Tasting Notes: A Sneak Peek at Samuel Adams New England IPA

Photo Credit: Mashing In

For this week’s edition of Tasting Notes, we somehow stumble upon the opportunity to preview the soon-to-be widely released New England IPA from Samuel Adams (Boston, Massachusetts).

Since Samuel Adams is truly synonymous with the region of New England, it only makes sense for them to get in on craft beer’s recent IPA haze craze by brewing their own New England IPA.  Staying true to the more classic representations of the style (think Heady Topper from The Alchemist), the Samuel Adams New England IPA showcases an “opaque, hazy appearance”, a fruity hop presence with minimal bitterness, and a “juicy, luscious mouthfeel.”

Please, do not be confused by the blank sample cans we received. Packaging is in place (see promo image at the top of this post, credit: Samuel Adams), and this new Year-Round offering is currently experiencing a gradual rollout in Boston and select cities/states.  New England IPA will eventually see nationwide distribution after the New Year with availability in 4-packs of 16 oz. cans and on draft.

That should just about cover all of the background information on Samuel Adams New England IPA, so let’s get into some Tasting Notes to see what this new brew is all about.

Tasting Notes for New England IPA from Samuel Adams

Appearance – This brew is a sunburst orange in color that has some darker amber tones residing within the center of the pour.  When held to direct light, the oranges and yellows brighten at the edges while that amber core actually holds and deepens.  The beer has a good amount of haze to it, and a steady carbonation level can just barely be seen coursing within.  The pour built a lush two fingers of eggshell white foam.  Retention is pretty fantastic, falling ever so slowly to a creamy, lasting finger that sheets the glass with wide sweeping patterns of lace.

Aroma –   Very nice here with intensely juicy citrus and tropical fruit notes filling the air.  We are talking about massive amounts of pineapple, grapefruit, tangerine and passionfruit.  These fruity tones dominate the profile, but a bit of grassy and earthy character can be found underneath.

Taste – The flavor nearly mirrors the nose as an ample tropical fruit presence bursts with notes of passionfruit, pineapple, grapefruit, orange, papaya and berry.  A faint pine and earthy quality does eventually move in alongside a guava-like note that is further supported by a trace of non-descript malt sweetness.  This thing is basically a liquid fruit bowl.

Mouthfeel – Residing a touch on the heavier side of medium in body with a medium carbonation level, this beer is creamy and smooth in texture.  It dries out quickly, causing any hint of hop bitterness to dissipate immediately.  Its 6.8% ABV is not at all noticeable, keeping the experience refreshing and easy drinking.  The aftertaste leaves behind faint traces of pineapple and sweet citrus.

Final Thoughts – In a craft beer world gone hazy, this New England IPA from Samuel Adams certainly holds its own.  The mouthfeel is right, bitterness is minimal, the aromatics and flavors are juicy as hell, and it is definitely pretty to look at it.  By definition, this is absolutely a NE-style IPA/Hazy IPA and should be taken seriously as such.  Like all Samuel Adams beers, this offering benefits from a respected lineage that unquestionably puts quality at the forefront. That being the case, New England IPA gets some serious bonus points when you consider the fact that is about to become the most solid, consistent and easily attainable Hazy IPA on the market.  Seriously, keep an eye out for this one when it makes its full nationwide release at the start of 2018. Prost!



Tasting Notes: Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout from Rogue Ales

rogueRollingThunderPour1000In recognition of a week that is largely dedicated to big ol’, Barrel-aged Imperial Stouts, we do our part by taking down some Tasting Notes on Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout from Rogue Ales (Newport, Oregon).

We first let you know about Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout (2017) when it was released back in August, and this is certainly not your run-of-the-mill Barrel-aged Stout.  No, sir.  We are talking about an Imperial Stout that was brewed by Rogue Ales with ingredients grown at Rogue Farms, and then aged in barrels that once held Dead Guy Whiskey distilled by Rogue Spirits.  Oh . . . and those handmade Oregon Oak barrels were coopered at Rogue’s Rolling Thunder Barrel Works.  If your math is the same as ours, all of that amounts to nearly every aspect of this beer having been either handled, influenced, grown, or created by a member of the Rogue family.  That’s something truly special and definitely worth a look.

Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout (2017) officially released in August with availability on draft and in 1-liter swing-top bottles.  Quantities were extremely limited at the time of release, but we have heard reports of a few bottles and kegs still floating around out there.

Now that those details are out of the way, what do you say we activate this swing-top, pour a few glasses and get into some Tasting Notes?

Tasting Notes for Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout (2017) from Rogue Ales

Appearance:  Rolling Thunder presents itself as a glassy, obsidian black brew wearing a bubbly half finger of caramel-colored foam.  When held to direct light, the beer remains opaque but dark brown tones do push through at the extreme edges of the glass.  The appearance divulges zero hints at what the beer’s carbonation level will be.  As is often the case with higher ABV brews, head retention is weak and falters quickly to a pencil-thin ring.  This Stout is quite slick on the glass and makes it nearly impossible for any lacing to take hold.

