Google+ Followers

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Seasonal beers are interesting animals. What exactly qualifies a beer to be a spring beer, or a summer beer or a fall beer or a winter beer? Painting with broad strokes here, the classic spring beer is a Bock, summer beers are often light and lemony, fall means malty Marzaans. But winter? Beginning around Thanksgiving we start to get various versions of  Holiday Beers, Chistmas Ales, or Winter Warmers with names, evocative of the season, referencing snow, ice, wind, Santa, cold, blizzards, elves etc. I guess the point is: it's cold, damn it, let's have a beer! (Not to be confused with: "It's hot, damn it, let's have a beer!" or "It's a day that ends in 'y,' damn it, let's have a beer!").
So what exactly is a Winter Warmer? Ron's beer store guy thought they were usually anything dark in color. Hmm... A bit vague, perhaps. I would assume anything that "warms" you counts as a winter warmer.
The fun thing about the winter brews is this: all bets are off. Whereas Oktoberfests are all pretty similar, and Summer Ales rarely stray from the light and fruity, Winter (or Holiday, or Christmas) Ales vary from brew to brew. Some are malty, some hoppy, some spicy, some are English, some are Begian, some are ales, some lagers, some are big dessert beers while others are smaller session brews. In late November at the Watkins estate along the banks of the mighty Grindstone Creek (or Crick if you grew up in this part of the country) we began the first of this year's two sojurns into ales brewed for the short, cold days and long, cozy eves ahead. After all, to quote the oft repeated mantra in Game of Thrones: "Winter is coming."

THE BEER FACTS: Style: dark wheat bock / ABV: 5.6% / IBUs: 22 / MALTS: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, Caramel 60, malted wheat, Carafa, Munich 10 / HOPS: Hallertau Mittelfrueh Moble hops / BREWERY: Boston Beer Company, Boston Massechusetts
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Bold, rich with a touch of hoiday and full bodied, robust and warming, a wonderful way to enjoy the cold evenings that come with the season."
COLOR: Brown leaning toward red, ruby.
POUR: Decent head, typical of Sam Adams
AROMA: Neutral, slight, like a lager
BODY: Medium
TASTE: Balanced, with notes of nuts and malt.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: I could drink this - Impressive amount of flavor for a lager.
COMMENTS: "I don't taste the spices in it; One of the best wheats I've ever tasted; Not a bad session beer; A good snow-blower beer; gorgeous seasonal color; Maybe a hint of the ginger and cinnamon, but it doesn't overpower, which is a good thing; Sort of stays in the background; I'm surprised that it's a wheat beer."

THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: American IPA / ABV: 6.3%  / BREWERY: Triumph Brewing, Princeton, NJ
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: Triumph Brewing Company is a brewpub with branches in Princeton, NJ, New Hope, PA, and Philadelphia, PA. Since I was in Princeton over Thanksgiving, I thought I'd grab a growler to bring back to the BOTB Guys. Is it strickly speaking a holiday ale? Well, I got it during the Thanksgiving holiday, so we're saying it is!

COLOR: Amber
POUR: Better than decent head, it was beautiful and tight with lingering lingerie lace
AROMA: Hoppy with a nice pine-y nose
BODY: Medium
TASTE: Hoppy bitterness with notes of a little malt, grapefruit, and pine
COMMENTS: "This is nice; A real taste treat; Pleasingly satisfying; A lingering balanced finish; This is what you have when you are opening your Christmas presents...No! This is your Christmas present; A classic IPA, holiday beer or not, it's a good beer; Wish Triumph would open a branch at Destiny, I'd much prefer it to Gordon Biersch!"


