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Thursday, June 14, 2018

American Stouts

LEGENDARY BREWS


Along with the growth of craft beers has come a phenomenon I call Legendary Brews. These are beers that, either regionally or nationally, gain a near mythical status. For any number of reasons - limited production creating demand, unique taste profile, word of mouth, a particular hype upon release, or a combination of any and all - these beers become the stuff of legends. Usually they are brewed only certain times of the year, sometimes only once a year, and their release becomes a kind of beer geek celebration. Heady Topper from The Alchemist Brewing was one of the early Legendary Brews. Heady Topper started the New England Style IPA movement with a hazy, citrusy, hop-forward beer for which people wait in line for hours upon release in order to purchase a limited number of 4-packs.

Nearly every part of the country seems to have a Legendary Brew: Kentucky Stout from Toppling Goliath Brewing in Iowa, Sip of Sunshine from Lawson's Finest Liquids out of Vermont, Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout from Foothills Brewing in North Carolina, Hunahpu's Imperial Stout from Cigar City in Florida, Dark Lord Imperial Stout from 3 Floyds in Indiana, Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA, or Dave, a barleywine from Hair of the Dog Brewing in Portland Oregon. Most of these are available regionally, which seems to add to their mystique. While Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA is more of a national brew, selling for over $40 per 4-pack. For many of these brews people will camp out at the brewery overnight prior to the release of the beer. Dark Lord, Hunahpu, Sexual Chocolate are all released once a year with big release parties. Dave is aged 20 years and its last release was in 2013 with only 12 bottles selling at $2,000 per. They sold out within hours.

A Central New York beer that has reached Legendary Brew status is Mass Riot IPA from Prison City Brewing in Auburn, NY. It is a New England style IPA that recently gained national attention (which pushed it into the realm of Legendary) when it was named Best IPA by Paste Magazine. We at BOTB were lucky enough to get into the brewpub on a Mass Riot release date for a member's birthday celebration. Like so many craft beer brewpubs, Prison City, located in The Armory building in
Auburn, has that nice, laid-back, hip industrial vibe. Our waitress was a lot of fun and knowledgeable. The food was terrific. And Mass Riot lives up to the hype. It's a wonderful beer. But it was by no means the only good beer available. Like many brewpubs, Prison City rotates beers in and out and experiments with different styles. Much to our delight they had a number of IPAs on tap besides Mass Riot including a Red and a Black and a New England.  Along with the myriad IPAs there were Sours, Lagers, Porters, Blondes, Belgians and hybrids of various ilk. It'll be interesting to see if their success equals wider availability.


AMERICAN STOUTS


Why "American" Stouts? After all the birthplace of stout is Ireland with Guinness Stout (ergo our nod to Guinness with our "Pour" section rating - Guinness Class Head). As American craft beer has grown, however, nearly every brewery has its own stout or several variations of Stouts. As has happened with the craft beer industry, American brewers took the basic essence of a style and tweaked it in various ways. In the case of Stouts, the basics amounted to a dark, malty beer with subtle hints of coffee and chocolate. American craft brewers have been toying with that formula to create stouts that tend to be a bit bigger and bolder and often hoppier than their cousins across the ocean. This month we decided to check out stouts produced exclusively by American brewers. 

OATMEAL STOUT
BRECKENRIDGE BREWERY

THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Breckenridge Brewery, Littleton, CO; STYLE: Oatmeal Stout; ABV: 5%; IBU: 36

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "A well balanced easy drinking stout is timeless. Deeply roasted malts lend hints of coffee and dark chocolate. There's a softness that comes from the oatmeal, which when combined with the malts, adds a touch of sweetness at the onset. This transitions to an unexpected dry finish."

COLOR: Deep Mahogany

POUR: Decent tan head

AROMA: Malty, molasses dominates

BODY: Bit less than medium

TASTE: Toward the sweet side of balance with overtones of chocolate and coffee.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Creamy on the tongue; A little thinner body than you might expect from a stout; Nice and mild; Not over the top, but easy-drinking beer; Nice, solid beer."

OLD MOUNTAIN MILK STOUT
BLUE LINE BREWING

THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Blue Line Brewery, Saranac Lake, NY; STYLE: Milk Stout; ABV; 5.1%; IBUs: 25; MALTS: Roast, Chocolate, Crystal, Victory.