Aroma:  The aromatics are surprisingly light in intensity but incredibly delightful.  The nose is first greeted by a waft of booze and sherry before the roasted malts settle in with gentle notes of chocolate, coffee and molasses.  The profile develops further and closes with some earthiness that is accompanied by clean oak and soft vanilla tones.

Taste:  Oh . . . this is nice.  A big pop of dark fruit and distinct wood character hits the tongue first.  This opens to expose notes of sherry and dark cherries that rounds out a robust and lovely dark fruit profile.  That fruit presence is then tempered by tones of coconut, vanilla, honey, dark chocolate and roasted grain.  Sweetness then gives way to earthiness as tobacco and coffee emerges.  The flavor profile finishes with a subtle grace of whiskey.

Mouthfeel:  Rolling Thunder is leaning toward the medium side of full bodied and has a moderate carbonation level.  Although it mostly translates as sweet on the palate, there is a nice balance here and it is not at all cloying.  Just as it should, this Imperial Stout’s 14% ABV brings the heat and constantly reminds you to slow down and sip.  Slick in texture, the beer’s flavors are allowed to linger just long enough.  Aftertaste is a bit of booze, tobacco and vanilla.

Final Thoughts:  With each sip of this beer, it is clear that Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout is more about how the barrel interacts with the beer rather than being just another beer dominated by barrel character.   The fact that this offering was made by “the first brewery-distillery-barrel maker in the country” can be read easily in each pour.  You can distinctly taste and smell the beer’s grain bill and added ingredients, and that oak barrel and the Dead Guy Whiskey ingrained within is here to only support, complement, elevate and contribute to those notes.  Everything here has equal billing.  Everything used has been showcased. This beer’s complexity is deep, and it goes far beyond what one has come to typically expect from a Barrel-aged Stout these days.  Rogue Ales promised that Rolling Thunder would be special, and they absolutely delivered with one hell of an experience.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Boomsauce from Lord Hobo Brewing Co.

BoomsaucePour1000For this edition of Tasting Notes, we set those midweek doldrums ablaze by getting into some Boomsauce from Lord Hobo Brewing Co. (Woburn, Massachusetts).

When an IPA is named the flagship offering at a brewery the specializes solely in hoppy styles, that means something.  Boomsauce has achieved that status at Lord Hobo Brewing Co. by being brewed with “six hop varietals and a blend of spelt, oat and wheat.”  To attain a level of hoppiness worthy of a Lord Hobo offering, this India Pale Ale is then finished off with “a late hop addition of Mosaic, Falconer’s Flight and Amarillo [to deliver] a notable citrus and tropical fruit finish.”  Boomsauce is available year-round in 16 oz. cans and on draft at craft beer establishments located in Florida, Massachusetts and throughout the rest of Lord Hobo’s ever-growing distribution area.

With all that background info now properly covered, let’s crack these cans and get into some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Boomsauce from Lord Hobo Brewing Co.

Appearance: Boomsauce presents itself as a medium to dark honey-like-golden colored brew with over two fingers of rocky white foam resting on top.  When held to direct light, the golden hues lighten in color and brighten in intensity.  The beer is slightly hazy, but you can still observe a strong carbonation level bouncing around some floaties within.  The head has pretty fantastic retention, but it does eventually (over a great deal of time) fall to a lasting, chunky half finger that devoutly sheets the glass with lace after each sip.

Aroma:  The aromatics lead with a pronounced floral hop character before giving way to citrus and tropical fruit tones of grapefruit rind, ripe melon, tangerine and lemon.  To display added versatility and depth, the hops actually open further to give off a slight grassiness. All of this is supported by a lightly sweet undercurrent of caramel and grain.

Taste:  The citrus and tropical hop qualities move to the front of the line here with notes of orange, bitter grapefruit, papaya, passionfruit and a touch of apricot.  Those refreshingly fruity and satisfyingly dank notes eventually settle down to allow some grassy and floral tones to move forward.  A touch of caramel maltiness sneaks in just before the finish to round everything off a bit.

Mouthfeel:  Coming in on the heavier side of medium in body, this beer has some weight to it but its bright carbonation keeps things nice and easy-drinking.  It is mostly hoppy and lightly bitter on the palate, but a tinge of sweetness does hit the tongue from time to time.  The 7.8% ABV does bring a slight heat that builds a bit over time.  It cleans up pretty nicely overall, but there is some bitter grapefruit left lingering in the aftertaste.

Final Thoughts:  All in all, Boomsauce comes together to be just about anything and everything you could look for in an IPA these days.  It has that hazy quality everyone is currently obsessed with, but beyond that (and more importantly) it shows some really impressive dynamics in the hop department.  Citrusy, tropical, floral and grassy tones are all present here in one cohesively complex package.  That hop character is incredibly beautiful and alluring, but it is truly made possible by the beer’s subtle malt backbone that interjects every once in a while with a deft touch of caramel sweetness.  That faint jolt of maltiness mischievously resets the palate so that it can get hit once again with the full force of those hops.  Dank and full-flavored while still remaining easy-drinking and gulp-worthy, it is really easy to see why Lord Hobo Brewing Co. named Boomsauce their flagship. Prost!

