Hey, it's not like we're building artillery shells here after all.
Otter Creek - Solstice Session Ale - contributed by Herb Clark; Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale - brought by Hal Moore; McSorley's Irish Pale Ale - Dan Riley's contribution; Ithaca Brewing's Phin and Matt's Extraordinary Ale - my addition; Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale - brought by Ron Harrington; and Grindstone Brewery's Baby Shower Pale Ale - Mike Watkins' contribution.
We opted not to rate the beers against each other this time, but merely talk about each on its own merits. The reasoning being that they are not all the same style so it didn't make sense to compare them.
As a general rule, Irish beers tend to make good session beers - they are low to moderate in alcohol and they are full bodied, tending toward the malty side. Mcsorley's Irish Pale Ale weighs in at 5.5% ABV. Like Samuel Smith's it has a nutty, malty taste with some hints of coffee perhaps and a nod to some hops.It is a bit sweeter too. The flavors are not as pronounced as Samuel Smith's however and, depending on your preference that may be a good thing or not.
The color is deceptive. That was the thing that struck most of us. It is a very light yellow in color, a bit of a head and some decent lacing. But the color makes you think "lager" immediately. But then there is a nice nose - hint of hops, a pleasant, citrusy smell. When you taste it though, it most definitely is an ale, with a good piney hops taste right from the jump. Had a very pleasing aftertaste which hung in there a bit. Overall a very drinkable beer. At 5.4%, it fits nicely into our definition of a session beer.
And I knew you'd better get tough or die:
And it's that name that helped to make you strong."
-"A Boy Named Sue" - Johnny Cash
But maybe that's just the point. Maybe what we have here is a brew so assured of it's own "beerility" that it can take on whatever name it damn well pleases.
Grindstone Brewery, located on the banks of Grindstone Creek in the wilds of Richland, NY, is a small, family owned brewery known for using generous amounts of hops grown by the owner. Baby Shower Pale Ale clocks in at 5.5% ABV. As expected, the Cascade and Northern hops are front and center, giving it a nice grapefruit-like hop opening. However this American Pale Ale is eminently drinkable, with a malt balance that nicely complements the aggressive hoppiness. Overall, a tasty brew and remarkably restrained for this hop-happy brewery. Having said that, it was still the hoppiest of the bunch - which is not a bad thing at all.
-A shout out to one of our followers, Mike Metott. He emailed me to suggest a couple of beers at the opposite ends of the hops/malt spectrum. He suggested I try Samuel Adams Cream Stout and Heavy Seas' Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale. I must admit I had never tried either, but after purchasing the two I was glad I did.
I find that Sam Adams' best beers are the ones you don't see around so much. Their lager is often a lifesaver at a bar or restaurant that feels it has an extensive beer menu because they have both Bud AND Bud Light. I was at a local Fireman's field days the other day and would have killed for a Sam Adams Boston Lager. Their choice was: Bud Light or Blue Light! Really?! They couldn't have had Blue and Blue Light? They had to have two light beers? I don't get it. I said, "You've just got light?" And some woman standing next to me said, "Hey, it's cold and wet!" Yeah, well so is water. Anyway, the Cream Stout is quite tasty. Very malty, nutty, with a hint of caramel perhaps. Real nice, rich head. And it did have a very pleasant creamy mouthfeel. Maybe it was the power of suggestion, but I felt like I got why they called it a cream stout. Nice beer.
Loose Cannon from Heavy Seas, on the other hand, really throws the hops at you. The grapefruity aroma jumps right out at the pour. And your first taste is wonderfully hoppy. It has good staying power, too. An American IPA, it weighs in at a solid 7.25% ABV. There is a real nice crispness to this beer. Very fresh, sharp bitterness that is quite refreshing. Clipper City Brewery is located in Baltimore, Maryland. They are another one of those breweries that take their beer seriously, but have a lot of fun with their labels and the names of their beers. If you like hoppy beers, you need to try this one. If you like dark, malty beers, go for the Cream Stout. I tend, as I may have mentioned, to be a hop-head - but more and more I have begun to appreciate the joys of a good stout or porter.
-August 1st is Middle Ages 15th Anniversary party at Leavenworth Park in Syracuse. It's free admission and the festivities begin at 2:00 pm. Live music throughout will be provided by "Enter the Haggis," "Hot Day at the Zoo," and "Dark Hollow," a Grateful Dead tribute band.
The featured brew will be Double Wench - a terrific beer that we reviewed last month as part of our all Middle Ages blog. Food, music and good beer - see you there!
The Battle of the Beer Guys