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Friday, July 29, 2011

Lawnmower Beers

This month:
- The blog undergoes an Extreme Makeover. There's nothing like slapping a little lipstick on a pig!

- We check out some Lawnmower Beers - purely as a public service, of course.

                                                          SHERMAN ON THE MOUNT
By Rick Sherman

I decided the blog could use a little sprucing up, so I came up with this. Makes me thirsty just looking at it. But, besides the appearance I've also added a neat little search gadget right up there at the top of the page. It's pretty cool. Want to know if we have reviewed a particular beer? Type the name into the search bar and voila! Just like that you'll be taken to the review. Go ahead, give it a shot. I'll wait right here while you do.

Got an email from friend-of-the-BOTB Dan P. He sent me a link to a place in Watertown, NY called Bear World. Here's a link. Looks like a great place to pick up some good craft beer. I'm thinking we'll have to take a hike up North and check it out.

Well, what did I tell you? I mean, I was going to go on a rant about our local fireman's field days having only light beer, but then I thought maybe I already did that. I typed in "fireman's field days" and sure enough there was last summer's article. So I won't go into that again. (But honestly, two beers to choose from and they are both light? I don't get it.)

So this month we decided to review what we lovingly call "lawnmower beers." It took awhile to figure out just what constituted a lawnmower beer. Is it a beer low in alcohol? Or is it a beer that comes in a can for convenience? Or is it just a beer whose name somehow denotes summer and fresh cut grass? Well, we never really settled the matter so we ended up with a potpourri of beers that covered the spectrum and then some. 
If you recall, last month I took some shots at summer beers - that they tend to get away from what makes beer, well, beer. Namely hops and malt. I heard from a number of you out there who were in agreement, but was taken to task by our BOTB friend Shannon (and not for the first time, I might add). Here's what she had to say:

"Good blog, Rick. However, I doth protest a bit on your lament to the summer ale. It is of my highly sought opinion that adding a bit of the citrus to a nice light summer ale is both delicious and refreshing. While lemonade and Seven Up are both nice light beverages, they don't have that same wheat/citrus flavor one seeks out on a nice, hot summer day. Furthermore, I dare say, the hoppy flavor that you and the other B.O.T.B. guys enjoy lies rather heavy on a more delicate palate in the higher temperatures."

And then, for good measure, she saw my song parody and raised me with her own take on a classic summer song - The Jamies' "Summertime." (You know, the one that goes "Summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime...). Herewith I present Shannon's melodic rebuke:
Lemon, lime and orange too:
I like Corona and Landshark brew;
Summer ale is a tasty wheat;
It's a once a year summertime treat.
Summer brew - oohooh ooh.

Well Shannon, we've got some beers for you this month. And while I still prefer fall and winter brews, I decided to try these summer ales with an open mind and open mouth. But be warned, I have a second salvo of lyrical licentiousness brewing. The chorus is something like this:

There ain't no cure for the summertime BREWS.
That's all I got at the moment.

The truth is, we here at BOTB like the fact that the craft brewers out there are such experimenters. It's such fun to discover a new brewery or a new take on a familiar style. The key here is CHOICE. It wasn't so long ago that the only choice you really had in beer was the name on the bottle. It was pretty much a case of "same beer, different label." Then came light beers so you had a choice of a light lager or a Lite lager. Still, most restaurants' taps are dominated by the big boys, but little by little craft beers are sneaking in. 

And Now For the Beers

We welcomed Leinenkugel Brewery out of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin into the fold this month. Leinenkugel is the seventh oldest brewery in the U.S. Started in 1867 by Jacob Leinenkugel, it is the oldest business in Chippewa Falls and one of the oldest in the state. 

Their year round beers are: Sunset Wheat, Honey Weiss, Berry Weiss, Red Lager, Creamy Dark, Leinenkugel Original (Pilsner), and Classic Amber. 
Their seasonals are: Summer Shandy, Oktoberfest, Fireside Nut Brown and 1888 Bock.

This month, fitting in nicely with our lawnmower beer theme, we checked out their Honey Weiss and Summer Shandy. The Shandy is their most popular beer. 