Tasting Notes: Wandering Blind Through Pumpkin Beer Hell

pumpkincornIn honor of Halloween, this week’s Tasting Notes exposes my mind, body, soul and palate to the horrors that can only be found in Pumpkin Beer Hell.

This comes as no shock to those that know me personally, but I must admit that I despise Pumpkin Beers.  In all fairness, it really is not limited to the beer alone.  I just never developed a taste for pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie or the distinctive spice mixture that thrives within these recipes.  It is just not my thing.

Even with that being the case, I still drink at least one Pumpkin Beer each year without fail.  Some may say I do this for science.  Others may say I do this because I secretly hate myself.  I say I do it as a practice to test my palate and see how it continues to develop as I get older.  Well, this year I decided to go all in on this palate punishment by accepting an invitation to a friend’s annual Blind Pumpkin Beer Tasting.  This event amounts to one evening with 10 beer lovers, 15 Pumpkin Beers that remain unnamed until after the tasting, and a ridiculous amount of groaning and whining from this guy.  Let’s do this.

Tasting Notes: An Evening Wandering Blind Through Pumpkin Beer Hell

Pumpkin Beer No. 1 – Alright . . . I’m trying to be open-minded here and it seems to be paying off.  This one is dark amber in color, has a really pleasant vanilla malt base, light pumpkin spice, and a grace of bitterness for balance.  The beer’s reserved spice level and slight nuttiness keeps this one tolerable.  Damn, I nearly finished off my pour.  We are off to a good start.

Pumpkin Beer No. 2 – As the second offering hits the table, I am immediately reminded of why I have a disdain for the Pumpkin Beer style.  This one is a very light copper in color and has a huge pumpkin spice presence in both flavor and aroma.  Nutmeg and all-spice is all over the place, and the beer’s body is far too light to carry these flavors.  There is absolutely nothing here to provide balance and, to top it off, there is also a contrasting floral and metallic presence building.  Nope . . . just a whole lotta’ nope in a glass.

Pumpkin Beer No. 3 – Light brown in color with a bit of an orange tint to it, No. 3 leads with some sweet caramel backed by a floral character.  The pumpkin spice starts light, but builds and settles heavily into the aftertaste.   Vanilla and apple also turn up from time to time.  This brew is not overly off-putting, but not particularly memorable either.  Movin’ on.

Pumpkin Beer No. 4 –  Ok, I have been presented with a very light amber, golden-hued brew that is just billowing with spice.  Like a lot of spice.  Too much damn spice.  I can taste the pumpkin spice just by smelling this beer.  It really wants to be pumpkin pie, but it just comes across to me as nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and a touch of wet dog.  It’s abrasive, boozy, and everything I fear in life.

Pumpkin Beer No. 5 – Next up is a dark orange-colored brew that is sporting a likable sweet vanilla cream and caramel malt base.  This opens to show off the expected pumpkin spice notes along with some crust like character.  There is a solid balance being achieved here between the spice and sweetness, and I can dig that.  It also has a bit of a root beer-like quality to it.  I may not like pumpkin pie, but I do have a youthful love for root beer . . . so I’ll take my wins when I can get them.

Pumpkin Beer No. 6 – Hmmm . . . this one is just weird.  Red-tinged copper in appearance, No. 6 has big floral and citrus notes working alongside all the pumpkin spice.  It is also extremely proud to show off a few more pumpkin spices than the beers that preceded it, but it is impossible to individually distinguish them as they relentlessly assail the senses.  The malts and hops are lost behind a booze-laden spice train of pain.  It’s just so aggressive.  Why is it so angry?!?!

Pumpkin Beer No. 7 –  It appears this tasting has taken a turn and things have gone dark with this brew.  Dark brown, almost black in color, Beer No. 7 is giving off some roasted malts and a bit of cocoa.  The pumpkin spice in this beer is mild and actually acts as more of a complement to the base beer.  What a novel idea!  And it works really well.  A note of black coffee adds some bitterness and strikes a nice balance between the malty sweetness and roastiness.  It pains me to say this, but this is a really nice Pumpkin Beer.

pumpkinwitchPumpkin Beer No 8. – Just as I find hope in this tasting, Beer No. 8 shows up to give me the finger.  This orangish-brown colored beast leads with a strong chemical smell that is like a mix of fusel alcohol and acetone.  Silver lining: at least it kills any chance of pumpkin spice turning up in the aroma.  AMIRITE?!?!  Each sip begins with a huge burst of booze that’s quickly followed by a deep, sticky sweetness filled with caramel, burnt brown sugar, and just a touch of fruit.  Then there’s the pumpkin spice.  All the spice is here.  All of it.  It is like a bomb went off in a spice cabinet and they all just happened to fall into this beer.  If I were to sum up this experience, this beer basically tastes like a caramel apple that has been dipped repeatedly in a barrel of pumpkin spice and then infused with the essence of spray paint.

