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Friday, August 31, 2012

Autumn Adams

SHERMAN ON THE MOUNT

A Little Faux Mellencamp

Went to buy beer in a small town;
There's no craft brew in this small town;
No IPA .in my small home town;
Just lots a' Bud and Miller beer.


If I want good beer in this small town;
Need to drive miles from my ol' small town;
My beer money goes to some other big town;
Wish I could spend it here.

I do, in fact, live in a small town, and running to the local Big M to pick up a six of something good is, shall we say, problematic. The Big M has a nice, big walk-in beer cooler, so you would think that there would be plenty of room for a few good beers. But, once they have set aside room for Bud in: 30 packs, 24 packs, 12 packs, 6 packs, 12 ounce bottles, 12 ounce cans, 22 ounce bottles, various light versions with and without lime, not to mention various sizes, shapes and styles of Michelob (pricey Bud) and Busch (cheapo Bud), there is barely enough room left to squeeze in the mandatory Miller, Coors, Pabst varieties. There's usually a brief nod to foreign beers (Guinness, Becks). But craft beers? Well, there's Sam Adams Lager and usually Magic Hat No. 9 Not Quite Pale Ale.
But try to find an IPA. No way. A stout other than Guinness? You wish. A Porter? That's a tall order.There are lagers and light ales by the dozens. But other than a couple of flagship beers some of the larger craft brewers, there's nothing.
Now, none of this is new. I've bitched about it before ad infinitum as any reader of this blog knows. But I got thinking of the concept of "flagship" brews. Most breweries have what they consider their bread-and-butter beer. It's usually the one that got them on the map. Or it's their best seller. But is it their best beer? Below, strictly for the sake of debate, I've listed a number of breweries, their flagship beer, and then what I humbly consider a superior brew produced by them. This is strictly 100% subjective. The breweries chosen are fairly random ones which had a flagship brew that sort of jumped out at you. You are welcome to jump into the fray with your own examples or refute those I have selected. Of course, my preferences will lean heavily toward the hoppy.



SAM ADAMS
Flagship: Sam Adams Lager


 For a straight-up lager - it blows away the big brewery's lagers. There's no comparison. Just place it side-by-side next to any of the macro-brew lagers - it's darker, richer looking, with a thick, full off-white head that has some staying power. And the flavor is vastly superior (meaning that there actually IS flavor) with a decent if not extraordinary hop presence.    





Better Adams: Latitude 48 IPA


An exceptional and surprisingly affordable IPA. Well balanced but with a good hop kick to it. 

SIERRA NEVADA
Flagship: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale


Oftentimes a lifesaver in a restaurant or bar. It may well be the only decent beer available. It's tough to find a S-N beer that isn't good. Their pale ale is hoppier than many and is a classic West Coast Pale Ale. Terrific session beer. 

Better S-N: Ruthless Rye


I must admit, I've become a fan of Rye IPA's lately. Anything but pale, Ruthless Rye is a seasonal brew that you wish was year-round. The rye adds a complexity to a well-hopped brew. 

MAGIC HAT
Flagship: No. 9 Not Quite Pale Ale



Not quite a fan of this beer that seems to crop up all over. Apparently it's very popular as they never "retire" it like they do some of their others. It has a strong taste of apricot and wheat. I've seen it said that it makes a good introductory beer for someone not used to craft beers. Maybe. I have yet to find anyone who really likes this beer. Macro-brew drinkers won't go there and craft brew aficionados view it as a light-weight. 

Better Hat (by far): hI.P.A.


A much superior brew. At 70 IBUs it has a nice hop bitterness.

MIDDLE AGES
Flagship: Syracuse Pale Ale



A classic English style Pale Ale, more malt than hop. A very good session beer, but...

Better Middle: The Duke of Winship


A neat hybrid of Scotch Ale and English Porter. The Porter has a nice way of taking the sharp edge typical of Scotch Ales, creating a mellow brew with a complex, malty taste.

