Friday, October 19, 2012

Beer Tastings: DuClaw Mad Bishop

We took a pretty big trip around the fall craft circuit this week. 10 Beers in 5 days is quite a lot so I thought I'd end the journey close to home with one of Maryland's own. Last up this week is DuClaw's Mad Bishop.

DuClaw's take on an Oktoberfest is a Marzen done right. It stays to true to the German style and never goes over the top in regards to the flavor profile.

Appearance wise, we get a medium brown colored beer that is crystal clear thanks to an eight week lagering process. In addition to the quality appearance, the lagering process also helps produce an extremely smooth drinking Oktoberfest. Mad Bishop tastes just like a German Oktoberfest should with a toasted malt presence being at the forefront, but differentiates itself just enough with a delicious crisp caramel flavor on the finish.

Maryland drinkers, if you're out hunting something local and in season this is a beer to find. My only hope is that I come across one more before they are all gone this year.

Style: Marzen
ABV: 5.8
IBU: 24

Beer Tastings: Schlafly Pumpkin Ale

For the 9th Beer Review in 5 days let's talk about Schlafly Pumpkin Ale. Based on my twitter feed this beer has to be one of the most sought after Pumpkin Ale's in the country. EVERYONE seemed to hunting it down anywhere they could. Luckily, I was finally able to find some of my own about 2 weeks ago. Now I understand the hype. This stuff is good. 

Schalfly Pumpkin Ale, as evidenced in the picture, pours a gorgeous golden orange/faint light brown that evokes the colors of fall and pumpkins. The nose on this one is excellent. You get an aroma that might be as close to Pumpkin Pie as you can possibly get in a beer. You have all the smells of a traditional pumpkin pie, but there is also a hint of brown sugar and vanilla that you'd have to be crazy not to love.

Can the taste of Schlafly Pumpkin Ale live up to the spot on appearance and aroma of this beer? You bet it can! All I could think of the entire time I was drinking this beer was "Wow, a pumpkin beer that tastes like pumpkin!" What a novel idea. The fruity pumpkin flavor comes through strong and is spiced perfectly. It's never too sweet or too spicy. It's always just right....just like the third bowl of porridge.

If I were ranking the top Pumpkin Ale's I've ever had, this has to be in the Top 3 along with DFH Punkin' Ale and Heavy Seas The Great Pumpkin. With that kind of endorsement is it even necessary for me to make a recommendation? Go hunt this one down before it's gone till next year.

Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 8.0
IBU: 16

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Beer Tastings: Breckenridge Autumn Ale

Man, talk about dedication! After promising 10 reviews this week I almost shorted you guys one tonight. I hope you appreciate it! Hell, even if you don't I have fun writing these things so que sera. So, on to Breckenridge Autumn Ale? Alrighty then...

Autumn Ale is quality! The end. Just kidding.

Autumn Ale is considered an Old Ale and it pours a dark brown/black color almost of the stout variety. Aromatically, you'll pickup chocolate and coffee notes in addition to a roasted or toasted malt presence.

Surprisingly, not only did Autumn Ale look but it drank a lot like a stout. It was fairly bitter and the over riding taste I could pick up on was a dark chocolate and coffee flavor that I quite liked. This lands in the realm of fall beers with original flavors and it's definitely worth a pickup. It might seem like I'm being lazy or overselling this beer because I don't have a whole to say but that isn't the case at all. No, this isn't a deeply complex beer but that's precisely what makes it so great. It's a straight forward beer that tastes good. Sometimes, that's all you need.

Style: Old Ale
ABV: 6.7
IBU: 21

Beer Tastings: Sam Adams Hazel Brown

Thanks to the Sam Adams Fall Sampler I have yet another one of their offerings to blog about. Today, we're talking about the simple but delicious Hazel Brown.

If I were asked to describe Sam Adams founder Jim Koch in one sentence I would say that he is a master of the well balanced beer. I've had at least 10-15 (maybe more?) of his beers through the years and almost always I'm amazed by the balance he can find in a beer. Hazel Brown is a beer that fits that mold.

This beautiful fall seasonal pours a, you guessed it, deep brown with a little amber/orange hue in there to give it the perfect fall look. Aromatically, this is one of the best smelling beers I've come across. You get toffee, hazelnut, chocolate, caramel, and I'm even finding a cereal smell in there. It smells so good, I honestly can't tell you if I like the smell or the taste better (and that's no knock on the taste).