Pumpkin Beer No. 9 – Alright . . . gotta regroup.  Gotta get myself together and Beer No. 9 is gonna turn it all around for me.  I just know it because it has to.  This brew is a light orange to almost blonde in color, and it opens with a lovely apple pie aroma.  That’s right, apple pie and not pumpkin pie.  The apple pie character carries over into the flavor with big hits of cinnamon and just a wisp of various other pumpkin spices.  That cinnamon brings some heat, but that heat is supported by something a bit more powerful.  Habaneros maybe?  It must be because it has a serious level of pepper heat that still holds some nice citrus tones.  The heat is on point and well placed.  I do not know how this sizes up as a “Pumpkin Beer”, but it’s fun and a welcomed distraction.

Pumpkin Beer No. 10 – As the tray approaches, I notice that the glasses are filled with another dark representation of the style.  That has proven to be a good sign so far, so I am hopeful.  Dark brown in color, this one is giving off a good amount of cocoa and nuttiness in both aroma and flavor.  This is supported by a bready, lightly roasted grain character that has a muted level of pumpkin spice laced within.  Medium in body, No. 10 has a peppy carbonation presence that keeps it easy-drinking.  I can get behind this one.

Pumpkin Beer No. 11 –  Salvation!  My palate has been saved by something that it has yet to experience today: tartness.  Dark yellow to gold in color, this beer is light in body with an effervescent carbonation level.   The flavor profile is comprised of light pumpkin (actual pumpkin), a dash of cocoa, a touch of pumpkin spice, and a delightful dose of sour citrus.  The beer is actually refreshing, and it reminds me that I am going to be ok.  I’m going to make it.  Is there more of this one?

Pumpkin Beer No. 12 – Rejuvenated after a good little run there, I approach this beer with a bit of optimistic curiosity.  The beer is dark orange in color and nearly devoid of aroma.  Strange . . . or sneaky?  The flavor is filled with mostly burnt caramel and a handful of brown sugar, but there is a light pumpkin spice presence lurking in the background with some dark fruit.  The spice to sweetness ratio is a bit more balanced, but it is just another stereotypical attempt at pumpkin pie in liquid form. Alas.

Pumpkin Beer No. 13 – It appears we have stumbled upon another twist, and I believe it is nitrogen.  Dark mahogany brown in color, this beer is crazy creamy in texture.  Fluffy even.  Aroma is just a touch of coffee, but the flavor produces notes of pumpkin spice, cream, and watered-down coffee.  This proves to be a decent combination, but it is muted overall.  You can tell it wants to be more.  Wait . . . have I stumbled into PSL territory?  Did I just become “basic”?  This tasting is trying to change me.  I can feel it.

Pumpkin Beer No. 14 –  It is just more of the same.  Pleasant pumpkin spice on the nose, but that spice goes on to dominate and overwhelm the malt base in the flavor department. More pumpkin pie.  I feel lost.  I look around and realize that everyone else at this tasting is thoroughly enjoying this beer and the tasting as a whole.  I am alone here and left reminded of that Conrad quote in Heart of Darkness:

“No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence–that which makes its truth, its meaning–its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream–alone.”

Pumpkin Beer No. 15 – A bronze-hued orange in color, this beer is really assertive with the pumpkin spice in all arenas. The flavor tries to strike a balance with notes of caramel and vanilla, but the spice cannot be vanquished.  It cannot be contained!  The beer is light in body and in ABV . . . wait . . . that’s the last one?  Hahahaha, I made it!  Beaten but not broken, I survived and I’m getting the hell out of here.

With the journey now completed, I rise out of this hell with the realization that many of you will want to know what beers were served during this tasting.  I will provide you with a list, but I will do so with a disclaimer. As I have said many times in the past, I am not in the business of hurting anyone when it comes to my reviews/Tasting Notes.  My intentions here are based purely in fun and to educate myself further on this style.  I may not like pumpkin beers, but that does not mean that these are bad beers.  I actually walked away from this tasting with an appreciation for many of these beers, and those that I gave the harshest criticism proved to be favorites for the nine other tasters in attendance (For example, Pumpkin Beer No. 8 was actually one of the highest rated beers at the tasting).  Sure, they were not all enjoyed by me, but they were all enjoyed by many at the table.  Now that I have gotten that off my chest, here are the beers in order of appearance in the photo below (Left to right; this is NOT the order that they were served in the reviews above – Deal with it – Sorry not sorry):


**Once again, the list above is NOT the same order that the beers were presented in during the tasting.**

If you are lover of Pumpkin Beers and pumpkin spice, there is no denying that these beers have something to offer you and are absolutely worth a try this fall.  Be sure to check them out and don’t mind me at all.  Prost and Happy Halloween, folks!


Tasting Notes: KÖLD SCHAUER from Sixpoint Brewery

Koldshowerpour1000With sights set on ultimate refreshment, this week’s Tasting Notes has us getting into a KÖLD SCHAUER from Sixpoint Brewery (Brooklyn, New York).