GREAT LAKES
Flagship: Dortmunder Gold


The beer that Great Lakes was built on, it's a golden lager with a kiss of hops.

Better Lake: Nosferatu Imperial Red Ale



A big, bold interesting brew. Powerfully hopped yet very balanced. 

GUINNESS
Flagship: Guinness Stout


Okay, so Guinness is not in any sense of the word a craft brewery. It is a world-wide brewer, and Guinness Stout is becoming nearly as ubiquitous as Budweiser. But since Guinness Stout is sort of the epitome of the style, I thought I'd include it here. For all the hoopla, Guinness Stout is a very easy-drinking, mild, malty beverage. 

Better Guinness
Guinness Foreign Extra



It's essentially a hopped up version of their stout. A few years ago they came out with Guinness 250 to celebrate 250 years of brewing. That beer was similar to this and was more popular in the US than in Ireland. 250 was a limited release and is no longer available, but Foreign Extra has been around for about 200 years and shows no sign of vanishing. While I enjoy a Guinness Stout now and then as a change of pace, I really like the Foreign Extra, though it is much more difficult to find.

DOGFISH HEAD
Flagship: 60 Minute IPA


A nice, inoffensive IPA. It won't hit you in the face with hops so it makes a good sort of entry-level IPA.


Better Dog: Indian Brown Ale

The obvious choice here would have been the 90 Minute or 120 Minute, but I decided to go in a different direction here with their Indian Brown Ale. It's a brown ale with hops for a kind of brown ale/IPA hybrid. 


STONE BREWING COMPANY
Flagship: Arrogant Bastard


"This is an aggressive ale. You probably won't like it. It is quite likely that you don't have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate 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..." With those words printed boldly on their bottle, Stone Brewing fired a shot across the bow of the mega-brewers and challenged the American beer drinkers to strap on a pair and delve into the world of bold beers. Go here: http://www.stonebrew.com/arrogantbastard/ if you've never read the entire statement - it's a brilliant bit of  reverse psychology/mission statement/in-your-face-Budweiser promotion.

Better Stone: Arrogant Bastard


Come on. Tough to beat that ol' Bastard. However, you might want to try their version of "light" - Levitation Ale. The best low-alcohol (4.4%) beer I've ever had - amazingly hoppy and complex. 


NOSTALGIA JUST AIN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE


We kicked off our latest BOTB meeting with a bit of nostalgia. We opened the session with Genesee 12 Horse Ale. Dan provided us with some of those short retro-style bottles of this beer from our collective youths. Genesee Brewing is one of those regional breweries (Northeast) that survived the battle of the megabrews that decimated many of the smaller breweries through the '60's and '70's and into the '80's before the emergence of the micro-brews. It's a funny thing with regional companies: people either retain a fierce loyalty to their product inspired by pride of place, or else there is sort of self-loathing view that anything local and small can't possibly be very good. Genesee Beer has always had a loyal following; to the point that people who moved out of state routinely have cases shipped to them. On the other hand, there are those who loathed the beer which, really, was pretty much the same as every other American beer pre-craft beer times. 
So who had the Clydsdales first?
But Genny also produced some interesting brews other than their flagship Genesee Beer. One of them was 12 Horse Ale. And tipping one of those took us all on a nice trip down memory lane. 12 Horse was a bit different from Bud and the other Bud wanna' be's of the time. We didn't rate this beer or any of the other "palate cleansers" we enjoyed prior to the Sam Adams selections du jour. But our intrepid club recorder, Ron, did dutifully jot down some of the comments regarding the 12 Horse. To whit: "It's a good golf cart beer; It really takes me back; Has a clean finish; Not bad; There is no after-taste; It makes one awash with reminiscence; I had a Bud the other day, and this is better." Ron kindly did not divulge who had the Bud, but I must come clean. It was, alas, yours truly. One of those situations where I was a guest and it was the only beer. It would have been rude not to partake. But seriously, what a boring beer!