To judge these beers, Gerry created a form with a continuum for malty and hoppy, followed by color, clarity and head. For taste we had a menu of choices: malty, hoppy, sweet, nutty, roasted, citrus, wheat, bitter, tart or sour. Aftertaste was judged as: strong, firm, memorable, weak or invisible. Finally, since the theme is lawnmower beers we had an appropriateness meter - determining just how advisable it would be to drink while mowing the lawn. The beer was either considered a "smooth mowing" beer or a "cut off your foot" brew. 
There was really on head to head comparisons here as in some cases it would have been like Microds vs. Monster Trucks. Not really a fair fight. It was a meeting that titillated the taste buds and angered the liver.

Leinenkugel Honey Weiss -                   
The Basics: ABV - 4.8%
                   IBU - 13.5
Malts - Blend of Wheat and Pale
Hops - Cluster
Other - Real Wisconsin Honey
The Results:
                     - Not very malty
                     - Not very hoppy
                     - A pretty light yellow color
                     - Very clear
                     - Carbonated head
                     - Sweet, wheat taste
                     - Somewhere between weak and invisible aftertaste
                     - A smooth mowing beer
Comments: "Way thin. I'd not buy it, but it is inoffensive. / It looks like an old time beer ad. / Pleasant and inoffensive. / I like it better than some other wheat beers I've had. / Commercial beer."

Leinenkugel Summer Shandy -

The Basics: ABV - 4.2%
                      IBU - 13.5
Malt - Wheat and Pale
Hops - Cluster
Other - Lemonade

    The Results: 
                       - No appreciable taste of malt or hops
                       - Light and yellow
                       - Not at all clear; quite cloudy
                       - Citrus (lemon) taste with the sweet/tart taste that goes with good lemonade
                       - Slight but memorable aftertaste
                       - An ideal "smooth mowing" beer. 

Comments: "Very much like lemonade. Not as bad as I had anticipated. / Beer for those who really don't like beer. / Lemon flavor very prominent. / Liked it way better than I thought I would. Beats the hell out of the Raspberry Wheat. / Thought it would be really sweet, but the tartness redeems it in my opinion."

Harpoon 100 Barrel Series #37 - Rich and Dan's Rye IPA

The Basics: ABV - 6.9%
                       IBU - 54
Malt - Pale, Maris Otter, Rye, Caramel 60, Flaked Rye, Vienna
Hops - Centennial, Willamette, Chinook, Falconer's Flight
 A Brief Aside - You may wonder what is a beer like this doing in with our "lawnmower" beers. Well, in truth this is a difficult beer to get hold of unless you are near the Harpoon breweries in Boston and Windsor, VT. However  Ed Valenta, the Harpoon rep for this area who has been very good to us here at BOTB, was kind enough to wrangle us up a bottle. We were happy to oblige. The beer takes its name from Harpoon's co-founders, Rich Doyle and Dan Kenary. It's available in draft and 22 ounce bottles, but with limited quantities we were glad to get some.

The Results: - Moderately to very hoppy; malt backbone
                   - Darker than a typical IPA with a red tinge to it.
                   - Moderate clarity and head
                   - Complex taste ranging from hoppy to malty to bitter to tart.
                   - A strong and memorable aftertaste
                   - Definitely NOT a lawnmower beer - closer to a "cut off your foot" beer. Though at 6.9% it's not over-the-top strong. 

Comments: "Tastes like a beer should taste. / I could drink this 'til I pass out. / Nice warming quality - great beer. / I COULD DRINK THIS!"

Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA -

The Basics: ABV - 10%
                      IBU's - 120
Malt - Pale and Caramel
Hops - Chinook, Centennial, Simcoe, Amarillo
Other - Harpoon's proprietary yeast
Aside #2 - Okay, what can I say. Ed from Harpoon was good to us. This is a beer to be sipped and savored. It is not one to be downed while operating any heavy machinery other than perhaps the TV remote. But, man, what a great beer to sip and savor! It comes in 4-packs year-round.