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Wet-hopped American IPA / ABV: 6.7% / IBUs: 65-70 / YEAST: Ale yeast / MALTS: Two row Pale, Caramel / HOPS: Bittering: Wet Centennial - Finishing: Wet Cascade, Centennial / BREWERY: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, CA
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "The first wet hop Harvest ale. From the fields and into the kettle in less than 24 hours. (this) is the beer that launched the 'wet hop' craze here in America. Brewed with wet hops plucked straight from the fields in Yakima, WA, and into our brew kettles within 24 hours of growin on the vine, Norther Hemisphere does not take shortcuts. Because hops are incredibly perishable, using hops 'wet' or un-dried, preserves all of the precious oils and resins for a unique drinkin experience."
COLOR: Dark, raw honey colored
POUR: Off-white (caramel) foamy head with nice lacing and staying power
AROMA: Toward the hoppy side with grapefruit and a bit of pine
BODY: Full
TASTE: Fairly bitter with notes of bready malt, nuts, grapefruit, and pine
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Absolutely Can't Get Enough!
COMMENTS: "Has a nice nose and beautiful color; Have you ever had a Sierra Nevada that wasn't good?; Complex flavor; Very, very nice; I COULD DRINK THIS!; Outstanding; Nice bitter finish - I enjoyed the bitterness."

THE BEER FACTS: Style: Old Ale / ABV: 7.0%  / Fermentation: Ale yeast, three varieties of hops and two types of malt / BREWERY: Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, NY
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Our winter offering is here to quell your shivers and get you through the coldest of nights. A rich marriage of hops and barley to cast light upon the evening and melt your mind out of the snowdrifts...A deceptively strong brew, it's best to sit and ponder with this man, sip by sip."
COLOR: Light brown with slight ruby cast
POUR: Medium head which doesn't stick around too long
AROMA: Malty, bready
BODY: Fairly full
TASTE: A little sweet up front, but fair amount of bitterness toward the end, making it a balanced brew overall. There are notes of malt, nuts, and dark chocolate
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Midway between "I could drink this" and "Can't get enough."
COMMENTS: "Spice front and hop back; A real tasty beer; I'd buy this again; Nice and malty with a bit of hops to offset it; A good post snow-blower beer; I could drink this; Balanced - a little bigger than it tastes; Smells hoppier than it tastes."

THEBEER FACTS: Style: Red Ale / ABV: 7.2% / IBUs: 50 / MALTS: Pale, Caramel, Darapils, Dark Chocolate / HOPS: Alchemy, Simcoe, Cascade / Widmer Brothers Brewery, Portland, Oregon.
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Warm up with a cold one, or two. Our winter red ale is the perfect treat, naughty or nice. The deep red body fills your glass and a citrusy hop aroma fills your nose. Then caramel and chocolate malts reward you with a perfectly balanced malty sweet flavor and velvety finish"
COLOR: Russet
POUR: Decent head, fairly quickly dissipates, nice lacing
AROMA: A little citrus from the cascade hops
BODY: Between medium and full
TASTE: Some bitternessup front with notes of malt, bread, grapefruit, and pine
COMMENTS: "This is good beer; More hops than any other winter beer we've had so far; The bottle says 'a hop start and a malt finish' - we're usually saying just the opposite. I wonder what they do that makes that happen."


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Imperial Stout / ABV: 9.5% / Middle Ages Brewery, Syracuse, NY
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Brewed in the style of a Russian Imperial Stout. Strong, chocolaty and aggressively hopped with finest English hops."
COLOR: Pitch black
POUR: Better than decent, with a caramel colored lace
AROMA: Sweet malty yeast with a ripe banana scent, maybe banana bread
BODY: Full/thick
TASTE: A little sweet, but not super sweet like you think it would be. There are notes of malt, coffee, nuts, and a little chocolate
COMMENTS: "Not bitter like some porters; Really pleasant after-taste; Burnt-roasty; Complex taste - it has a lot going on; This tastes like another; A great winter beer; This is for anyone who likes big beers; A great dessert beer."


 THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Black IPA / ABV: 6.0% / IBUs: 60 / MALTS: 2-Row, Caramel 60L, Carafa III / HOPS: Apollo, Centennial, Citra / Otter Creek Brewing, Middlebury, Vermont
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Dark in color and character, this unfiltered Black IPA exudes caramel and roasted notes while highlighting
COLOR: Black and unfiltered
POUR: A decent head
AROMA: Between balanced and hoppy; a little more malty - some piney/grapefruit, maybe spicy
BODY: Very full bodied
TASTE: Pretty balanced. Notes of malt, coffee, chocolate, and caramel
COMMENTS: "A little sweeter than I thought it would be; Roasted, malty end; Not as clean a finish as Dragonslayer; Maybe a different yeast than any we've had so far; Fresh and clean taste; Not enough of a big hop kick for and IPA; A little more malty; Easy to drink; A good beer; Just enough of the hops presence to make it interesting."

THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: American Strong Ale - English Old Ale hybrid / ABV: 8.0% / Mayflower Brewing Company, Plymouth, Massachusetts.
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "The first and only perennial offering in our Cooper's Series of limited batch beers. Mayflower Thanksgiving Ale is an inspired blend of two brewing styles: American Strong Ale and English Old Ale. Aged on American white oak, this full-bodied brew warms the soul with hints of caramel, vanilla and spicy nuts. The perfect beverage fou our favorite holiday."
COLOR: Amber
POUR: Decent head with good lacing
AROMA: Toward the malty end with the familiar banana scent of English yeast
BODY: Between medium and full
TASTE: Fairly sweet with notes of bready malt, nuts, toffee and banana.
COMMENTS: "British banana smelling yeasts; Clean/crisp taste; Complex taste, complex beer - nice; Crisp carbonated hit in the mouth; I wouldn't seek it out, but if it was served I wouldn't turn it down."


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Random Samplings

Hope we don't disappoint anyone, but we opted to forgo our yearly foray into Oktoberfests. After a couple of Octobers worth of sampling these annual brews we came to the conclusion that most of them are so similar that it turns into an act of futility to try to judge one against the other. Pretty much every craft brewer produces their version of an Oktoberfest, and to stay true to the style they are of necessity malty German Marzens. While Germany is known for many wonderful things...

...hoppy beer is not one of them. The other option would be to do an all pumpkin ale meeting, but we're not masochists. After all, part of the reason for this whole BOTB venture into beerdom is an excuse to drink good beer. One pumpkin ale a year for me is plenty; it's one too many for Ron.

In the end Ron came up with the idea of just bringing a beer you like, possibly one that is not a brewery's flagship beer. Ergo, we ended up with a mixed bag of brews. So this month we'll check out what the BOTB Guys had to say about a variety of beers, plus Ron and I checked out some beers brewed in Georgia and South Carolina on a trip South. 

But First, Let's Check in at Beer Camp

 I want to throw out a solid "Way to go!" to Sierra Nevada for their current Beer Camp mixed 12. As I've mentioned before, I'm not always a fan of the mixed 12 packs because invariably there is a beer or two that ends up languishing in your fridge because you tried it and found you weren't a fan. I have a lot of faith in Sierra Nevada, though, so I thought I'd give their Beer Camp a shot. The current configuration contains: Oatmeal Stout (Beer Camp # 45), Imperial Red Ale (Beer Camp #65), Imperial Pilsner (Beer Camp # 43), Floral IPA (Beer Camp #53).

I must say, there is not a loser in the bunch. None will linger in the fridge for long. 

The Imperial Pilsner (5.6% ABV) somehow manages to be both light and full flavored, with the Crystal and Pacifica hops jumping right out at you  to deliver a surprising hop hit right off. 

The Oatmeal Stout (9.0% ABV) tastes like you always hope a stout is going to taste: rich, complex, full-bodied, with a smooth mocha flavor. A delicious, toasty taste. Definitely not a session beer, but a great sipping beer.

The Imperial Red Ale (8.1% ABV) has a very solid hop profile with a nice grapefruit-hop taste balanced by a rich malt backbone.

The Floral IPA (5.9% ABV) is not an in-your-face hop bomb, but it is a very easy-drinking IPA with a nice hoppy opening and a good full-bodied, balanced taste overall. In a strange twist, the IPA is the session beer of the bunch.

I have to say, this is one of the better mixed 12 packs I've ever had. I'm a big fan of Sierra Nevada (though not a cheerleader for them as you'll see with our review of Brux!). In fact one of the better fall seasonals out there is their Tumbler. You can usually count on them to throw a few more hops in the mix than other breweries.