COLOR: Black

POUR: Slight head with some lacing

AROMA: Brown sugar

BODY: Between Medium and Full

TASTE: Sweet with notes of coffee, vanilla, brown sugar

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "More malty; A bit creamier even than Breckenridge; Roasty; On the sweet side - I like it; Kind of like a nice latte; Yeah, coffee and vanilla; Good beer."

NITRO BREAKFAST WITH CHURCHILL OATMEAL COFFEE STOUT
WAR HORSE BREWING



THE BEER FACTS: BREWERY: War Horse Brewing, Geneva, NY; STYLE: Oatmeal Stout; ABV: 7.2%; MALTS: 2-Row, Oats, Roasted barley, Chocolate Malt, Crystal 55; HOPS: Bravo, East Kent Golding; OTHER: Colombian Coffee

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Breakfast With Churchill is full of roasty smooth dark chocolate notes and balanced bitterness. With the addition of freshly roasted Colombian Coffee from our good friends at Glenn Edith in Rochester, it's a perfect start, or finish, to your day."

COLOR: Near Black with a red tint

POUR: Between Decent and Guinness Class with long-lasting lacing

AROMA: Brown sugar and coffee

BODY: Between Medium and Full

TASTE: Nice sweetness on the front with a pleasing bitterness at the end with a strong coffee taste throughout

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Darn near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Creamy; More roasted taste than some of the others; Fills the mouth; Like a nice mug of coffee; Real nice mouth feel; They really hit the coffee stout sweet spot - a little sweet a little bitter with a nice big flavor; Coffee, yes, but still beer; Little bit of dark chocolate in there too; I like it."

DRAGONSLAYER
MIDDLE AGES BREWING CO.



THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Middle Ages Brewing, Syracuse, NY; STYLE: Imperial Stout; ABV: 9.5%; HOPS: English hops

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Brewed in the style of a Russian Imperial Stout. Strong, chocolatety and aggressively hopped with finest English hops

COLOR: Near pitch black

POUR: Near Guinness Class head - big, rich and long-lasting

AROMA: Roasty malt, candy

BODY: Near full

TASTE: Somewhat sweet, with coffee and dark chocolate dominant

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "A bit more carbonated than many; Roasted coffee bitterness; Iced coffee; Not a dessert beer yet, but a meal ender; Bit of licorice taste in there; Big malty taste; Got a nice dark chocolate taste to it; The British vibe comes through with the English hops; Another good beer from one of our favorite breweries."

THICK MINT STOUT
SOUTHERN TIER


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Southern Tier Brewing, Lakewood, NY; STYLE: Imperial Stout Dessert Beer; ABV: 10%; IBU: 60

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Inspired by the legendary cookie, Thick Mint joins our world-class rated Blackwater Series of dessert beers alongside Creme Brulee, Choklat Oranj, Salted Caramel and Choklat in 2017. This Imperial Stout is a mouthful of perfectly balanced mint and chocolate. Roasty malts coalesce with notes of Belgian dark chocolate, sweet mint and just a touch of sweet caramel. So decadently delicious, you'll wish you'd bouth another box...er, bottle."

COLOR: Black

POUR: Between Decent and Guinness Class

AROMA: Mint and chocolate

BODY: Full

TASTE: Sweet with dark chocolate and mint, bit of caramel and roasty malt

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Tastes like a Girl Scout cookie; Dessert; Creamy; Great mouthfeel; Deceptively alcoholic; I'm the one dissenting voice here - I'm just not a fan of mint in anything other than a candy of gum, just don't care for it. Having said that, I like this better than I thought I would - the mint is subtle enough to not overpower."

HYPNOPOMPA IMPERIAL STOUT
OMNIPOLLO BREWING


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Omnipollo Brewing, Boston MA; STYLE: Imperial Stout; ABV: 11%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Hypnopompa is our Imperial Stout brewed with almost 100 kilos of marshmallows and Tahitian vanilla beans ( the size of cigars). Low carbonation and boiled a bit extra for good measure, this is a beer strictly for the stout inclined."

COLOR: Black

POUR: Decent chocolate brown head

AROMA: Chocolate, sea-salt, caramel/sweet

BODY: Full

TASTE: Sweet dark chocolate

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Could chew this; Dessert beer; Tastes like a liquid S'more; Lady Godiva; After-dinner drink; Almost like chocolate syrup; Could put it on French Vanilla ice cream; Good - and different."