The Results: 
                  -A very hoppy beer laid over a strong malt backbone. The caramel malt gives it a slight sweetness to offset the prodigious amount of hops.
                  - Deep amber color
                  - Moderate clarity
                  - Full head
                  - Very complex taste - malty, hoppy, nutty and bitter. 
                  - Unanimous agreement - strong, lasting aftertaste; Not for the faint of heart (or those with delicate palates.)
                  - Definite "cut off your foot" beer. Don't use a mower, chain saw, hedge trimmer, or butter knife for that matter. 

Comments: "Oh, baby! / That's what I'm talkin' 'bout! / Wow! Great beer!"

Stoudt's Double IPA - 

The Basics: ABV - 10%
                      IBU - 90
Malts - 2 Row, Munich
Hops (aroma) Cascade and Willamette
Hops (fermenting) Warrior
Top fermenting yeast.
Aside #3 - Okay, how about this: our mission was to see what beers were good lawn mower beers and what beers weren't. In order to do this we needed examples of both. Stoudt's Brewery is located in Adamstown, PA. They make three "big" beers. Besides this one, they have Fat Dog Stout and Triple Belgian Style Abbey Ale. In terms of ABV and IBU, this is the biggest of the three (Fat Dog: 9% ABV and 55 IBU; Triple: 9% ABV and 37 IBU.)

The Results:
                  - Moderate to very hoppy with a malt backbone.
                  - Orange-ish color
                  - Moderate to full head
                  - Big taste ranging from hoppy to malty to sweet. Some mentioned nutty, citrus and roasted flavors.
                 - Unanimous - strong aftertaste.
                 - Unanimous - "cut off your foot" appropriateness as a lawnmower beer - same rules apply as the Leviathan.

Comments: "Beautiful beer - monster hops! / YOWZER! / Full flavored, robust. Very good beer - again not for the faint of heart."

Grindstone Brewery's Latest:

The Basics: Northern Saaz and Cascade Hops
The Results:
                   - Decently malted with a good dose of hops
                   - Rich color
                   - Unfiltered and cloudy
                   - Nice head
                   - Malty, hoppy and roasted taste
                   - Firm aftertaste
                   - Just as a general rule, one should not use power equipment after drinking Grindstone beers.

Wacko by Magic Hat:

The Basics: ABV - 4.5%
                      IBU - 15
Malt - Pale, Sugar
Hops - Apollo
Yeast - English Ale
Interesting other - colored with beet juice
    The Results:
                       - A bit more malty than hoppy, but not overpowering of either
                       - Red
                       - Moderate clarity
                       - Decent head
                       - A sort of malty/sweet and sour taste
                       - Pretty weak finish
                       - Smooth mowing beer

Comments: "Very typical of Magic Hat beers. / Very carbonated."

Long Trail Pale Ale - 

The Basics: ABV - 5.7%
                      IBU - 35
Malt - 2 Row, Caramel
Hops - Centennial, Cascade

Long Trail Brewery is one of many terrific breweries in Vermont. Located in Bridgewaters Corners, VA, Long Trail brews an impressive array of beers. Yet it is their Pale Ale is the beer they are best know for. Besides the Pale Ale, their year-round brews are: Long Trail Ale, IPA, Blackberry Wheat, Double Bag Strong Ale. Their Seasonals are: Pollenator Pale Ale, Belgian White, Harvest Brown Ale, Hibernator Scottish Ale. They also have an intriguing Limited Edition which are tough to find in our neck of the woods. They are: Coffee Stout, Double IPA, Imperial Porter, and Imperial Red Ale. 

The Results:
                   - Hoppy, floral aroma
                   - Nice maltiness with tart hoppy taste
                   - Very respectable head
                   - Firm finish
                   - Kind of a mixed bag as to the advisability of mowing your lawn after some Long Trail.

Comments: "Oh, so good. / Always a favorite. / Long Trail makes a good beer. / Crisp, balanced, very clean. Good beer."