Notes on Some Southern Brews

Ron and I and our respective wives took a quick trip to Georgia and South Carolina recently. Originally scheduled to fly from the 'Cuse to NYC and then to Charleston, SC, we were able to, thanks to the foresight of my spouse who kept a sharp eye on the impending path of Hurricane Sandy, switch flights and connect through Atlanta instead of what was about to become the Soggy  Apple. We lost a day off our trip, but that beat spending the entire time in LaGuardia.
We did a whirlwind tour of Savannah, GA, Hilton Head, SC, and Charleston, SC. And Ron and I attempted to sample as many different beers from those states as we could. Below are the notes we took on the various brews we tried.

Palmetto Pale Ale (Palmetto Brewing, Charleston, SC): Tastes very similar to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. 

Westbrook IPA (Westbrook Brewing Co., Mt. Pleasant, SC): Unfiltered, nice lacing, nice floral hoppy aroma, 60 IBUs, 6.9% ABV. Solid hops flavor.

Lowryeder Rye IPA (Sweetwater Brewing, Atlanta, GA): Similar to Hot Rod Rye by Bear Republic. Very nice - Simcoe hops give it a rich, grapefruit/pine taste in a very balanced IPA. Sweetwater won "Small Brewery of the Year" award. Their motto: "We're not here for a long time, we're here for a good time."

Terrapin Hopsecutioner IPA (Terrapin Brewery, Athens, GA): 7.3% ABV; 71 IBU; "You may lose your hop head over this one!" Made with six different hops (Warrior, Chinook, Centennial, Simcoe, Amarillo, Cascade). Great beer! Big time hop aroma and taste.

Then there were three from the Moon River brewing Company. The name comes from the song written by Johnny Mercer, a native son of Savannah.
Swamp Fox IPA (Moon River Brewing, Savannah, GA): 7% ABV, Floral Hop aroma, nice hop presence, slight salty taste that works

Captain's Porter (Moon River Brewing, Savannah, GA): 5.3% ABV, typical proter, chocolate and coffee. 

Slo-Vannah American Pale Ale (Moon River Brewing, Savannah, GA) 4% ABV, malted oats added gives it a roasty, caramel taste to balance a moderate hop profile. Tastes stronger than 4%.


We kicked off our session at Ron and Vicky's with a specialty brew co-produced Sierra Nevada and Russian River breweries. It's one of those "special" concoctions that come in fancy bottles with corks. Like it was a wine. And it's priced like a wine as well, at a rather steep $14 a 750 ml. bottle. It's called a domesticated wild ale, which is, according to Russian River's web site, " ale fermented with Belgian yeast, finished be a secondary bottle fermentation with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis." (Thus the name).

This is one of those beers that, if you're a Belgian fan, you would probably find interesting. If you're a hophead - not so much so. Here's the down and dirty:

Brux - Sierra Nevada and Russian River

THE BEER FACTS: A Belgian domesticated wild ale; 8.3% ABV

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: See above quote

COLOR: Pale wheat

POUR: Quite heady especially on the initial pour - 1/2 beer 1/2 head
AROMA: Grassy, grainy

BODY: Light

TASTE: Spicy/sweet, coriander, carbonated

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Leave it on the shelf - especially at that price!

COMMENTS: "Tastes like Old Fezziwig; Nothing to write home about; Carbonated, I don't totally dislike it, but I wouldn't actively seek it out, especially at $14 a bottle; Summer ale taste."


Several years ago, as I was just beginning to stretch my beer taste buds, I stumbled upon a 22 ounce bottle of a beer called "Arrogant Bastard." I read the back of the bottle and had to try it. I one of the boldest bits of salesmanship I've ever seen, the long diatribe on the back of the bottle admonishes you to put it back because you probably are not going to like it, especially if your idea of beer is the yellow fizzy stuff made by the big breweries. In essence, it says that you are not worthy of such a beer as the one you are holding in your hands. I loved the bravura, and I loved the beer. Stones Brewery makes big, bold, no bullshit beers. They do not try to cater to the middle. Even their lower octane brews such as Levitation Ale are loaded with flavor and hopping with hops. So imagine my surprise when I realized we have never actually included Arrogant Bastard in any of our tastings! We remedied that situation at our last meeting.