The “shower beer” has officially gone mainstream, and Sixpoint Brewery is getting in on that action with the Limited Release of KÖLD SCHAUER.  Intent on creating something “light, fresh, and clean”, they decided to go with a Kölsch that is light on bitterness (23 IBUs) but still has “a distinctive honeydew melon aroma from Huell Melon hops.”  With “distinctive kölsch yeast [and] pilsner malts” supporting those juicy hop notes, the 4.9% ABV KÖLD SCHAUER shows absolutely “no shrinkage in the flavor department.”  KÖLD SCHAUER is rolling out now, and this Limited Release is available in 6-packs of 12 oz. cans and on draft at craft beer establishments located in Alabama, Florida, New York and throughout the rest of Sixpoint Brewery’s distribution footprint.

Alright, I guess it’s time to grab a towel, hit the showers and get into these Tasting Notes . . .

Tasting Notes for KÖLD SCHAUER from Sixpoint Brewery

Appearance:  The pour produces a yellow-tinted, light orange colored brew capped with nearly two fingers of fluffy white foam.  When held to direct light, yellow hues intensify and the color turns to more of a burnished gold.  The beer is slightly hazy and displays a steady carbonation presence bouncing about within.  Head retention is good, but it slowly falls to a rocky half finger that consistently notches the glass with lace after each draw.

Aroma: The aromatics begin with some lightly toasted grain notes and honey.  That solid first wave of malty goodness is then gently overtaken by a clean floral and fruity breath of hops.  That fruity quality opens further to close the profile with a light melon character.

Taste:  Whoa . . . those Huell Melon hops really shine here as the flavor leads with a lovely and pronounced melon presence.  That honeydew note is laced with a touch of citrus, a bit of grassiness, and some floral tones.  All of that is supported by an ever-present undercurrent of toasted, biscuity grains and a dollop of honey.  The balance is just beautiful, and it is all made possible thanks to a nondescript fruitiness coming from the Kölsch yeast.  Fantastic.  Truly fantastic.

Mouthfeel: Light in body with a bright, prickly carbonation.  The balance is nearly spot on here, staying almost perfectly centered between malty and hoppy.  Each sip dries out nicely, constantly begging for another.  The ABV is completely hidden, further adding to the beer’s refreshing and easy-drinking ways.  Aftertaste is minimal, but there is just a touch of residual fruitiness left behind.

Final Thoughts: As we all know, a shower beer must be light, crisp, clean and (above all else) refreshing.   KÖLD SCHAUER hits all those marks with ease, and a great deal of this beer’s success comes from how Sixpoint handled the hops.  They were somehow able to pull all the juicy, refreshing fruit flavor out of these Huell Melon hops but without making the beer overly bitter.  They found a sweet spot that holds maximum hop flavor with minimum bitterness, and it is simply gorgeous when combined with those trademark Kölsch yeast and malt notes.  All in all, this beer is everything I am looking for in Kölsch and it can join me in the shower anytime.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Marshmallow Milk Stout from Garage Brewing Co.

garageMarshpour1000_editedWith Halloween lurking just around the corner, this week’s installment of Tasting Notes has us looking to satisfy some sweet treat cravings by getting into a bottle of Marshmallow Milk Stout from Garage Brewing Co. (Temecula, California).

Reigning as the sole dark beer in Garage Brewing’s Year-Round portfolio, Marshmallow Milk Stout was created to be “pure decadence with none of the gooey mess.” Roasty, smooth, and with just enough marshmallow sweetness, this medium-bodied Milk Stout will have you “[picturing] yourself nestled around a campfire” after just one sip.  Marshmallow Milk Stout (7.1% ABV) is available year-round in 22 oz. bottles, 12 oz. cans and on draft at craft beer establishments found within Garage Brewing Co.’s distribution footprint in SoCal.

So, yeah . . . I do believe liquid marshmallow time is finally upon us, so let’s fill these glasses and get to some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Marshmallow Milk Stout from Garage Brewing Co.

Appearance: Marshmallow Milk Stout pours a glossy, reflective obsidian in color and wears a finger of caramel-tinted foam on top.  Held to direct light, the beer remains completely opaque but does show some garnet tones pushing through at its extreme edges.  Head retention is decent, but it does end up reducing down to a lasting, frothy top cap that leaves some lengthy brushstrokes of lace behind on the glass.

Aroma: Gorgeous notes of roasted malt are evident just as soon as you pop the cap on this one.  Some bittersweet chocolate character presents itself just before the lactose builds to take the aroma in more of a nostalgic chocolate milk direction.  Out of this rises marshmallow and French vanilla tones that eventually dominate and close out the profile.

Taste: In a bit of a surprise twist, we start here with a straight-up cola quality that eventually opens to take the shape of more distinguishing notes of lactose sugar and vanilla.  The marshmallow then comes forward alongside some light chocolate tones.  The flavor profile closes with roasty, moderately sweet dark malt notes and just a wisp of smoke.

Mouthfeel: Medium in body with a moderate carbonation level, this beer hits the palate with a soft, creamy texture.  As expected, it is mostly sweet on the palate but not at all cloying.  The ABV is well hidden and the beer is semi-dry on the finish.  The aftertaste leaves behind a bit of cola and some long-lasting marshmallow.