Oskar Blues Brewery Dale's Pale Ale - 

The Basics: ABV - 6.5%
                      IBU - 65
Top U.S. Pale Ale - New York Times
Gold Medal 2010 World Beer Championship
World's Best Canned Beer - Details Magazine
   Oskar Blues is a unique brewery in Lyons, Colorado. What makes them unique is the fact that all of their beers are canned. They do not bottle at all. They are the first craft brewery to put their beers in cans. The controversy of years past over bottles vs. cans is gradually becoming somewhat moot due to the fact that the interior of modern cans are lined so that metal and beer never never touch. Oskar Blues produces five beers, all in cans, some more available than others. They are: Dale's Pale Ale, Old Chub Scottish Ale, G'Knight Imperial Ale, Mama's Little Yellow Pils (a Pilsner in case you didn't catch the misspelling), Ten Fidy Imperial Stout, and Gubna Imperial IPA. Dale's Pale Ale and Old Chub are readily available in our area - Wegman's regularly carries them - but the others are tough to find. We'd love to get our hands on them based on the other two. Dale's and Old Chub are both full bodied, full flavored brews.
And I gotta' tell you - I have got to get to one of their brewpubs (Oskar Blues Grill and Bar, The Tasty Weasel Taproom, Home Made Liquids & Solids) one of these days because their rotating slate of beers on tap is impressive and intriguing. Just check out these names: The Mutilator, One Hit Wonder Imperial IPA, Velvet Elvis Stout, One Nut Brown Ale, Smoke On The Water Holiday brew. A serious road trip is in order.

The Results:
                  - A somewhat malty aroma, with a more pronounced hops scent
                  - Slightly darker than your average pale ale
                  - Better than average head
                  - Hoppy, malty/sweet taste
                  - Firm to memorable finish
                  - Mixed bag again as to advisability of mowing. 6.5% is up there. But the can really works.

Comments: "Pretty heavy duty for a lawnmower beer, but the can makes it handy. / Very hoppy for a pale ale. Good beer. Best canned beer I've ever had, bar none."

Mayflower Brewing Company Golden Ale:

The Basics: ABV - 4.7%
                      IBU - 18
Malts - Pilsner, Caramel Pilsner
Hops - Calena, Liberty
Mayflower House Yeast
We've enjoyed a few Mayflower Brewery brews here at BOTB's (go ahead, check it out in our cool new search engine!). Mayflower is a bit of a newcomer (2007) to the scene but they are slowly growing. Right now they have four year-round beers:  Pale Ale, Golden Ale, IPA, and Porter. They also produce five seasonal offerings: Spring Hop Ale, Winter Oatmeal Stout, Summer Rye Ale, Autumn Wheat Ale, and Thanksgiving Ale. We checked out their Golden Ale which is the mildest of their regulars.

The Results:
                  - Aroma fairly balanced between hoppy and malty.
                  - Light golden color
                  - Fairly clear
                  - Big head
                  - Fruity and sweet taste with a little hoppy presence.
                  - an overall memorable finish
                  - A smooth mowing beer.

Comments: "Good summer beer. / A nice lawnmower beer. / Overall, a tasty beer - very balanced. / Some nutty notes and good hops presence."

Ellicottville Mow Master Ultra Pale Ale:

The Basics: ABV - 5.0%
                       IBU - 36
Malts - Belgian Cara
Hops - Citra plus other American Hops
Ellicottville Brewing Company in Ellicottville, NY has been around since 1995. They brew nearly thirty beers including seven regulars: EBC Pale Ale, Blueberry Wheat, Nut Brown, EVL Nut Brown, Toasted Lager, Black Jack Oatmeal Stout, and Pantius Droppus Imperial Pale Ale. We, however, opted for one of their six seasonals.

The Results: 
                   - A more hoppy than malty aroma
                   - Unfiltered
                   - Decent to big head
                   - Hoppy, citrus-y, roasted and tart tastes emerge.
                   - Firm, memorable finish
                   - Smooth mowing beer

Comments: "Similar to Saranac's Pale Ale, / Perfect mower beer - duh!"