KBS (KENTUCKY BREAKFAST STOUT)
FOUNDERS BREWING



THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich., STYLE: Bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout; ABV: 12.3%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "What we've got herre is an imperial stout brewed with a massive amount of coffee and chocolates then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for an entire year to make sure wonderful bourbon undertones come through in the finish. Makes your taste buds squeal with delight."

COLOR: Black

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Chocolate, coffee

BODY: Full

TASTE: Big chocolate and coffee with smooth bourbon undertones

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Coffee grounds; Green pepper? I think; Sweet smelling - maybe horehound; Bourbon taste comes through nicely - sort of blends in nicely almost like a nice Irish Coffee made with bourbon; A real tasty sipper."

BOURBON BARREL DRAGONSLAYER
MIDDLE AGES BREWING



THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Middle Ages Brewing, Syracuse, NY; STYLE: Imperial Stout; ABV: 12.5%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This version of our imperial stout Dragonslayer has been aged in Bourbon Barrels for over 6 months."

COLOR: Black

POUR: Guinness-class  with nice lacing

AROMA: spicy, alcohol, subtle

BODY: Full

TASTE: Coffee, bourbon, alcohol, bit of toffee with fruity hops

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Alcohol up front; Booze; Serious stuff; A 'get-me-in-trouble' beer; I taste a little coconut in there; Dangerously delicious; One of the hoppier stouts we've had today.

Sláinte,
The BOTB Guys










Saturday, April 21, 2018

New New York Brews

RIDING ON THE CRAFT BEER COATTAILS


While engaged in one of my favorite pastimes - namely checking out the craft beer section of a nearby grocery store - I noticed a big blue beer with the word "STONE" prominently displayed on its side. I was, at first, taken aback since I was unaware of a new Stone beer on the market. But, being the savvy craft beer geek that I am I noticed two things that told me this was not a Stone beer. The first thing was the word "light" printed below the word "STONE." Anyone who knows Stone Brewing knows that Light or Lite are totally anathema to all that Stone stands for. This is the brewery whose flagship beer is Arrogant Bastard, upon whose bottles is printed a diatribe decrying "Wussy yellow beers." A light beer by Stone would be like a sweet romantic comedy directed by Quentin Tarantino. Stone makes big in-your-face beers. "Light" is not in their vocabulary. And then I saw the word "KEY" printed discretely above the word "STONE" and realized this was Keystone Light a beer produced by MillerCoors. And they had changed their can design. The old can looked like this:
Notice that the word "KEYSTONE" is all one word. No mistaking what it is. Now, the new can isn't likely to fool an experienced craft beer aficionado, but perhaps one less knowledgeable who is first dipping one's toes into the craft beer pool might think they are buying a Stone beer. It's enough of an issue that Stone has brought a suit against MillerCoors. Whether anything comes of the suit or not is not as significant as the fact that a megabrew feels the need to get a free ride from a respected craft brewer. 


SOME NEW NEW YORK BREWS


716 IPA
FLYING BISON

THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Flying Bison Brewing Company, Buffalo, NY; STYLE: India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.4%; IBUs: 50; MALTS: UK Pale, NY Craft Malt Erie Canal Pale; HOPS: Centennial, Cascade, Galaxy, Amarillo

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Medium bodied American India Pale Ale using the best UK Pale malt and citrusy, aromatic US hops. The bold hop aromas, flavors, and bitterness are supported/balanced by a solid malt backbone."

COLOR: Golden

POUR: Better than Decent pure white head with good lacing

AROMA: Earthy

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Nice hop bitterness with solid malt balance. Lots of pine and citrus.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Can't Get Enough!


COMMENTS: "Malt comes through nicely; Balanced; Hits the side of my tongue; Piney after-taste; Fine beer - apparently not available in Central New York; Lingering after-taste; Good Bills tailgate beer."


THE ELEVEN IPA
CRITZ FARMS



THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Critz Farms Brewing and Cider Co., Cazenovia, NY; STYLE: India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.6%; IBU



WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "A citrusy, piney India Pale Ale with the complexity of eleven constituent parts and the singular deliciousness of local, homegrown ingredients."