Final Thoughts:  Marshmallow Milk Stout has quite a bit going on and it pushes well beyond being just a one-dimensional marshmallow experience.  The marshmallow is definitely there, but it selflessly shares its stage with nicely developed notes of vanilla, chocolate and roasted malts.  The unexpected but familiar cola aspect is a nice addition that works well with the beer’s mouthfeel and boasts its overall drinkability.  Although it is sweet, it still retains an easy-drinking nature that allows for its drinker to enjoy one or several pours if desired.  Overall, Marshmallow Milk Stout is damn tasty and the perfect beer to have in hand while raiding the Halloween candy bowl.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: TreasureFest from Heavy Seas Beer

HSTfestBottleOur week of Oktoberfest-fueled Tasting Notes continues as we get into some appropriately tall pours of TreasureFest Oktoberfest Lager from Heavy Seas Beer (Baltimore, Maryland).

Back for another year as the brewery’s late-summer/early-fall Seasonal, TreasureFest is Heavy Seas Beer’s “American spin” on the Oktoberfest Lager.  Beginning with a traditional base of imported German malts and hops, the brewers at Heavy Seas then put an American twist on TreasureFest by dry-hopping the beer with a hearty dose of American hops. At 6% ABV and 35 IBUs, TreasureFest promises to be “a fresh look at the old Oktober stand-by.”  TreasureFest is available now but nearing the end of its Seasonal run.  You can find this offering available in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles and on draft at craft beer establishments located in Alabama, Florida, Maryland, and throughout the rest of Heavy Seas Beer’s distribution network.

With all that information now properly covered, I do believe it is time to fill these steins and get into some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for TreasureFest Oktoberfest Lager from Heavy Seas Beer

Appearance: With two fingers of frothy, off-white eggshell-colored foam resting on top, TreasureFest presents itself as a ruddy, amber-colored brew that holds some deep red-orange tones at its core.  When held to the light, the beer brightens to expose more vibrant copper and orange hues.  The incredibly clear body displays a spirited carbonation presence streaming within.  Head retention is pretty spectacular, but it does eventually (over a great deal of time) fall to a dense, foamy half finger that coats the stein with elaborate, pencil-thin lace patterns.

Aroma:  Hops jump into the nose first with a flourish of floral and citrus tones.  Once certain that they have gained your attention, the hops back off a bit to allow the malts to come forward with notes of lightly-toasted bread, brown sugar and caramel.  The hops and malts eventually find equal ground to close with a lovely mix of floral hops and clean grains.

Taste:  The flavor profile begins with an alluring blend of German and American hops.  We are talking about some floral, lightly zesty tones that are matched by a bright pop of orange and grapefruit zest.  Acting quicker here than in the nose, the malts advance to assertively lay down some balancing bready, biscuity and caramel notes.  The hops ultimately win the final battle by closing out the profile with a parting strike of resiny goodness.

Mouthfeel: TreasureFest is medium in body with a medium carbonation presence.  This creates a feel that is not too thin and not too heavy, allowing the beer to move well across the palate.  Having a good mix of bitterness and sweetness, the beer finds a really nice balance.  At 6%, the ABV does bring a little warmth but nothing too crazy.  Aftertaste is just a little lingering tingle of citrus zest and a touch of hop resin.

Final Thoughts: Yeah, TreasureFest may be far from traditional but it is a really interesting take on the Oktoberfest-style Lager.  It may surprise many with that healthy pop of American hops, but it still retains that beautiful and wanted malt backbone we all look for during Oktoberfest season.  That building malt presence in both aroma and flavor strikes a finely tuned balance that keeps this beer in the Oktoberfest realm while the hops are just enough to allow it to stand out a bit from the crowd. This makes TreasureFest a great option for the hopheads out there that still want to get in the spirit of the season or for those who wish to just shock the palate a bit after a long day of more malt-driven Oktoberfests and Märzens.  All in all, TreasureFest comes together to be a unique and damn tasty riff on the style, and it is absolutely worth tracking down at some point during this year’s Oktoberfest celebration.  Be sure to check it out while you can.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Festie from Starr Hill Brewery

FestieStarr_editedNow that Oktoberfest season is in full swing, we shift the focus of Tasting Notes to the beers brewed to honor this great tradition.  First up, we take a look at Festie Oktoberfest Lager from Starr Hill Brewery (Crozet, Virginia).

Staying true to their belief that “a great playlist is all about what’s new and what’s next”, the music lovin’ souls at Starr Hill Brewery established the Heavy Rotation Series as a means “to keep fresh styles of beer coming your way.”  Festie Oktoberfest Lager has arrived as the current release in this series, and it is Starr Hill’s “tribute to the great German lager.” At 4.8% ABV, this “rich and malty” offering is meant to “[invoke] the German tradition of Oktoberfest, while also paying homage to the end of the summer music festival season.”  As an added bonus, the intentions behind this beer are further echoed with a specially curated Spotify Playlist “featuring tunes that combine flavors of folk, funk, jam band, and rock to pair perfectly with a bottle of Festie” (click here to listen).

