. In fact, there was so much carbonation, it was hard to determine the level of body. There is a lot of coating, but its not too sticky. The carbonation does tingle my tongue.

As I said above, this is a different kind of pilsner, but I enjoy it. It’s worth seeking this one out, especially if the odd grain bill grabs your attention.

Draft-only Allagash Treat

Posted by Jim on Mar 23rd, 2012
Mar 23

Allagash Saison Mihm

look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4
Served in a 13.5 oz tulip at the Great Lost Bear. This beer has been available in town for a month or so, but this is my first time trying it.

It’s a dark copper colored beer, almost like an amber ale. The head is tall, off-white and foamy. As it settles plenty of uniform lacing is left behind. It’s too dark in here to see if there is any internal carbonation.

The beer has a semi-dry, grassy aroma. There is apparently a lot of lemongrass in this beer, s that is probably what I am smelling. The are small amounts of lemon citrus and candi sugar sweetness, but I am not smelling anything that I can directly attribute to the yeast.

There is a lot of lemongrass to the flavor of this beer. Some Belgian sugars are also evident. A somewhat dry finish has some musty flavors that I assume are caused by the yeast. There is a touch of pepper in the aftertaste that is very interesting.

The beer has a light effervescent feel. The pepper and carbonation manage to tickle my tongue a lot more than I expected. The beer has a fuller body than most Samson’s and has a lot of carbonation.

This is an interesting beer. I can see what it is draft only. I can’t see myself drinking a full 750ml bottle of this one, but I also don’t see it having the wide appeal that would move it in 12oz bottles. Allagash could get away with doing a brewery only release in 375ml bottles, but the draft only method of delivery will get the beer into more people’s glasses. It was a good decision to go this way. If you are a fan of Allagash, give this one a try.

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.

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