COLOR: Unfiltered golden


POUR: Better than Decent head

AROMA: Piney, toffee and malty

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Malty and Bready with a bit of citus in there

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Can't Get Enough!

COMMENTS: "Nice maltiness; Nice beer; A little piney and some nice citrus notes; Flavors mesh nicely, nothing overpowers; Really good beer."

IPA'EH'
BIG TUPPER BREWING


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Big Tupper Brewing, Tupper Lake, NY; ABV: 7%; IBUs: 65



WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "IPA 'Eh' is our flagship beer - Say it like a Frenchman, drink it like an Adirondacker! And, just like our French Canadian influence, our IPA 'Eh' has lots of positive attitude and unique accents. It has a crisp flavor with a slight citrus finish that leaves you wanting more. Our IPA 'Eh' pairs well with beef and food with a little spice.


COLOR: Between Wheat and Golden

POUR: Near Guinness Class Head

AROMA: Clean

BODY: Bit more than Medium

TASTE: Citrus and lemon dominate

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!"


COMMENTS: "Smooth; Fills the mouth nicely; Too citrusy and lemony for me; Dry, clean finish; Too sour for me."

HOPPY HOUR HERO MOE.SAIC IPA
SARANAC BREWING


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Saranac Brewing Company, Utica, NY; STYLE: Double India Pale Ale; ABV: 7.8%; IBUs: 75; MALTS: Pale, 2-Row, Honey Malt; HOPS: Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe



WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Combining the intensely piney, citrusy, and tropical fruit aroma and flavor of Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops, this Double IPA is a liquid jam-session of big hop flavor. Packed with pineapple, mango, and passionfruit hop character, this is a big beer with a full body and firm bitterness."


COLOR: Golden


POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Soapy

BODY: Bit beyond Medium

TASTE: Nicely bitter with tropical fruit and butterscotch

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Can't Get Enough!

COMMENTS: "Delicious!; I've got to get this; Superb; Nice malt on the end with a decent hop kick; Nice clean finish; One of their best beers; Hopefully they'll continue to make this; Will actively seek this out; Bravo, Saranac!"

SPACE KITTY
ROHRBACH BREWING COMPANY

THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Rohrbach Brewing Company, Rochester, NY; ABV: 8.4%; IBUs: 92


WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This American Double IPA features a trio of rare hops, high in alpha acids and juicy oils, that mimic the West Coast style we love so dearly. Do not age Space Kitty and please drink fresh."

COLOR: Hazy honey with much flotsam and jetsam.

POUR: Decent head

AROMA: Big hoppy, piney nose

BODY: Between Medium and Full

TASTE: Nicely bitter with strong citrus zest

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Can't Get Enough!

COMMENTS: "Some bitterness to it; The nice thing about this is that you get your daily fiber along with a good beer; Hop forward; Thus far the best of the day; I like it a lot; Reminds me of the IPAs I first grew to love."

DEBACLE DOUBLE IPA
COPPER CITY BREWING COMPANY

THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Copper City Brewing Company, Rome, NY; STYLE: Double IPA; ABV: 8.3%


WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Extraordinary double. Sticking with a west coast style theme this IIPA has a malty body, pleasant aroma and a nip of bitterness. 8.3%, make your choice wisely."

COLOR: Cloudy honey

POUR: Near Guiness class head

AROMA: Grassy

BODY: Between Medium and Full

TASTE: Bitter with nutty, malty notes

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Sweet on the end; Smooth - could sneak up on you; A good beer; Really nice beer - another sort of old school West Coast IPA, with a good solid malt backbone."

DOUBLE MIDDLE FINGER LAKES IPA
REINVENTION BREWING 

THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Reinvention Brewing Co., Manchester, NY; STYLE: Double IPA; ABV: 9.7%; IBUs: 92

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "You asked for it. Our brewer delivered. This is a deceptively drinkable beer, with tons of hop flavor. Watch out or you'll be seeing double!"

COLOR: Amber

POUR: Decent head that quickly dissipates

AROMA: Fairly neutral, not a strong aroma, a little fruit.

BODY: Leaning toward Full

TASTE: Strong malt presence with lots of pine and grapefruit hoppiness, bit of citrus

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Can't Get Enough!