Festie Oktoberfest Lager is out now and available throughout Oktoberfest season.  You can expect to find this Limited Release offering in 6-packs of 12 oz. bottles, in the Fall Tour Variety 12-pack, and on draft at craft beer establishments located in Alabama, Virginia, and throughout the rest of Starr Hill’s distribution area.

With all of those necessary background details now out of the way, I do believe it is time to fill a glass and get our Oktoberfest on with some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Festie Oktoberfest Lager from Starr Hill Brewery

Appearance: Festie fills the glass as a rich amber-colored brew that has chestnut tones.  When held to direct light, the amber notes brighten and the color softens.  The beer is crystal clear and shows a steady carbonation presence that is doing its best to feed the finger of off-white foam that was built during the pour.  That head fades with a quickness, reducing down to a thin ring that leaves minimal spots of lace behind on the glass.

Aroma: The aromatics begin with a light caramel malt character that slowly opens to take on a nutty quality – almonds and hazelnuts.  Bready notes eventually work their way forward to round the aroma off with a clean grain presence and just a grace of sweetness.

Taste: In an unexpected twist, the flavor profile actually leads with a faintly herbal, lightly sweetened tea-like quality. Caramelized nuts then surface to bring some sweetness before a hearty, bready malt note settles in.  The classic grain character establishes itself firmly thanks to the complementing German lager yeast. The flavor closes just as it started . . . with a light wash of that herbal/tea note.

Mouthfeel: This lager is on the lighter side of medium in body with a crisp carbonation level.  It is lightly sweet on the palate, but well balanced by that touch of herbal character.  The 4.8% ABV shows no interest in playing a factor here, and that just further adds to the offering’s easy-drinking nature.  The aftertaste is just a breath of lingering nuttiness.

Final Thoughts: Overall, Festie is a very clean, delightfully approachable, and refreshingly light representation of the Oktoberfest/Märzen, but still has all the flavor one expects to find from a beer of the style.  The beer’s light body and low ABV just aids in its high level of drinkability, making it a perfect candidate to fill massive steins at Oktoberfest celebrations taking place throughout the Southeast.  If you are looking to get festive without getting (too) sloppy this Oktoberfest season, Starr Hill Brewery’s Festie Oktoberfest Lager is certainly a beer that should be in your sights.  Be sure to check it out before its limited run comes to an end.  Prost!


Tasting Notes: Torikumi from SweetWater Brewing and Telluride Brewing Co.

DankTankTorikumiPour_editedTasting Notes takes a bit of an unconventional turn this week as we sit down to examine a tall pour of Torikumi Wasabi Infused Blonde Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company (Atlanta, Georgia) and Telluride Brewing Co. (Telluride, Colorado).

Torikumi, which translates to mean a “sumo bout”, comes to us as a special collaboration beer crafted by SweetWater Brewing’s Nick Nock and Brewmaster Chris Fish from Telluride Brewing Co.  After an excursion to Atlanta’s Buford Highway, a culinary playground of international cuisine, the two brewers returned to SweetWater Brewing Co. with inspiration to fill the Dank Tank with what would eventually be known as Torikumi Wasabi Infused Blonde Ale.  Dosed with some “serious heat” from the added wasabi, this 7.5% ABV American Blonde Ale can be enjoyed as a pairing for a wide variety of dishes or – for those more daring heat seekers – on its own.  Torikumi is nearing the end of its availability, but it can still be found in 4-packs of 16 oz. cans and on draft at select beer establishments located in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and throughout the rest of SweetWater Brewing Company’s distribution area.

Now that the background information has been handled, it’s time to face the wasabi and get to some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Torikumi Wasabi Infused Blonde Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company & Telluride Brewing Co.

Appearance: Torikumi presents itself as a deep golden colored brew with burnt orange hues radiating within and a bright white finger of foam resting on top.  When held to direct light, the color steadfastly holds but the yellows and oranges do gain a bit more vibrancy.  The beer is a touch on the cloudy side, but you can still spot a steady carbonation presence swirling about some particulate within.  Head retention is good, but it eventually falls to a half finger of thick, creamy foam that coats the glass with wide lace patterns.

Aroma:  With citrus and juniper leading the way, the first impression of this beer is an interesting and memorable mix of fruit and earthy spice.  The beer then shifts into that recognizable, nose-tingling presence of wasabi before settling into a solid malt presence of rye and wheat.

Taste:  Citrus – orange and lemon zest – and wasabi rush the palate just before a lovely, gin-like juniper works its way in.  That earthiness is further supported by some spicy rye and some wheat breadiness that rounds everything off.  Wonderfully unique, surprisingly pleasant, and incredibly balanced here.