SAY GOODBYE TO SUMMER
WITH SAM ADAMS FALL LINEUP


Sam's sent us a few autumn selections this month, so it's time to leave those fruity summer ales behind and checkout the bounty of heartier, mostly malty brews that come with the changing of the leaves. (Thanks to Ron Walter for the above photo taken at Selkirk Shores.) 


             SAM ADAMS FAT JACK DOUBLE PUMPKIN ALE



THE BEER FACTS: Awesome label: a somewhat wrinkled, pudgy, pale pumpkin face with a sinister expression. 8.5% ABV; 25 IBUs; Color 25 SRM; Malts - Sam Adams 2 row malt blend, rye, special B, smoked malt; Hops - East Kent Golding, Fuggles; Other Stuff - Pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Pleasantly plump and satisfied. This rich and luscious brew indulges in flavor with over 28 lbs. of pumpkin per barrel, for a full bodied sweetness and deep russet color."

POUR: Beautiful, foamy effervescent head the color of creamed coffee

COLOR: Antique walnut

AROMA: Caramel-ly

BODY: Medium to full

TASTE: Sweet, with notes of spices, smoke, toffee, and coffee

OVERALL IMPRESSION: "I Could Drink This!" (Though opinions - as noted below - varied greatly.)

COMMENTS: "Nice color and nice, creamy head; This could rewrite pumpkin beers; I kind of like it; They didn't disguise it enough - it still tastes like pumpkin beer; I would rather they used the pumpkins in pies; If this was the last beer served at my friends house, I would drink it; Dark porter taste with pumpkin; There seems to be little or no cloves or coriander taste, which is good in my opinion; It is more like a malty porter; It is a lot less sweet than last year's pumpkins; It is more beer-like than any other pumpkin beer I've ever had; If you put enough alcohol in it, you can even drink pumpkin beers."

SAM ADAMS OCTOBERFEST





Not our first time with this brew. We included it last year in our Oktoberfest tasting. New label though. Nice!  Samuel Adams gave us food pairings to accompany their Octoberfest. They suggested sausage. Yes, sausage! Come on - what doesn't go with sausage? I could (almost) drink a Bud with sausage. Oktoberfests are a German Marzaan style, so nothing says German like processed meat. 

THE BEER FACTS: 5.3% ABV; 15 IBUs; Malts: Sam Adams two-row malt blend, Munich -10, Caramel 60; Hops: Tettnang Tettnanger, Hallertau Mitterfrau Nobel Hops; Yeast: Sam Adams lager yeast

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Samuel Adams Octoberfest has a rich, deep reddish amber hue which itself is reflective of the season. ...Octoberfest masterfully blends together five roasts of malt to create a delicious harmony of sweet flavors including caramel and toffee."

POUR: A better than decent head, slightly off color ecru

COLOR: Copper

AROMA: Malty

BODY: A bit less than medium

TASTE: More toward sweet than balanced, with strong notes of malt

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: A somewhat indifferent "I could drink this."

COMMENTS: "Nice label' It's on tap at the Hot Spot in Sackett's Harbor and at Ruby Tuesday's; It really isn't much; Hey, it's refreshing; It's a malty marzen; It's pretty weak; Not a bad Oktoberfest; It's very drinkable; The Tasman Red would have been a much better and braver choice; It's a good example of the style; It's a little better than most Oktoberfests."


SAM ADAMS HAZEL BROWN



Next up: Hazel Brown from Sam Adam's Harvest Variety Pack. The label is, again, very pleasing. One might expect the usual nut brown ale, but the first whiff and the first taste tell you otherwise. This is a beer that tastes, not of fruit, but nuts (as the name implies). Ron reminisced about his in-laws' hazelnut trees, saying, "Yeah, that's the taste." Whether that's the taste you want in your beer or not is a matter of, well, personal taste. Nuts are great to eat with beer no matter what. 