The flavor profile matches up exactly to the aroma. You get a delicious nutty, carmel flavored beer that could be described as liquid desert. Despite that description Hazel Brown never becomes overly sweet or malty because it's balanced perfectly with Hallertau Mittelfrueh Noble hops and East Kent Goldings.

Sam Adams Hazel Brown is a very approachable beer and it's simply delicious. If I had a fire pit, I'd love to spend a cool night out in front of the fire sipping on this delicious beer all night. Do not pass this beer up.

Style: Brown Ale
ABV: 5.2
IBU: 20

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Beer Tastings: Flying Dog Dogtoberfest

Well, why don't we just hop from one Maryland beer to another? And while we're in season, why not talk about another Fall Beer? Flying Dog Dogtoberfest is today's beer. 
Dogtoberfest is okay. I feel bad just coming out and saying it's nothing better than okay because I really wanted to like this beer. It's a fall beer and it's local. Right off the bat my bias is in full effect and it shouldn't be very hard for me to be excited about this. Unfortunately, Flying Dog just didn't do it for me with this one.
Dogtoberfest pours a crystal clear copper color that really hits home on the fall vibe. But that's about all the excitement I could muster. Tastewise it's just way too sweet up front. They almost save it with a fairly substantial hop finish, but no matter how many times I revisited this one (4 beers) hoping my palate might have adjusted over time, I couldn't get over the initial sweetness. I was looking for a toasted or roasted malt flavor somewhere in there to show that lives up to the Oktoberfest style, but it just never happened for me. It pains me to say it, but if you're asking me for a Fall beer suggestion Dogtoberfest isn't the one. 

Style: Marzen
ABV: 5.3
IBU: 30

Beer Tastings: Union Craft Brewing Blackwing Lager

Finally, I got my hands on a Union Craft Brewing beer after many months of hearing nothing but good things about these guys. And after hearing that they won a gold medal at the GABF a week or so ago I knew I needed to get my act together and hunt some down sooner than later.

Tonight, I got my hands on their Blackwing Lager. I don't know what my expectations were pre-sip, but as soon as the beer touched my tongue I automatically became a fan of Union Craft Brewing and will definitely be making their beer a bigger part of my life. B the site just put out a Top 20 list of Maryland beers and I can say with full confidence that the Blackwing Lager could easily hang with anything in the Top 5. It's that good.

Enough pumping them up, though, let's get on to the taste. The Blackwing Lager lives up to it's name and pours a beautiful black color with a fairly substantial creamy head. The aroma is wonderful. Initially, I thought it smelled a lot like a Stout with roasted coffee coming to the forefront. Not surprisingly, once you're done taking in the color and aroma and finally taste the beer you get a bitter coffee flavor with dark chocolate notes. At times I even thought I was picking up hints of black licorice. And while this beer is full of delicious flavor it lives up to the Lager name and drinks very smoothly.

If you live in the Baltimore area and you see Union on tap, do you yourself a favor and try them out. Considering the Blackwing Lager was a winner and their Gold Medal winning Altbier is already getting national attention I think it's safe to assume that this new brewery is top notch.

Style: Black Lager
ABV: 4.9
IBU: ?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Beer Tastings: Newcastle Werewolf

I wouldn't have guessed it beforehand (and after reading a few other not so thrilled online reviews I'm starting to wonder if my palate was out of sorts that night) but Newcastle Werewolf is easily my favorite fall beer that I've tried for the first time this year (not all time).

On the taste front you get a slightly dry drinking beer with a touch of fruit flavor and delicious chocolate notes. It's completely original from anything else I've tried that would be considered a fall seasonal.

If I'm being honest, I'm not sure I'd classify this beer as a fall beer on a blind taste test (kind of reads more wintery in my mind for whatever that's worth). However, what I found most fun and what really brought Werewolf all together for me was the awesome color it pours. You can't fully appreciate it via the picture above, but Werewolf pours the coolest brownish red tint I've ever seen. It really lived up to the "Blood Red Ale" they post on the label. I hate when I hear them use this word on Food Network, but I found Werewolf to be quite whimsical and I really enjoyed that.

So, there you have it. Newcastle Werewolf is a totally unique fall beer that doesn't seem to take itself too seriously and is something you can really sit back and have fun with. If you see it shelves, be sure to pick this one up. This would be a great gateway beer to get some of your friends to try something other than Miller Lite.