Pork Slap Farmer's Ale

                         The Basics: ABV 4.3%
                         Malt - 2 Row North American Barley
                         Hops - Crystal
                         Other Stuff - Fresh ginger
One of the things I love to do is check out craft breweries' web sites. They are often fun, sometimes wacky, a little crazy but nearly always clever. But for pure serendipitous goofiness you'd be hard pressed to match Butternuts Beer and Ale's web site at . Take a minute and check it out. I'll wait. Located in rural Garrattsville, NY, Butternut Brewery produces only four beer: Porkslap Pale Ale, Snapperhead IPA, Moo Thunder Stout, and Heinieweisse Weissebier. Like Oskar Blues, they only can their beer, no bottles. That alone made Porkslap an interesting lawnmower beer. The low ABV was simply icing on the cake so to speak. Or lipstick on a pig.

The Results:                     
                   - Way more malty than hoppy
                   - Quite dark for a pale ale
                   - Large root beer like head
                   - malty, sweet, nutty and roasted tastes dominate. 
                   - firm and memorable finish
                   - Allows for smooth mowing

Comments: "Actually, I could drink this! / European hops. Nice, pleasant beer. / Perfect for the lawnmower. /I found this beer a little on the malty side. / Not a favorite of mine because it's light on the hops, but a real nice change of pace beer."

Somehow, with the last beer, this is just a fitting sign off.

The BOTB Guys

Friday, July 8, 2011

Saranac Vs. Great Lakes

This Month:

-Props to the Mom and Pops (as well as a few big chains) who defy the big boys!
-I love summer - but summer beers not so much.
-A Battle Royale between two of our favorite breweries
Sherman on the Mount

Little Guys with Big Beers

In recent years, we've had the opportunity to travel a bit, and one of the annoyances is trying to locate someplace that sells good beer. Often one of my first forays upon arrival is to the nearest grocery store to stock up. Invariably the nearest store turns out to be some big name outfit with an enormous beer section - filled pretty much with variations on the same beer. It's the "same beer, different label" conundrum. At first glance it looks like there is a huge selection, but upon closer inspection, 90% or so turn out to be of the Lite or Lighter variety (or lite with lime!) Usually you can find Sam Adams (Lager - not Ale) and lately Sierra Nevada Pale Ale has been showing up with increased frequency. Both of these are good beers to be sure, but half the fun of being a "beer snob" is finding regional craft beers to try. Beers that don't have a national presence. If you happen to be in a city with a Wegmens, you're in luck. Otherwise you hope to stumble upon one of those "Mom and Pop" stores which cater to the craft beer market. In the Central New York area there are some notable places:

-C's Farm Market in Oswego {Rated "A-" by Beer Advocate} - Tucked just off Route 104 as it bends to head toward Rochester. A fantastic selection of beers from all over. The owners are both knowledgeable and helpful. Not an easy place to find, but worth the trouble.
-Brilbeck's Corner Market in Syracuse on the corner of Avery and Ulster (620 Ulster Street).{Rated B+ by Beer Advocate} - A tiny store crammed with good beer.

-Byrne Dairy (Formerly Galeville)  {Galeville was rated B+ by Beer Advocate. No rating for Byrne}- Old Liverpool Road in Syracuse. Galeville Grocery was legendary among  Central New York area craft beer aficionados, boasting an outstanding array of beers. Unfortunately it recently closed. However Byrne Dairy took it over and has promised to continue to provide a wide selection of craft beers. While not exactly your typical "Mom and Pop" store, Byrne Dairy stores have always had that vibe nonetheless. Byrne already had established itself in nearby Pulaski as the place to go for craft beer, and a Byrne spokesman has stated that they would be increasing their craft beer selections at other locations as well.
-Beers of the World {Rated "A" by Beer Advocate}- (two in Rochester, one in Batavia). Perhaps the Mecca of craft beer in all of Central New York. It's the size of a supermarket - but it's all beer (and home brew supplies). 

A peak inside "Beers of the World"

Know of any good craft beer retailers in your area? Post them here under "comments" or email us at We'll update with each new post.