THE BEER FACTS: 5.2% ABV; 20 IBUs; COLOR: 28 SRM; MALT: Samuel Adams two-row malt blend, Caramel 60, Dingeman's biscuit, Paul's Roasted Barley; HOPS: Hallertau Mittlefrueh Nobel Hops, East Kent Goldings.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "In honor of the fall hazelnut harvest, we brew this flavorful nut brown ale. Its distinct hazelnut aroma and taste are accentuated by slightly sweet caramel and toffee malt notes. Medium in body, it finishes smooth with an underlying spiciness, making it a great choice for the fall."

POUR: Less than a decent head, not as pronounced as the others

COLOR: A nice looking brown

AROMA: Hazelnuts

BODY: Despite the claim by SA that it was medium, we felt it was pretty full, filling the mouth.

TASTE: Sweet with notes of toffee, a little caramel, and definitely hazelnuts.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: It fell somewhere between "leave it on the shelf" and "I could drink this."  Opinions varied according to one's tolerance for the taste of hazelnuts in beer.

COMMENTS: "It tastes like hazelnut coffee; It looks better than it tastes; Drink this before the Octoberfest; It has a bitter, clean finish; It's very different for a brown; If you're not fond of the hazelnut taste, you might not like it."

SAM ADAMS IRISH RED

It's kind of fun to revisit a beer to see what we now think of it, or see how the brewer may have tweaked the recipe a bit. And sometimes it's just a matter of what beer you had before. We checked out Irish Red when we were looking at Irish beers. It fared fairly well against other beers of its ilk.

THE BEER FACTS: 5.8% ABV; 25 IBUs; COLOR: 30 SRM; MALTS: Sam Adams 2-row malt blend, caramel 60; HOPS: East Kent Golding, English Fuggles; Hallertau Mittlefrueh Nobel Hops; YEAST: Samuel Adams ale yeast

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "The gentle rains and fertile soil of Ireland helped inspire this style of ale, known for being remarkably balanced. Pale and caramel malts give Samuel Adams Irish red its rich, deep red color and distinctive caramel flavor. The sweetness of the malt is pleasantly balanced by an earthy character from the East Kent Goldings hops. Samuel Adams Irish Red finishes smooth and leaves you wanting to take another sip."

POUR: Nice lace, good off-white head

COLOR: Red/brown/mahogany

AROMA: Yeasty/bready

BODY; Medium

TASTE: Midway between balanced and sweet with strong notes of yeast and bread

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: "I could drink this!:

COMMENTS: "It has a bit of a bitter finish; A nice red; It kicks Killian's ass - it has a lot more hops; This is a nice red; It would be great on St. Patty's Day."

SAMUEL ADAMS CREAM STOUT



THE BEER FACTS: 4.9% ABV; 28 IBU; MALT: Samuel Adams 2-row pale malt blend; malted wheat, roasted unmalted barley, chocolate malt, caramel 60; HOPS: East Kent Goldings and English Fuggles; YEAST: Samuel Adams ale yeast

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: Samuel Adams Cream Stout is a true cream stout, balancing body and sweetness, with the natural spiciness of grain and hand selected English hops. Our brewers use generous portions of roasted chocolate and caramel malts as well as roasted unmalted barley to impart a fullness of body, a roasty malt character and rich, creamy head. "

POUR:  Very nice, chocolate milk head

COLOR: Very dark to pitch black

AROMA: Chocolate, coffee, and sweet

BODY: Full, thick - filled the mouth

TASTE: There is a deep roast on the malt; sweet and a tasted of burnt cocoa

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Strong opposing opinions on this one so that the final verdict landed somewhere between "I could drink this!" and "Leave it on the shelf." 

COMMENTS: "It IS creamy; It's a one-glass kind of beer; It would make a good dessert beer for chocolate cake and ice cream."