COMMENTS: "Nice beer!; It's big, but still very smooth tasting; Yeah, but a bit alcohol forward; I don't really taste the alcohol - very smooth to me; Deceptive, could keep drinking this but better not operate any machinery; I've got to get out to Manchester and see what elFse they've got there."

OUR RATING

In another month where there really wasn't a bad beer (everyone came in better than "I Could Drink This"), we went with our old tried and true method: everyone listed the beers 1-7. Like golf, the low score wins. Our results:

7. IPA 'Eh' - Though we all liked this beer and rated it near our top "Can't Get Enough!" there were a few dissenters, feeling it was a bit too lemony, thus it came in last. Still a good beer.
6. The Eleven - Another excellent beer - received a #2 and #3 rating by a couple of us - and receive our version of a 4 star rating. Just ended up in 6th place.
5. Copper City Debacle - Another tasty IPA - no complaints. Nice West Coast IPA vibe.
4. 716 IPA - A nicely balanced IPA  that we loved and couldn't get enough of.
3. Hoppy Hour Hero - The great offering from Saranac. We considered it one of their best IPAs. Our hope is that this becomes a regular.
2. Space Kitty - A hazy IPA  with a big taste and a big kick. We loved it.
1. Double Middle Finger Lakes IPA - First of all, you gotta' love the name! This cozy little neighborhood brewery just off the thruway in Manchester, New York has a number of unique and interesting beers along with this one, which packs a punch at 9.7%, yet is deceptively smooth.

Next Month: Stouts

Slante,
The BOTB Guys






Saturday, March 17, 2018

Brown Ales


BROWN IS THE LONELIEST COLOR


If one is trying to sell a house or a car, perhaps, it's unlikely the real estate agent or car salesman would describe it as brown. Instead it would be chocolate or burnt umber or chestnut. Maybe russet, smokey topaz, taupe or perhaps even kobicha. But brown? Probably not. Yet if one wanted to describe where one lived they'd likely say something like "'It's the brown house third down from the corner." To say "It's the kobicha house" might "muddy" the descriptive waters. Red is a sexy color, Amber somehow exotic and Dark (as in dark beers) denotes an air of mystery. But Brown - meh. In truth brown is a warm often rich color with a myriad of tones and hues. And so it is with Brown Ales, which are first cousins to Red Ales, Amber Ales and those Dark beers like Stouts and Porters. In color they can span the spectrum from a near black to reddish to amber. Traditionally Brown Ales, a British staple for years, are more malt-heavy than hoppy with taste that can be bready, yeasty, biscuit-like with undertones of toffee, caramel, coffee and sometimes chocolate. However, with the explosion of craft breweries here in the states Brown Ales, like all other styles of beer, have been tweaked. Or not. The result being that you can find very traditional Brit Beer style Browns out there or Brown Ales with a little more hop to their step, so to speak.
This month the BOTB Guys grabbed some Brown Ales and a thesaurus (because, how many times can you just say the color was brown?) and went to work.

THE BROWN NOTE
AGAINST THE GRAIN BREWERY

THE BEER FACTS: BREWERY: Against the Grain Brewery, Louisville, KY; ABV: 5%; IBUs: 20.0; MALTS: British malts and oats, with specialty malts; HOPS: Traditional British hops, Cascade.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "The brown ale to end all brown ales. Enjoy it, because there is no longer any reason to drink another. You've reached the pinnacle. A healthy blend of traditional British malts give this popular style a semi-sweet, biscuity, slightly roasted flavor. Oats thicken the mouthfeel, and a handful or specialty malts add complex chocolate, toffee, and caramel notes. The hops are mostly traditional, earthy British hops, but we cocked it up a bit with some Cascade late in the boil just to show those snooty Brits that we don't approve of that Constitutional Monarchy crap."

COLOR: Brown

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Nutty, bready

BODY: A bit beyond Medium

TASTE: Tends toward sweet with lots of notes of Malt, bread, nut, coffee, chocolate, toffee and caramel.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Clean at the end (wiped?); Like a thinner porter; I like this - nice beer; Once I get passed the label, I like it; I really like it - no shit!; I've seen this on the shelf and actively avoided it because of the label - really turned me off. I mean, I like the humor used by craft brewers - but this is a bit too juvenile and in-your-face  Not exactly subtle or clever . The beer itself is really good, though; It's rich, full flavored; A case of 'Can't judge a book by its cover' sort of thing I guess."


