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Monday, December 29, 2014

Merry HannaChristmas

A Reviewer's Work is Never Done

And that, when it comes to craft beer, is a good thing. There has been such an explosion of craft beers that even some of the more "mainstream" restaurants have begun including craft beers on their menus. I was in Carnegie's, a local restaurant that traditionally has offered only mega-brews. I asked if they had any IPAs, sort of knowing the answer. To my surprise, the waitress said they had Brew
Free or Die IPA from 21st Amendment. Fantastic! Smart restaurateurs are realizing that craft beer is not a fad, and the reason it is not just a fad is that once you develop a taste for good, flavorful beer, the mega-brews just don't measure up anymore. There's no going back.

For the first time, craft beer has outsold Budweiser. Now, lest you fear for Bud's livelihood, understand that it means that it took hundreds of craft beers to outsell one brand. I think Bud will survive. But as American beer drinkers' thirst for real American beers grows, restaurant owners are taking notice. Those that haven't? (I'm talking to you Olive Garden and Red Lobster) it's up to us to "educate" them. Ask if they have any craft beers. If they try to foist Shock Top, Blue Moon, or Stella Artois as a craft beer explain patiently that those are not really craft beers. Don't they have any beers from some of the local craft brewers? If not, order water! Enough people do this, and they'll get the point.  

Which brings us to December's Beer Club meeting at the beautifully decorated Riley home. It was originally Dan's intention for everyone to just bring a favorite seasonal beer to enjoy and not actually review them. In other words this would be a "drink the brew and eschew the review" meeting, so to speak. However, fate (and Shmalz Brewery) intervened. Dan made a recent visit to Shmalz Brewing Jewbelation, Hop Manna IPA, Messiah Nut Brown Ale, Genesis Dry Hopped Session Ale - you get the idea (see last month's post for some of my favorite beer names). Head on over to the Shmalz Brewing web site, it's one of those that's just a lot of fun to peruse. Anyway, we do have three of their
beers which we diligently reviewed for this month.
in Clifton Park, NY recently and after much schmoozing and a fair amount of drinking, the brewers decided to send us some beer to review. Shmalz brews the He'brew line of beers (He'brew - The Chosen Beer). They are one of those breweries that not only brews terrific beer, but has some fun naming the beers, playing off the He'brew name:

Beyond that, we have reviewed Christmas/Winter seasonal beers in the past, but because of the plethora of possible potent potables out there, it was no problem coming up with some new ones. We didn't have a whole lot of spiced beers this year - not that there's anything wrong with spiced beers!! So we'll kick off with a quick rundown of the seasonals we tried and give you our brief down and dirty impression of each. Then we'll get to the business at hand and we'll give you the in-depth scoop on the three He'brew beers we tried.

This year's Holiday Brews basics:


  • Christmas Ale - Bell's Brewery, Kalamazoo, MI. 5.5% ABV. Winter Seasonal ale. We found this to be creamy and smooth. Quite malty with hints of toffee. A very pleasant, easy-drinking beer.

  • Blizzard of Hops - Troegs Brewing, Hersey, PA. 6.4% ABV; 80 IBUs; Winter IPA. Citurs and piney hop aroma and flavor. An interesting and complex IPA, but not overpowering despite the 80 IBUs. It was nice to find an seasonal ale that was an IPA.
  • Slope Style Winter Ale IPA - Boulder Beer, Boulder, CO. ABV: 6.4%. Red IPA. Another seasonal IPA, this one was well balanced up front, with the hop kick on the back end. A satisfying piney hop finish with just a hint of lemon citrus.

  • Mastermind Double IPA - Fiddlehead Brewing, Shelburne, VT. ABV: 8.1%; Double IPA. This is a big beer with a big hoppy flavor. Unfiltered and brimming with grapefruit-hops taste combined with nice biscuit-malt and caramel underpinnings. The Guys were pleased, indeed. Alas, they are sold out for this year and won't have more until next Christmas.

  • Hibernation Ale - Great Divide Brewing Co., Denver, CO. ABV: 8.7; Old Ale style. Sweet aroma with a big malt backbone. The taste is nicely balanced with spicy hops and a lingering alcohol aftertaste.