Before we leave Sam, we have to comment on their specially designed glasses again. They seem to make every pour a Guinness- like event. It was noted that no longer would you need the nitrogen to get such a pretty and unique pour. Many thanks to Sam Adams (again) for their beers and their glasses. As has been said before: "They just do beer right!"


THIS AND THAT

We enjoyed a number of "palate cleanser" beers (otherwise known as "just drink 'em" beers) which we did not rate. They were a random selection brought in by each BOTB member. They included: Middle Ages 17th Anniversary Session IPA, Pyramid Outburst IPA, Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale, Stone's Arrogant Bastard, Grindstone Brewery's latest summer ale. A few thoughts from random members:

Middle Ages 17th Anniversary Session IPA: : It smells as good as it tastes; It's one of the better tasting lighter (alcohol-wise) IPAs; It reminds me of Stone's Levitation - amazing hoppy flavor in a moderate alcohol beer; I'll tell you what - that's a good beer; What a pleasant surprise."

Pyramid Outburst IPA: "It's one more bite up from the Thunderhead; Nice hops; It's a really nice beer; I like that Outburst - I'll tell you."

Burning River: "That's a great pale ale; It's a big beer; This is good!"

Stone's Arrogant Bastard: "You can't beat that Bastard; They have a right to be arrogant; Stone makes some damn good beer."

Grindstone Brewery: "Oh, yeah; That's what I'm talkin' about; I've had bad home brew, I've had good home brew, this is great home brew - this could compete with a lot of the craft brewers out there."

We'll leave you with a few shots of open mic day at Riley's - after our tastings so everyone sounded amazing!









Next month we take a look at Ryes!
Sláinte!
The BOTB Guys





                                                                  


Friday, August 10, 2012

Hop-ology - Please Sir, Can We Have Some More?

Sherman on the Mount

A Beer By Any Other Name
Or
How About a Shot of Culture With that Beer?

Juliet:
     'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
     Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
     What's a Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
     Nor arm, nor face nor any other part
     Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
     What's in a name? That which we call a rose
     By any other name would smell as sweet;
     So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd
     Retain that dear perfection which he owes 
     Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
     And for that name which is no part of thee
     Take all myself.


Wise words from the oh-so-much-wiser-than-her-age (around 13) Juliet in Shakespeare's immortal Romeo and Juliet. Put simply: it matters not what someone (or something) is called, but who (or what) they (it) actually are (is.) In the case of our famous star-crossed lovers, Romeo is a Montague and the Montagues and Capulets (Juliet's family) were the Hatfields and McCoys of Shakespeare's Verona. Therefore, by dint of his name alone, Juliet is supposed to hate him. (Luckily, in our modern and enlightened world such arbitrary judgments based on such trivial things as one's last name, skin color or religion have long since vanished.)

Yet, prodded by teenage hormones and the machinations of masquerade ball chicanery, she gets to know the boy before she knows the name. Of course the whole thing ended in a three day affair, a secret marriage and six dead, but her point is, none-the-less, well taken.


In the world of brewing, however, there is much in a name (how's that for a segue?). Budweiser years ago branded itself "The King of Beers," and when it comes to production, marketing and sales, who can argue? Budweiser created a legion of brand loyalists not by brewing the best beer, but by hiring the very best advertising agencies. Budweiser is undoubtedly the King of Image. Budweiser sells macho, red-blooded American rugged individualism like nobody's business. Bud Lite goes after the younger crowd, while maintaining its "boys' club" vibe. It's been brilliant marketing of a somewhat bland lager that has kept it at the top of the heap of bland lagers. 