HAZELNUT BROWN NECTAR
ROGUE ALES

THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Rogue Ales, Newport, OR; ABV: 5.6%; IBUs: 33; MALTS: 2-Row, Munich, C15, C75, C120, Kiln Coffee, Brown and Rogue Farms Dare and Risk Malts; HOPS: Rogue Farms Revolution and Independent Hops; YEAST: Pacman Yeast; BONUS INGREDIENTS: Hazelnut extract, Free Range Coastal Water."

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "From the hazelnut capital of the United States, this nutty twist on a European brown ale was originally crafted by Rogue Brewmaster John Maier's good friend and avid home-brewer, Chris Studach. Hazelnut Brown Nectar offers a hazelnut aroma with rich nutty flavor and a smooth malty finish."

COLOR: Dark Amber

POUR: A bit better than Decent Head

AROMA: Bready, Yeasty, Nutty

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Sweet, malty, nutty with hint of vanilla

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Sweet!; Like a creamy brown ale; Very drinkable; Fall-leaf-raking ale; Rogue makes some good beers, and this is one of them; It's a little different from your typical brown ale; I taste some vanilla in there - took me a minute to identify the taste; Yeah, it's that vanilla that kind of gives it the sweetness, I think; And hazelnut nutty taste of course, which sets it apart."


BEST BROWN ALE
BELLS BREWERY


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Bell's Brewery, Constock, MI; ABV: 5.8%; HOPS: American

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "A smooth, toasty brown ale, Best Brown is a mainstay in our fall lineup. With hints of caramel and cocoa, the malt body has the depth to stand up to cool weather, but does not come across as heavy. This balancing act is aided by the generous use of American hops."

COLOR: Mahogany

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Not a strong aroma, bit of bread, perhaps.

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Tending toward the sweet with notes of brown sugar, caramel and a slight whisper of  chocolate

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Less of a mouthfeel than the others - a little thin; No particular taste is overpowering in this, subtle; I could actually drink more of these than some of the others simply because it is a pretty easy-drinking beer; Nice blend of flavors; It's a nice solid ale."





OLD BROWN DOG
SMUTTYNOSE BREWING CO.

THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Smuttynose Brewing, Hampton, NH; STYLE: Brown Ale; ABV: 6.5%; IBUs: 29.5; MALT: North American 2-Row, Munich 10L, C-120, Chocolate; HOPS: Bittering: Cascade and Galena, Flavoring: Willamette; YEAST: American Ale

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Old Brown Dog has been cited as a classic example of the 'American Brown Ale' style of beer. Compared to a typical English Brown Ale, Old Brown Dog is fuller-bodied and more strongly hopped."

COLOR: Ruby Brown

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Malty

BODY: A bit less than Medium

TASTE: Tends toward the sweet end of the spectrum with strong malt taste as well as toffee, bit of nut and caramel.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Most mellow yet; Soothing and mild come to mind; Sweet all the way through, and finishes that way; A bit thin, but quite tasty; It's got some hoppiness to it; Kind of silky smooth feel to it; Another nice, easy-drinker."


BOFFO BROWN ALE
DARK HORSE BREWING

THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Dark Horse Brewing Co., Marshall, MI; STYLE: Brown Ale; ABV: 7%; IBU: 26

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Boffo Brown Ale is a favorite to many of us here at the brewery. Like most of our beers, it's robust full body and soft mouth feel is pushing the envelope of what an American Brown Ale is to most people. Flavors begin with malt, caramel, toffee, and finish with a nutty, mild earthiness. Boffo is extremely versatile and can be paired with hearty food and sips of bourbon or mild cheeses and sunny days."

COLOR: Between Brown and Mahogany

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Caramel

BODY: Between Medium and Full

TASTE: Malty, Caramel, toffee with a bitter tinge, burnt chocolate

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Borders on being a really nice Stout; Delicious!: There's like a burnt chocolate thing going on there - and I mean that in a good way - maybe dark chocolate; Bitter on the end; Smooth in the middle; Maybe a bit of coffee in there as well; Nice bit of hoppiness gives it the bitter bite that is a real nice counterpoint to the sweetness."