  • Embrrr Rye Porter - Ithaca Beer Co., Ithaca, NY. 6.6% ABV; 80 IBUs; Rye Porter. A rich, creamy, full-bodied Porter redolent of roasted malts, dark chocolate with rye spiciness.

  • Fireside Chat - 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco, CA. 7.9%; 45 IBUs; English-style Ale; A bit spicy with perhaps subtle notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove at the finish. Spices don't overpower, but nicely supplement the beer. Easy drinking for a 7.9%.

  • Winter Warmer - Harpoon Brewing, Boston MA and Windsor, VT. 5.9% ABV; 23 IBUs. Spiced Ale. Cinnamon and nutmeg - pumpkin pie flavor. Medium bodied formed from caramel and pale malts. No real hop presence.

A FEW HE'BREW BREWS



He'brew Hop Manna




The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Shmaltz Brewing, Clifton Park, NY; STYLE: IPA; ABV: 6.8%; 65 IBUs; MALTS: Specialty 2-Row, Wheat, Munich, Vienna, CaraMunich 40; HOPS: Centennial, Cascade, Citra. 

What The Brewer Says: "Craft Beer worshippers, wander no more! Witness Hop Manna IPA - our beloved single IPA from He'brew Beer and a gift from our new Promised Land in upstate New York. Hop Manna is the answer to hop heads' prayers for a delicious IPA bearing floral and citrus goodness...Hop Manna IPA  is crafted to provide session after session of hop nourishment, from our Tribe to yours."

Color: Liquid Gold

Pour: Decent head that receded fairly quickly

Aroma: Citrus hops

Body: Leaning toward full bodied

Taste: Hop bitterness with notes of pine, citrus, lemon and grapefruit

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "You can taste the Citra hop right away; This is going to find its way to my fridge; It's a damn good IPA; How can we get this in Central New York?; YES!!!; One of the best IPAs I've ever had, and may I turn to a pillar of salt if I'm lying; There's a great and lingering aftertaste; It just cries out for another sip; There's lots of hops taste; It's an exceptional IPA; And it has a nice bitter, dry finish."

HE'BREW MESSIAH




The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Shmatz Brewing; STYLE: Nut Brown Ale; ABV: 5.2%; MALTS: Specialty 2-Row; Carapils; Dark Crystal, Chocolate, CaraMunich 60, Kiln Amber; HOPS: Warrior, Cascade, Liberty; AWARDS: Silver Medal - World Beer Championships.

What The Brewer Says: "A complex yet smooth blend of bold dark malts revealing hints of chocolate, coffee and toffee paired with a lovely hop character."

Color: Appears brown at first pour, but is a reddish color when held up to the light.

Pour: Decent short-lived head

Aroma: A little malty, but not a big nose

Body: Pretty full bodied

Taste: Toward the sweet side with tastes of malt and nuts, with hints of toffee and chocolate.

Overall Impression: I Could Drink This

Comments: "This tastes like a great holiday beer to me, what I would expect from a holiday beer with the chocolate and the toffee and the nuts; There is a deep roast flavor, like a Porter; It's an easy-drinking beer; Tastes like more than 5.2%; I like it better than most of the Brown Ales I've had; There's a nutty aftertaste; A very pleasant tasting beer; This really works well for a winter beer."

HE'BREW BITTERSWEET LENNY'S RIPA




The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Shmalz Brewing; STYLE: Double Rye IPA; ABV: 10%; MALTS and HOPS: See Brewer Comment Below; AWARDS: Best in Show - Saratoga Beer Festival; Best International Ale - Calgary Int'l Beer Festival.

What The Brewer Says: "Brewed with an obscene amount of malts and hops."

Color: Copper

Pour: Decent head

Aroma: Toffee/Caramel

Body: Full

Taste: Initially a big malt flavor, then a nice hops/alcohol taste follows with notes of spice, nuts, toffee..

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough - but be careful.

Comments: "This is loaded with hops; It's a beauty!; Your first impression is that it's sweet, then the hops hit you; Full taste; It's definitely a complex beer; You can definitely taste the alcohol presence; It's a real winter warmer; There's a spicy rye taste - the rye kind of mellows out the alcohol; A 'sit back and sip on it' beer; you need to drink it like a nice glass of wine; They've made some great beer for a long time - since BC?; It's got me looking for my helmet!"

L'chaim,
The BOTB Guys