Look, I have nothing against Budweiser, per se. It's just that Anheuser-Busch products are like those invasive species of weeds. It is everywhere. Any venue that sells beer will have A-B beers. But like the way those weeds can dominate a landscape, forcing out all other forms of vegetation, A-B beers tend to hog space that could be available for other, more interesting beers. Shelf space in a store, taps in a bar. These are limited commodities and A-B products demand so much of it, followed by Miller/Coors, that in many places your choice is no choice. Craft beers are crowded out. In a typical bar, by the time taps are set aside for Bud, Bud Lite, Bud Select, Miller, Miller Lite, Miller 56 (or whatever the hell the number is), Coors Light, Blue Moon, Shocktop and maybe,if you're lucky, Sam Adams Boston Lager, what's left? Well, if it's in the summer, you might get a seasonal, which is another light, fruit-flavored beer.  So your choice is Lager, Lite Lager or Light fruity Lager.

Why is this so? Because the the big breweries have the power. What's in a name? Well, if you're Budweiser, everything.

Once upon a time the Battle of the Beers was Budweiser vs. Miller vs. Schlitz (yes, Schlitz). Today it is the mega brewers vs. the craft beer industry. As far as volume is concerned, it is no contest. The big guys easily kick the craft brewers' collective butts. But the little guys are slowly making gains. Each year for the last several years, craft brewing's piece of the pie has grown. And the big guys have taken notice. This all begs the question: why don't the big breweries brew their own "craft" beers? Why is there no Budweiser IPA? No Miller Stout? No Coors Porter? Instead they get lighter and lighter in a race to see who can, in fact, get closest to water (or, as the joke goes, make love in a canoe).

The answer, I suspect, lies in the philosophies of the two industries: love of money vs. love of beer. This is not to suggest that craft brewers have no interest in making money. Indeed, most of them produce a somewhat middle-of-the-road brew that appeals to a wider base - consider Sam Adams Lager and Sam Adams Light - and most produce a fruity seasonal that sells very well. There are more and more Shandies out there. But they also brew full-bodied beers with complex flavors. To do so requires costly ingredients: barley malt instead of corn and rice; copious amounts of hops. So, where the craft brewers opt to put their money into making good beer, the big guys would rather keep making the same old same old and put their money into making good commercials.

Hooray For Rye 
He's Our Kind of Guy

One of the recent trends in craft brewing has been the movement toward Rye IPAs and it has been a tasty trend. There is something about the use of rye that produces a fuller, rounder flavor that just fills the mouth. S-N's Ruthless Rye is a great example, and Harpoon at long last has released their Rich and Dan's Rye IPA which we were lucky enough to review back in May. We found it a terrific "Can't get enough!" brew and have been waiting patiently (well, not that patiently) for it to arrive in stores. I found it in a Wegman's and immediately bought all they had on the shelf. At a time when summer beers dominate the shelves, it was great to see this one bucking the fruity trend.

Samuel Adams Hop-ology - a Mixed 12 For the Ages




Last summer, Samuel Adams made a limited release 12-pack of Latitude 48 called Latitude 48 Deconstructed. It was marvelous. Just as summer rolled around again, we felt a great deal of nostalgia for Deconstructed, and Sam came out with a new limited-release that caught our attention - IPA Hop-ology. First of all, anything with the word "hop" in it makes us sit up and take notice. It's kind of like that old "SEX - now that I have your attention" gambit. Well, HOP got our attention. And upon closer inspection we found the mixed-12 had 6 intriguing beers: Latitude 48, Grumpy Monk Belgian IPA, Whitewater IPA, Tasman Red, Dark Depths, and Third Voyage. Whereas last month we looked at what I referred to as "the lighter side of Sam" with some level of interest and professional curiosity, this month we dove into some of Sam's more complex brews with great anticipation. 

GRUMPY MONK  BELGIAN IPA



THE BEER FACTS: 5.7 ABV - 55 IBU Color: 13 SRM - Malt: Sam Adams two-row pale malt, Bohemian pils malt, Honey malt. Hops: Ahtanum, Simcoe, Cascade, Amarillo, Fuggles, Saaz. Yeast: Belgian ale Yeast - First Brewed 2009

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Our inspiration for this brew began with the idea of taking some of the elements we loved about IPAs, with their citrusy, piney character, and seeing what happened when we combined it with other style influences...The result is golden ale with layers of complex flavor from apricot and clove, to a cereal maltiness, and a citrusy hop finish."