INDIAN BROWN DARK IPA
DOGFISH HEAD BREWING


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Dogfish Head Brewing Co., Milton, DE; ABV: 7.2%; IBUs: 50

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Forget about the car companies, this is the original hybrid. A cross between a Scotch Ale, an India Pale Ale and an American Brown, Indian Brown is well-hopped and malty at the same time (it's magical!). The beer has characteristics of each style that inspired it: the color of an American Brown, the caramel notes of a Scotch Ale, and the hopping regimen of an India Pale Ale. We dry-hop the Indian Brown in a similar fashion to our 60 Minute IPA and  90 Minute IPA. This beer is brewed with Aromatic barley and organic brown sugar."

COLOR: Chocolate

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Caramel, maple

BODY: Somewhat more than Medium

TASTE: Malt, Bread, Nutty, Caramel, Brown Sugar, Molassas, touch of Dark Chocolate

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Just shy of "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "A little zestier - you can tell it's an IPA; Malt forward, kind of reminds me of Wookie Jack; Dogfish Head - it's great!; One of my favorite Dogfish Head beers; Really good beer"



WYNONA'S BIG BROWN ALE
VOODOO BREWERY



THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Voodoo Brewery, Meadville, PA; STYLE: Brown Ale; ABV: 7.3%; MALT: Brown Malt, Marris Otter; HOPS: Simcoe, Amarillo, Northern Brewer.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "A robust dark brown ale brewed with generous amounts of brown malt and Marris Otter and hopped with Simcoe, Amarillo, and Northern Brewer to enhance the flavor and aroma for your enjoyment."

COLOR: Dark Brown

POUR: Decent Head with nice light brown lacing

AROMA: Sweet malt

BODY: A bit beyond Medium

TASTE: Nicely complex beer with the taste of malt, nut, chocolate and yeast (bready), bit of coffee and molasses

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Close to "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Nice smooth body; Right alcohol level for hop heads; Clean finish; What's not to like?; Real nice roasty malt taste in there, maybe a bit of vanilla, all those good Brown Ale flavors."

OUR RANKING


This month was another one in which we really didn't have a bad beer. All of them came in above average if we consider "I Could Drink This" as average - which we do. The "I Could Drink This" rating means it's a beer we would enjoyed and would be glad to see on a menu in a restaurant or at a sports bar but it might not be a beer we would actively seek out. Anything above that - and all of these beers were - is a beer we consider to be a better than average craft beer. The interesting thing here was that, despite all of these beers being Brown Ales, they didn't all taste exactly alike - an issue we have found in the past with certain styles particularly Oktoberfest brews. While all of the Browns we reviewed shared certain taste profiles of malt and nut, each one seemed to tweak those flavors along with coffee, chocolate, toffee, caramel, molasses and others to create a uniqueness while staying true to the Brown Ale traditions. Here's what we thought:

1. Dogfish Head Indian Dark Brown Ale - This one eked out a win over Wynona and Boffo both of which were up near the "Can't Get Enough!" level. A real nice full-bodied beer that just bursts with flavor. Nice, complex which appeals to both malt lovers and hopheads.

2. 3. - Wynona's Big Brown Ale and Boffo Brown Ale pretty much tied for second. 
            -Wynona we found to be a really smooth beer with a nice combination of Malt, Nut and chocolate.
            - Boffo was darn near of really tasty Stout with a great finish and a hint of bitter dark chocolate to compliment the Malt.

4. Hazelnut Brown Nectar - We really liked this beer from Rogue Brewing. Very drinkable with a nice hint of vanilla along with the nutty maltiness.

5. 6. 7. - Another log jam here as all three scored the same - roughly a 4 out of 5 or right in the middle between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!" So alphabetically by Brewery:

      - Against the Grain The Brown Note - Stepping away from all the puns generated by the label design, we found this to be like a thinner Porter. Very tasty with all the requisite Brown Ale notes - Malt, Bread, Nut, Coffee. Really good beer.

     - Bell's Best Brown - A little thin compared to the others but still a nice beer with a pleasant taste of brown sugar in there.

     - Smuttynose Brewing Old Brown Dog Ale - We found this very mellow, soothing and sweet all the way through with a nice toffee taste in there.

Next Month: New New York State beers. Until then.

Slante,
The BOTB Guys