THE BEER FACTS: ABV 7.2% - HOPS: Classified

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This is an aggressive ale. You probably won't like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to apperciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory - maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it's made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beverage will give you moer sex appeal. Perhaps you think mult-million dollar ad campaigns make things taste better. Perhaps you're mouthing you words as you read this. At Stone Brewing, we believe that pandering to the lowest common denominator represents the height of tyranny - a virtual form of keeping the consumer barefoot and stupid. Brought forth upon an unsuspecting public in 1997, Arrogant Bastard Ale openly challenged the tyrannical overlords who were brazenly attempting to keep Americans chained in the shackles of poor taste. As the progenitor of its style, Arrogant Bastard Ale has reveled in its uncompromising celebration of intensity. There have been many nods to Arrogant Bastard Ale...even outright attempts to copy it...but only one can ever embody the true nature of liquid Arrogance!"

COLOR: Brown

POUR: Decent head.

AROMA: Hops, citrus, malt

BODY: Between medium and full

TASTE: Nice bitter hops, with a nutty malty fullness. Bit of nice alcohol burn to it.


COMMENTS: "Just a truly great beer!; Like an oral orgasm; Tough to beat this beer, it's big and bold, but you can have a few as well; It just fills your mouth; This is the beer that really pulled me into the craft beer world."


THE BEER FACTS: ABV 6.8%; a British style strong ale

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "A hearty British style strong ale with a deep chestnut color. A warming elixir that's magically delicious."

COLOR: Deep Chestnut (brown)

POUR: Decent head

AROMA: Malty, English yeast

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Caramel malt, hint of lemon, pine, nutty.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Can't get enough!

COMMENTS: "Nice malty winter drink; Fireplace beer; Nicely balanced and warming; Good kick-back-by-the-fire-on-a-cold-winter's-night beer; Really balanced, you're not hit in the face by any particular flavor."


THE BEER FACTS: ABV 8%; IBU 70; Imperial Red Ale; HOPS: Simcoe, Cascade; MALT: Harrington two row base malt, Crystal 77, Special Roast.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Like vampires (most especially the notorious German vampire from the 1920's film era) this beer has a bit of a reputation as 'the beer with the bite.'"

COLOR: Mahogany

POUR: Decent head

AROMA: Strong hoppy scent

BODY: Between medium and full

TASTE: Dark fruit, grapefruit, caramel, roasty, brown sugar


COMMENTS: "I could frickin' drink that!; Finishes very nicely; Good aftertaste; Grows on you; Lots of hops, but very complex as well."



WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "It's a harvest beer with a hop kick, using all cone hops."

COLOR: Mahogany

POUR: Decent head with staying power

AROMA: Hoppy and malty

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Balanced with a nice bready, roasty tasted countered by a grapefruit/floral hop presence.


COMMENTS: "I could drink that!; Not an overpowering hoppy taste; After you swallow it, it tastes good for a long time; Really nicely balanced flavor, much more full-flavored than most Oktoberfests out there."  

 Next up - With more and more breweries producing holiday beers, we're going to devote the next two meeting to those annual brews.

The BOTB Guys 


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Some Rye Comments

Microbrew Mecca

The West Coast is the Mecca of Microbrews. Look, I'm an East Coast guy and love the terrific craft breweries on our side of the continent (as well as those in between), but I have to bow before the wonder that is the West Coast. California, Oregon, Washington. You would be hard-pressed to find a bar or restaurant that doesn't have at least a couple of good craft beers. The craft beer movement began on the West Coast and there is a sense of pride in this. Other parts of the country, you can walk into a restaurant and ask if they have a good IPA only to be greeted with a blank stare. On the West Coast the look you get is more along the lines of "Are you kidding? Of course!"