POUR: Decent head, foamy and white

COLOR: Rich yellow/honey

AROMA: Floral and pleasantly summery

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Nicely balanced, with notes of muted clove and a slight bit of bready maltiness.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: A little beyond "I could drink this!"

COMMENTS: "If you hop it, they will come; Nice hoppiness that's pleasant, balanced with a nice malt; Sweet on the lips - slightly bitter after; For a Belgian, it tastes good to me; A good summer beer; A boat or lawnmower beer; The label is good to look at, the Monk is grumpy because his stein is empty; Nice artwork on the labels."

WHITEWATER IPA




THE BEER FACTS: 5.8% ABV - 60 IBUs - COLOR: 14 SRM - MALTS: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend and white wheat - HOPS: Australian Topaz, Ameriaca Chinook, Cascade, Simcoe, Citra - YEAST: Samuel Adams ale yeast - SPECIAL INGREDIENTS: Orange peel, coriander, apricot - AVAILABLE: Year round - FIRST BREWED: 2012

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "We love hops at Samuel Adams, and while we enjoy traditional IPAs, we thought we might spice things up a little bit, literally, by combining the intense hop character of an IPA with the crisp spicy wheat charcter of a Belgian-style white ale."

POUR: Decent off-white head about a finger's worth, and cloudy (unfiltered)

COLOR: Honey

AROMA: Bready/earthy

BODY: Medium

TASTE: A little sweet and spicy up front with a bitter hoppiness at the finish, with bready notes and a hint of apricot.

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

COMMENTS: "Reminds me of Saranac's White IPA, but maybe not quite as hoppy; There is a pine aftertaste; The label says there is an apricot taste, but I can't taste it; I like this - it's a good beer; It's a beer that's good to sit around the pool with; A wheat that doesn't taste like a wheat; It's a nice summer beer."

LATITUDE 48 IPA



THE BEER FACTS: 6% ABV - 60 IBUs - COLOR: 20 SRM - MALT: Samuel Adams 2-row pale malt blend, Caramel 60, Gambrinus Honey Malt - HOPS: Hallertau Mittelfrueh Nobel hops, East Kent Goldings, Zeus, Simcoe, Ahtanum - YEAST: Samuel Adams Ale Yeast - Available year round - FIRST BREWED: 2009.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA is a unique IPA brewed with a select blend of hops from top German, English, and American growing regions all located close to the 48th latitude within the "hop belt" of the Northern Hemisphere. The combination of hops in this beer creates a distinctive but not overpowering hop character."

POUR: Decent whitish head with about a finger's worth of foam. It, too, is cloudy (unfiltered.) 

COLOR: Dark honey to amber
 
AROMA: Deliciously hoppy

BODY: Between medium and full

TASTE: Hoppy/bitter with notes of grapefruit hops and malt

OVERALL IMPRESSION: "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "It attacks the tongue; That's a good beer!; It's brewed with a lot of hops and a lot of malt; It's a big beer; There's a nice bitter aftertaste that makes you want to go to the next sip; A reasonably priced, really good IPA; Aptly named as it has a lot of 'latitude'; You can taste the deconstructed hops; A good 'hide it from the company' beer."

TASMAN RED IPA




THE BEER FACTS: 6.75% ABV - 60 IBUs - COLOR: 14 SRM - MALTS: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, Special B, and Carafa III - HOPS: Australian Topaz, Galaxy - YEAST: Samuel Adams ale yeast - AVAILABILITY: limited release - FIRST BREWED: 2011.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: Bold, lively, and a bit rugged, this wily red IPA gets its character from the Tasmanian hops that are full of grapefruit, pine, and earthy notes, creating a bold flavor that threads throughout the taste...This flavorful brew is rounded and smooth with a dry and citrusy hop finish."