Style: Red Ale
ABV: 5.0
IBU: ?

Beer Tastings: Goose Island Harvest Ale

I promised you five straight days of double beer reviews and I'm going to keep my word. Welcome to day number two. Let's get right into it.

Harvest Ale is Goose Island's fall seasonal. Now, before I get into the review of this beer I want to make sure that I mention that Goose Island is one of my favorite breweries of the past year. Their Honker's Ale and Mild Winter are two of the best beers I've had in recent times. The Harvest Ale, though, is not one of my favorite fall beers.

If someone poured this beer into a pint glass and handed it to me without me knowing what it was I would love it. This beer is flat solid. In fact, it tastes A LOT like Honker's Ale. And while I already mentioned that I love Honker's Ale the fact that Harvest tastes so similar is my biggest problem. I just don't get anything that says "fall beer" to me here. The predominant feature of this beer, both in aroma and flavor, is the Cascade Hops. It's such a strong flavor that almost everything going on with this beer (such as the variety of malts being used) gets overshadowed.

If I'm judging this beer on it's own I would have no choice but to give it high marks. But if I'm placing Harvest Ale within the realm of fall seasonals it falls a bit flat for me. So, do I recommend this one? I don't know. If you're looking for a tasty beer, absolutely, give this one a try. But if it's a top notch fall beer you're after I think I'd look elsewhere.

Style: American Extra Special Bitter
ABV: 5.7
IBU: 35

Monday, October 15, 2012

Beer Tastings: Lakefront Pumpkin Lager

How many fall seasonal beer reviews have I done now? And how many were a Pumpkin Ale? And how many more do I have lined up that are Pumpkin Ales? The answer is a ton. Yes, I love Pumpkin Ale and look forward to them every fall, but it's always nice when you get something slightly different after so much of the same. That's where Lakefront Brewery Pumpkin Lager comes into play. A pumpkin beer that's not an ale? How bout dem pumpkins?

Before we get into the taste, I think the coolest thing about this beer is that the recipe was derived from something Thomas Jefferson brewed at his home in Monticello. If it was good enough for one of the most brilliant minds in US history, hey, it's good enough for me. I like a beer with history.

But on to the taste! Unfortunately, this beer isn't out of this world, but it's solid and I give it bonus points simply for being a pumpkin beer that's not an ale. Aroma wise you smell all of the typical pumpkin spices. However, the initial and most prominent flavor is pumpkin and you only get the cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. flavors on the finish. The spice profile is managed quite nicely as their role in the beer isn't as prominent as you'd think based on the aroma, but you do get a spicy peppercorn kind of bite on the end that's kind pretty interesting.

Would I go out of my way to find this beer? Probably not. It's good, but it's not worth a serious hunt. With that said, if you run across this on your travels it's worth trying for no other reason than it's a pumpkin flavored beer that's not an ale. I know I've mentioned that quite a few times throughout this post, but if you're like me and try fall beers with reckless abandon like I do, a curveball like this never hurts simply mix things up.

Style: Lager
ABV: 6.0
IBU: ?

Beer Tastings: Sam Adams Dunkelweizen

Well, I guess it's time I stop being lazy and start posting on the blog again. I think the last time I put finger to keyboard was well over a month ago. Vacation really took my momentum, but I'm back and back in a big way. The promise I'm making to myself is two beer reviews per day over the next 5 days. And since we're still in the season, most if not all of the reviews will center on fall seasonals. First up is the beer I have within arms reach, Sam Adams Dunkelweizen.

This is the first year I've come across their Dunkelweizen and I'm pretty happy I did. This one in particular came with the Sam Adams fall collection. I haven't seen this beer in 6 packs or single bottles so if you're looking to pick this one up the fall collection seems like your best bet.

The Dunkelweizen is essentially a dark hefeweizen. Hefeweizen is probably my favorite style of beer to drink, but it's not every day you come across dark hefe's. In fact, this might only be my second or third beer in that style. Right away, you'll notice the hefeweizen characteristics in the flavor profile. There is a banana/bubble gum flavor and a little bit of clove but what's nice is that all these flavors are all mellowed out by a nice caramel flavor that results from the toasted malt. In the end, you have a very well balanced beer that drinks incredibly smoothly even though the flavor profile isn't something you come across everyday. If you like fall beers but you're sick of Marzens and Pumpkin Ale's, this beer is worth seeking out.

Style: Dunkelweizen
ABV: 5.1
IBU: 13