Hops Take a Holiday

I am a big fan of warm weather. I live in Central New York where summer makes a brief appearance once a year. A cameo, if you will, like a big star showing up briefly as himself in a small independent film. It is ephemeral and fleeting and for me all too brief. Besides the brevity, however, my only real complaint about summer is that every brewery insists on making their "Summer Ale" as a light, fruity concoction. The thing is, if I feel like something light and fruity I'll get a lemonade or a Seven-Up or something. As my friend from the Old Harbor Brewery in Puerto Rico said, "My palate works in hot or cold weather." Anyway, with apologies to the Gershwins I present my brief "Lament to Summer Ales." (Sung to the tune of "Summertime" - duh!)

Summertime - and the beers ain't so hoppy,
Lime and lemon are the flavors du jour;
Give me a beer - not some faux soda poppy;
I want hops, and some malt, yeah, whenever I pour.

And Now For the Main Event...

After a few months of away from head to head competition, we thought it time to get back to our roots, slap on our beer goggles, and return to the thing that makes us a little different from other beer blogs: namely pitting brewery against brewery. We thought that this month we'd look for two Northeastern breweries, pick a selection of styles which both produce and do a blind taste test. The two breweries we left up to Ron, who hosted this month's meeting. He picked two of our favorites: Saranac and Great Lakes. After looking at the available brews from each, Ron decided on the following styles: Lager, Pale Ale, IPA and Imperial IPA.

The rating sheets used for the tastings divided the experience into Preparation (Color and Head), Anticipation (Aroma and Mouthfeel), and Satisfaction (Taste and Aftertaste). Then, influenced by the recent Triple Crown of horse racing, the taster was asked to determine if the winner won by: 1.A photo finish  2. A nose 3. Half a length 4. A full length or 5. It was never really a horse race. This was followed by the all important comment section.

The Lagers

Dortmunder Gold

Adirondack Lager

Color: Both beers were described as amber to light amber in color with Dortmunder a bit lighter and a little cloudy. 
Head: The heads on each were as expected - described variously as good, nice, with some references to lacing.
Aroma: Essentially the same for both beers. Described as "lager-like," next to nil, and slight malt. They are, after all, lagers.
Mouth feel: Also very similar with comments ranging from "Wet, insignificant, medium, light, carbonated."
Taste and Aftertaste: Here is where the rubber meets the road (or the hooves meet the track, I suppose.) The two finished in a virtual tie as the winner was given a "half length" on average. However choice B fared a bit better overall with comments such as: "more bitter, a little drier finish, better finish, slightly bitter aftertaste; had a bit more bite; more hops presence; nice session beer."
Choice "A" comments were: "reminds me of a Canadian beer; would make a good session beer; thought it was quite tasty for a lager;."

The winner in the lager category by a score of 4-2 was choice B - Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold.

The Pale Ales

Saranac Pale Ale
Great Lakes Burning
River Pale Ale

Color - Both medium amber.

Head - Both with solid off-white head with plenty of lacing.

Aroma - Saranac described variously as hoppy, flowery, very little, and fine. Burning River - hoppy, flowery, slight and a shade better. Saranac uses Cascade Hops as part of the hops mix in all four of the styles we tested, accounting for the flowery aroma and the citrus taste described in the stronger beers. 

Mouthfeel - Both beers were smooth and full. One taster described the Saranac as having a "hoppy residual" while Burning River was "clean and crisp."

Taste and Aftertaste - Both scored very well in this category. Both were described as very balanced, full flavored and quite nice. 
Specific comments - Saranac: "Classic American Pale Ale - nice bitter finish with a solid malt backbone; good pale ale, good beer; both are good session/boat beers; love the citrusy flavors."
                                Great Lakes: "A stronger hops presence - good bitter finish;"
This was a true horse race, with Great Lakes Burning River nosing out Saranac right at the end due to a stronger hops presence. Both were very comparable, though.

The IPA's

Great Lakes
Commodore Perry IPA
Saranac IPA

The bigger beers were up next. Although in truth Saranac's IPA, weighing in at only 5.8% ABV is relatively a light weight in the world of IPA's. It gives up close to two percent (1.7%) to Commodore Perry, making the Great Lakes IPA nearly a third more potent. (As a side bar, I have found that Saranac IPA is a terrific beer if you want the full hoppy flavor of an IPA with alcohol level of a lager. I was pleased to find that our local Eddie's Big M here in Mexico started carrying it as their beer section leaves much to be desired. I hope they continue to.)
Color: Similar for both - described variously as wheat or light amber. 