My wife and I just returned from a week in Los Gatos (a beautiful little town not far from San Francisco). Before we left I Googled craft breweries in and around San Francisco. The resulting search produced a bounty of amazing breweries: Anchor, 21st Amendment, Rogues, Pyramid, Lagunitas, Thirsty Bear, Speakeasy, Southern Pacific - to name a few. Breweries and brew pubs sprout up there like dandelions on a spring lawn.  Needless to say, I enjoyed some terrific beer.


The St. Ives Conundrum

As I was going to St. Ives
I met a man with seven wives;
Each wife had seven sacks;
Each sack had seven cats;
Each cat had seven kits;
Kits, Cats, Sacks and Wives
How many were going to St. Ives?

The answer, as many of us know, is "one." Only "I" was going to St. Ives and along the way crossed paths with this group headed in the other direction. Unless...
-What if the narrator, walking alone, overtook this rather unwieldy group also headed to St. Ives. Well, in that case the number would be 2,802 (unless you don't count the narrator or the "man with seven wives" since the last two lines reference only "Kits, cats sacks and wives." In this case it would be 2,800). Or...
-Is the answer 2? The narrator merely said he met a man who had seven wives. He does not say that the wives and their various accouterments were on the road with him at that time. Or perhaps...
-The answer is zero. How so? Look again at the last two lines. The narrator references only the kits, cats, sacks and wives. If they are heading away from St. Ives then none of those mentioned are going to St. Ives. And yet...
-Could the answer be 2,752?  After all, sacks are not living entities. Or maybe...
-Nine is the answer. Is the narrator referring only to humans? (or seven if you apply the principle referenced twice earlier).

Facts are Stubborn, but Statistics are More Pliable - Mark Twain

The point of the above exercise is to point out how language and statistics can be manipulated to say pretty much whatever you want them to say. This manipulation of language and the use of statistics ("There are lies, damned lies and statistics" -also Mark Twain) have long been the tools of the trade for Madison Avenue. The advertising industry, once some level of government oversight was created, realized that outright lies wouldn't fly anymore and sought ways of making claims without really making them. Using questionable statistics continues to be right up there among the favorite ploys. "Special Morning - 33% more nutrition." More nutrition than what? A bag of M&M's? A box of rocks? Doesn't say. It's a classic example of an unfinished claim coupled with fishy statistics.

So when Miller Beer claims to be "triple hopped" what exactly does that mean? Well this is a great example of combining statistics with what is known as the "water is wet" claim. This particular bit of sneaky advertising makes a claim that sounds like it is exclusive to that particular brand, but in fact is true with virtually all brands. A great example was the old Folger's Coffee claim of being "mountain grown." The ads made it sound like this was an attribute unique to Folgers when, in fact, ALL coffees are mountain grown - that's where coffee beans grow best.

So when Miller makes their "triple hopped" claim (a claim that is a running joke among craft beer aficianados) what they are saying is that they are doing with Miller what pretty much all brewers do with all beers, have three hop additions: one for bittering, one for flavor and one for aroma.

It sounds like they are saying that there is three times the hops as some other beers. Yet Miller has an IBU barely out of the single digits (12) and anyone who knows beer knows that IBU's are related to hops. So theoretically, you could use a single hop flower in 100 barrels of beer, run the beer through it three times and call it triple hopped.


"Sometimes when I reflect on all the beer I drink, I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn't drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. I think, 'It is better to drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver."  
                                                                       -Babe Ruth

Thought I'd give Sox fans (Dan)
equal time.
Alas, finding a day for our monthly BOTB meeting which accommodates seven guys with seven wives is often a daunting undertaking. Negotiating around work, trips, weddings, family obligations and holidays to pick the ideal weekend for a meeting where all and sundry can attend sometimes is just not possible. All of us at one time or another over the last couple of years have been unable to attend a meeting. This month it was Ron, our intrepid record keeper. As a result I had to do double duty - both compiling the information and writing the blog. Woe is me. Ron we miss ye.

But soldier on, we must. This month we finally accumulated enough Rye IPAs to put together a worthwhile competition. So without further ado, let's start off with...