Mouthfeel:  Torikumi is medium in body with an effervescent carbonation level.  It moves across the palate with expert-level balance, giving off a good mix of bitterness, sweetness, and wasabi heat.  It is actually a bit shocking that this brew clocks in at 7.5% ABV because there is not even a hint of a trace of alcohol heat . . . or it just might be hiding cleverly behind that subtle sting of wasabi.  The aftertaste is a nice combo of earthy rye, sweet orange and wasabi.

Final Thoughts:  Going into this experience, I must admit that I was not expecting to use the word “balance” too often.  Well, here we are and I can emphatically declare that Torikumi – wasabi and all – is an incredibly balanced brew.  The planning behind this recipe was damn near genius because the wasabi comes across with a beautiful grace as it mingles with the earthy grains, citrusy hops, and distinct juniper berries.  Oh, those juniper berries . . . their addition was a great call because they make the rye and wasabi really pop while still somehow taming them at the same time.   This allows the beer to retain some bite, but not nearly as much heat as the brewery’s description leads you to believe.  It honestly creates a flavor experience that is similar to a lightly sweetened gin cocktail that has been laced with just a bit of heat. Torikumi has balance and drinkability, and it just might be the most unique beer I have tried all year.  If you have been avoiding this one simply because the can reads “Wasabi Infused”, believe me when I say this is a must try brew.  Get beyond those apprehensions and give Torikumi a try before it disappears forever.  Prost!

Tasting Notes: Partner Ships IPL from Heavy Seas Beer and Cigar City Brewing

CCBHSIPLPour_edited1000This week’s installment of Tasting Notes gets a double dose of styles and breweries as we have a look at Partner Ships IPL from Heavy Seas Beer (Baltimore, Maryland) and Cigar City Brewing (Tampa, Florida).

This very special IPL (India Pale Lager) comes to us as the latest installment in Heavy Seas Beer’s Partner Ships Series, a lineup of limited releases that “features beers produced in collaboration with other regionally and nationally recognized brewers in the spirit of friendship, creativity, and adventure.”  Heavy Seas teamed up with Cigar City Brewing this time around to brew a golden lager that combines “bready malt aromatics” with a sizable hop bill (Cascade, Centennial, Mosaic, Simcoe & Mandarina Bavaria) that one might associate with an American India Pale Ale.  Thanks to “late addition kettle hops followed by extensive dry-hopping”, the 7.8% ABV Partner Ships IPL comes together to provide “full citrus and tropical fruit flavors and aromas balancing a soft bitterness.”  Partner Ships IPL is available now in 22 oz. bottles and on draft at craft beer-friendly establishments located in Alabama, Florida, Maryland and throughout the rest of Heavy Sea Beer’s distribution area.

Now that we have worked our way through the details behind Partner Ships IPL, let’s dig a little deeper by pouring a glass and getting into some Tasting Notes!

Tasting Notes for Partner Ships IPL from Heavy Seas Beer & Cigar City Brewing

Appearance:  Partner Ships IPL pours a yellow-tinged copper in color and is wearing a solid two fingers of creamy white foam.  When held to direct light, the color brightens intensely to reveal a beautiful, deep golden.  Pristine in clarity, the beer displays an abundant carbonation presence plugging away within.  Head has good retention, but it does eventually reduce down to a lasting and lush half finger that leaves behind wide sheets of lace on the glass.

Aroma: The first note to hit the nose is a solid, spot-on lager maltiness that has a nice and comforting bready quality to it.  Starting with an earthy, floral character predominately comprised of piney and grassy notes, the hops creep forward, slowly build, and finish with a citrus flourish of lemon, grapefruit and tangerine.

Taste:  In this arena, the hops strike first with a bright pop of grapefruit, orange and lemon zest.  That initial citrus hop bite softens to expose floral, grassy and piney tones just before a second fruity wave rises to engulf the palate with notes of tangerine and tropical fruit.  The beer closes with a slightly sweet, pilsner malt breadiness and just a bit of booziness.

Mouthfeel:  Medium bodied with a soft carbonation, this IPL has a good amount of weight to it but still remains highly drinkable.  The expected bitterness is there, but it is subdued and nicely balanced by just the right amount of sweet malt character.  That 7.8% ABV brings a little heat, but it does not take away from the experience.  The aftertaste leaves behind some tangerine zest and a touch of alcohol.

Final Thoughts:  The greatest takeaway from our experience with Partner Ships IPL was the remarkable way that Heavy Seas and Cigar City retained the soul of a beautiful lager in a beer that had its hop bill pumped up to true American IPA levels.  In a hybrid style where the malts are often nothing more than an afterthought these days, this IPL’s Pilsen and Vienna malts are distinctly present and play just as much a role as the hops.  Sure, it causes the alcohol to intrude on the flavor a touch, but it does so in a way that does not damage a profile more abundantly filled with delightful floral, bready, earthy, fruity and crackery notes.  Even at that 7.8% ABV, Partner Ships IPL possesses a level of drinkability that allows for one person to easily crush a 22 oz. bomber in a sitting or sip on all day while in a cookout or get-together kind of atmosphere.  This is a beer drinker’s beer, and that’s something we all can get behind, right?  Be sure to check out Partner Ships IPL before its limited run comes to an end.  Prost!