Head: Both full, off white with nice lacing.

Aroma: Both were described as citrusy or grapefruit like or hoppy.

Mouthfeel: Described as full and hoppy. Great Lakes was described as "great" by one and "slightly over carbonated" by another, as well as "warming." 

Taste and Aftertaste: As one might suspect from this bunch, the comments were all positive for both beers. Hard to find fault with either.
     Saranac: "Very hoppy; interesting spiciness; really grows on me; workmanlike; good hop/malt balance."
              Aftertaste: "lingering; grows on you; neutral; more malty but still nicely hopped." 
     Commodore Perry: "Malty; heavenly; nice and hoppy (I could drink this!); slap-you-side-the-head hops then a nice dry bitter finish."
              Aftertaste: "hoppy citrus with slight malt; sweet; lingering' insignificant' warm, bitter grapefruit taste."

One comment summed this one up: "Real tough call for me - I liked them both." In the end a winner had to be declared. After all, this is not Tee Ball. Once again Great Lakes took it 5 to 1. But 4 out of 6 called it a photo finish or by a nose.

Imperial IPA's
Great Lakes
Lake Erie Monster
Saranac Imperial IPA

Now for the beasts! Neither of these are session beers, that's for sure. But both are full bodied, full flavored, complex beers that should be approached more as fine wines than as knock-back-a-few lawnmower beers (that'll be next month). They need to be sipped and savored, their complexities appreciated across the entire palate. 
Saranac IPA is part of their High Peak series (a rather limited series with just the IPA and their Imperial Stout: they are looking to expand the line- I'm pulling a Porter). It is brewed with 10 malts and 10 hops. It weighs in at an impressive 85 IBU's and and ABV of 8.5%.
Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster is a seasonal beer for Great Lakes Brewery out of Cleveland. With an IBU of 80, it's a hefty 9.1% ABV.

Color - GL was a wheat to light amber while Saranac was a tad darker.

Head - Both had good, full, off-white heads with moderate lacing. 

Aroma - Both of these beers were the most aromatic of the bunch. Citrus with rich earthy yeasty notes. Some noted a spiciness. 

Mouthfeel - Both were full, rich and warming.

Taste and Aftertaste - 
     Saranac: "Great; big taste - more balanced - stronger; nice, bitter; not quite as hoppy - smoother; fantastic (I could drink this!!)."
           Aftertaste - "Lingering pleasant bitterness; malty."
I can't mow after a couple of these!
     Lake Erie Monster: "Fabulous; that's what I'm talkin' 'bout; Warm grapefruit hop up front; hoppy - strong alcohol presence; whew! I could drink this!"
          Aftertaste - "Pine, citrus-y."

Some general comments were: ""I can't mow my lawn after a couple of these!; (The Saranac) is better balanced; two terrific beers!; Strong, full-flavored - (the Saranac) is a bit more complete, so it gets my nod, but both are very good." 

The winner of the feature race was Saranac Imperial IPA by a 4-2 margin. All votes were within the half length margin. In fact four of the six votes were a photo finish or by-a-nose.

Shout Outs

Had another excellent Grindstone Brewery Ale - the Grindstone Summer Ale. It does not fit in with the typical summer brews I mentioned earlier. Much hoppier and with a much stronger malt backbone than most. A nice clean finish.

Also took a trip up to Sackett's Harbor Brewing, a small brewpub which only bottles a couple of it's beer, which is unfortunate. On tap was a terrific array of beers: a stout, a porter, a bitter, a pilsner, a wheat. I bought a growler of Malicious Intent Double IPA. Brought it back and shared it at the meeting. It's a great beer. Everyone loved it and lamented the fact that 
it was only available there. Definitely worth the trip up there.

Coming up next month: Apropos to the season: Lawn Mower Beers!

I'll leave you with this. Just for kicks. Has nothing to do with beer I just believe that Looney Tunes and beer may be the two greatest gifts to mankind and I found this little gem, apparently never intended for the general public.

The BOTB Guys