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Rye IPA; 8% ABV; 80 IBU;  Brewed with 18% rye malt; High gravity IPA

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: Hop Rod Rye has a floral hop aroma and subtle caramel notes with a slightly earthy and spicy rye character.

POUR: Decent head

COLOR: Amber

AROMA: Floral hoppiness

BODY: Full

TASTE: Nice bitter hoppy finish. Grapefruit with a nutty, malty balance that gives this a rich, somewhat complex character.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Oh, yeah! Can't Get Enough.

COMMENTS: "Oh, that is good; We should only review IPAs; You know how to improve on this? A bigger bottle!; This is GOOD beer; Worth opening another; You can't beat it!"

"I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day."
                                                       -Lyndon B. Johnson


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Unfiltered black rye IPA; 8.3 ABV; 80 IBU; Color 45; MALTS: Pale, Malted Rye: dash of Cara-rye, Midnight wheat from Briess, De-bittered black malt, Dash of Wookey dust!; HOPS: German Magnum, citra and Amarillo.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: Rich, dark malts and spicy rye careen into bold, citrus laden hops creating a new dimension in IPA flavor.  At 80 IBU, Wookey Jack is gnarly on the outside yet complex and refined on the inside.

POUR: Near Guinness class - thick and rich

COLOR: Deep mahogany - almost black. Unfiltered. 

AROMA: Cascade hop piney

BODY: Toward the full/rich end of the spectrum

TASTE: Big citrus hop flavor with a nutty and malty backbone.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Can't get enough!

COMMENTS: "I get a nice hop right off the bat, then a malty finish; I COULD DRINK THAT!; That is one gorgeous head; Firestone Walker has an impressive lineup; That Wookey Dust must be the secret to this beer; I could drink this beer all night long; Ron, it's a damn shame you're not getting any Wookey - after all, a growler opened is a growler drunk!"

"When I read about the evils of drinking, I give up reading."
                                                                         -Paul Hornung


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Rye IPA; 6.9% ABV; 70 IBU; Color - 28 EBC; MALTS: Pale, Rye, Caramel 60, Flaked Rye, Vienna; HOPS: Centennial, Chinook, Falconer's Flight.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This beer is brewed with hops, a variety of malts, our proprietary yeast - the same yeast we've used since first brewing Harpoon Ale - and more hops. A lot more hops."

POUR: A little better than decent head 

COLOR: Golden, hazy, unfiltered

AROMA: Fruity, citrus-y, spicy rye aroma.

BODY: We placed it a bit beyond medium bodied.

TASTE: The most balanced thus far, leaning toward the hoppy/bitter end a bit. Strong malty, nutty middle mellows out the hops. Finishes with a grapefruit, citrus after taste.


COMMENTS: "It's good, but it's not the Hop Rod or Wookey; It's a lot lighter in color than the others; I get no strong aroma of hop in this one; I like this so much better than Harpoon's regular IPA; It's a little more balanced than the others we've had; More of a session beer than the other two; This is a scary beer because you can drink a lot of it because it is very smooth."

"When we drink, we get drunk. When we get drunk, we fall asleep. When we fall asleep, we commit no sin. When we commit no sin, we go to heaven. So, let's all get drunk and go to heaven!"
                                                                           -George Bernard Shaw


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Rye IPA; 6.6% ABV; 70 IBU; MALTS: four imported Belgian caramel malts, rye malt; HOPS: Amarillo

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Serious hop bitterness, along with an unyielding grapefruit bouquet from the Amarillo dry hop, balances the malty richness of four imported Belgian caramel malts."

POUR: Better than decent tan head.

COLOR: Unfiltered crimson.

AROMA: Big grapefruit/citrus aroma

BODY: Between medium and full.

TASTE: Way out there on the bitter end of the scale with a strong grapefruit/hop taste balanced by a nutty, malty background.


COMMENTS: "The color's great!; Nice lace; It's got a deliciously hoppy bite; The rye imparts a softness to the finish; It's not as hopped up as the Hot Rod; Similar to Cascazilla."