POUR: Decent creamy head with good retention.

COLOR: Brown with hints of red (maybe auburn)

AROMA: Sort of a coffee aroma

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Not an overwhelming hops taste, but a complex flavor. Perhaps a bit of licorice with notes of roasty malt, toffee and coffee, with a bit of a bitter finish

OVERALL IMPRESSION: "I could drink this!"

COMMENTS: "Less balanced and more to the malty side; More Oktoberfest - sweeter and maltier; It would be a GREAT Oktoberfest. It would rule all the other Oktoberfests if it were brewed as such; There's enough alcohol to make you pay attention; It's more of a Porter style IPA than other IPAs."

DARK DEPTH BALTIC IPA




THE BEER FACTS: 7.6% ABV - 55 IBUs - COLOR: 60 SRM - MALT: Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, Caramel 60, Munich, Carafa I - HOPS: Zeus, Ahtanum, Saaz, East Kent Goldings, Topaz, Simcoe - YEAST: Samuel Adams lager yeast - AVAILABILITY: limited - FIRST BREWED: 2011 - OTHER STUFF: Despite IPA (India Pale ALE) in its name, Dark Depth is technically a LAGER which began life as a PORTER. 

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Dark and fierce, this English porter was transformed form a mild ale to a dark and complex lager that confounds definition. Immersed in dark, roasted malts and a bold citrus hop character, these big and contrasting flavors are brought together with the smoothness of a lager for a brew that's rugged, mysterious and full of flavor."

POUR: Decent creamy, off-white head with good retention
COLOR: Dark mahogany

AROMA: Vanilla and sorghum

BODY: Thick/full

TASTE: Sweet with notes of caramel toffee

OVERALL IMPRESSION: "I could drink this!"

COMMENTS: "It's a dessert beer; Has the taste of a Baltic Porter; Tastes like molasses/sorghum; I'd drink it if it's all I had in my fridge; It's a good 'kick back beer' - drink one and head to bed."


THIRD VOYAGE DOUBLE IPA




THE BEER FACTS: 8% ABV - 80 IBUs - COLOR: 24 SRM - MALT: Samuel Adams two-row malt blend - Caramalt, honey malt - HOPS: Cascade, Simcoe, Zeus, Summer Saaz - YEAST: Samuel Adams ale yeast - AVAILABILITY: limited - FIRST BREWED: 2011

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Bright and intense with a vivid hop punch. Third Voyage features Cascade hops from different growing regions throughout the world. The unique conditions of soil, moisture, and sunlight from each yield subtle differences that make this beer a complex medley of hop notes."

POUR: Decent creamy off-white head with respectable retention.

COLOR: Rich amber

AROMA: A little yeast, raw bread dough, cookie dough

BODY: Very near full/thick

TASTE: Balanced - it has a "double" taste to it, malty with a bitter finish

OVERALL IMPRESSION: "Can't get enough!"

COMMENTS: "This is the star of the 12-pack; It dwarfs the rest; An aftertaste that screams, 'More of me'; The aroma is concealed by the full mouth taste; A real sailor's beer; Hoppy-malty-bitter - it's a three tiered taste!"

AND THE WINNER IS...

...In a word: "us." Six terrific beers in one 12 pack. No losers. Wow! Our overall favorite was probably Third Voyage with Latitude 48 a close second. The others were all delicious, with each of us preferring some better than others. But overall, we'd like to see Sam make this available year round!

The Gold Medal Goes to: Third Voyage

The Silver Medal Goes to: Latitude 48

The Bronze Medal Goes to: Tasman Red

Tough call on the last three. There was a kind of a split between Dark Depths and Whitewater, with the nod going to Whitewater by a nose. Grumpy Monk we saw as nice boat beer, pretty easy-drinking and a mild alcohol profile. So...

4. Whitewater
5. Dark Depths
6. Grumpy Monk

Sláinte,
The BOTB Guys