"You can't have a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer."
                                                                   -Frank Zappa


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Rye IPA; 5.95% ABV; MALTS: Two-row, Rye; HOPS: Hallertau, Saaz

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "An IPA with a wry twist, Saranac Rye IPA is an aggressively hopped brew sure to take your taste buds on an adventure. We've stepped away from the mold of typical IPAs and selected premium rye malt and a unique mix of spicy hops. Look for a crisp, brazen finish." 

POUR: Not much of a head, some residual lacing.

COLOR: Pale wheat color.

AROMA: More malty than hoppy.

BODY: Somewhat less than medium.

TASTE: Halfway between balanced and bitter. Citrus notes with a light malt underpinning.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: I could drink this.

COMMENTS: "Tastes like their pilsner; Real bitter finish; We drank this out of order - should have started with this; A lighter beer by far than the others; Not impressed with it; Almost a lager; Not a very complex beer."

"Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer."
                                                                    -Dave Barry


This was another of those BOTB meetings where we couldn't go wrong. All of these beers were very tasty and would be excellent additions to anyone's refrigerator. Having said that, however, we did generally prefer some of them over others. Each of us listed the beers 1-5 from our favorite to our least favorite. I then tallied the score and, as in golf, low score won. The final results were as follows:

Top choice was a tie between Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye and Firestone Walker's Wookey Jack. All six of us placed these as either our number one or number two choice. This was followed by Founder's Red's Rye IPA. It received 5 out of 6 third place votes. Harpoon got the other third place, and it came in fourth. Saranac was a unanimous fifth place. It's a fine beer, but in terms of complexity and big taste it just paled in comparison to the others.

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
                                                                  -Benjamin Franklin


We also had the opportunity to check out a couple of special brews sent to us by our friends at Sam Adams. Herewith is our evaluation of those.


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Gose (unfiltered wheat ale); 6% ABV; 15 IBU; MALTS: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, Munich, malted and unmalted wheat; HOPS: Saaz Noble hops; SPECIAL INGREDIENTS: Coriander and salt.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "A link to the ales of Saxony that have all but vanished, Verloren (translating to 'lost') is a peculiar yet captivating brew.The Gose style with its base of an unfiltered wheat ale is light and refreshing yet also has a softness to it. Verloren's flavor is brought to life by an unexpected touch of salt for a mineral quality, and coriander for a peppery spice."

POUR: Good solid head with staying power.

COLOR: Unfiltered honey color.

AROMA: Flowery

BODY: A bit less than medium

TASTE: Tends toward the sweet end with hints of citrus, lemon, yeast, wheat and coriander.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Halfway between "leave it on the shelf" and "I could drink this"

COMMENTS: "Snappy; A taste of lemon; You can taste the coriander, but not overpowering; I guess I can see the salt; A boat beer; Nice change of pace; Definitely a wheat summer beer - deck beer; I'd drink it if I was at Dan's and it was all he had."

"To some it's a six-pack, to me it's a support group in cans!"
                                                                -Leo Durocher


THE BEER FACTS: Style: Sahti (a Nordic ale); 7% ABV; 16 IBU; MALTS: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, rye, Special B, Aromatic malt; HOPS: Hallertau Mittelfrueh Noble hops; COLOR: 30 SRM.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Deep amber in color, this rugged brew's distinctive aroma comes from aging on a bed of juniper berries. The herbal, woodsy and ripe citrus character of the juniper enlivens a sturdy and smooth malt background for a fresh and flavorful brew."

POUR: Almost a Guinness class head.

COLOR: Unfiltered deep copper to brown

AROMA: Somewhat sweet almost a caramel aroma

BODY: Full

TASTE: Toward the sweet end of the spectrum: malty, bready, nutty, hints of toffee and yeast.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Partway between "I could drink this" and "Can't get enough."

COMMENTS: "Boy it dances in your mouth; A lot like a Baltic Porter; Woodsy - that's what I'm getting; I like it; The more I drink it, the better I like it; Nice winter evening beer; Fireplace beer; A rich beer."

Next up we go a bit wild card as we choose brews from various breweries other than their flagship beers. I'm thinking there may be an IPA or two in the mix. Just sayin'...

The BOTB Guys