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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Some Scary Good Beers


I'm not sure who came up with the concept of the mixed-12 pack where three or four different styles of beer are combined in a half-case, though I rather doubt it was any of the mega-brewers. After all what would Budweiser have put in a mixed-12 twenty or so years ago? Budweiser with three or four different label designs?  I suppose A-B could have had a mix of Budweiser - a rather bland German-style lager, Bud Light - an even blander German-style lager, Michelob - basically more expensive and Michelob Light -more expensive Bud Light.  You get the idea. Everything would have been a variation on German-style lager as interpreted by Budweiser. What would be the point? One of the earlier mixed-12s I recall was a Sam Adams mix. I don't exactly recall all the beers - probably Sam Adams Boston Lager, as that's their flagship beer. There was probably their Irish Red, maybe their Cream Stout or Boston Ale. The only other beer I remember for sure from that mix was their Cherry Wheat. I know that I enjoyed all of the beers in that pack except Cherry Wheat. I thought it was awful. After trying one, I had two or three bottles of it hanging around in my fridge for months. And therein lies the rub: it seems that any mixed-12 has one loser. Once you've tried one of them, what do you do with the rest?

I picked up a mixed-12 from 21st Amendment recently. 21st Amendment brews some fantastic beers. Their Brew Free or Die IPA is terrific as is their Back in Black. Their Fireside Chat may be the best spiced winter ale I've ever had. A perfect blend of hops, chocolate malt and spices that still tastes like beer. So when I saw a mixed-12 with those three beers plus a fourth I'd never had, I took a chance since I'd never had a bad 21st Amendment beer. Well...I suppose, three out of four ain't bad. The fourth beer is El Sully, a Mexican-style lager. It looks like a Coors Light, with a color barely darker than water. And the taste. Sadly, it tastes like one of those Mexican lagers, which is to say, like any number of American style mega-brew lagers. It's a bit of a head-scratcher for me. I expect a beer from 21st Amendment to have some zing. This doesn't. I now have two of them that will reside in my basement fridge until I can unload them on some unsuspecting Coors fan. As for the other nine beers - they will not last long. I'll give 21st Amendment a pass on this one, assuming it's an attempt to appeal to a wider base (though, seriously, would Stone Brewery ever brew a bland lager? I think not! Just saying).

A few exceptions to the rule:


Alright, so we missed Halloween, but our latest meeting was close enough, so we decided to go with beers with some appropriately spooky names. We ended up with a bunch of frighteningly tasty brews.


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Shipyard Brewing Co., Portland, ME, STYLE: Rye India Pale Ale; ABV: 5.9%; IBUs: 60; MALT: Pale, Crystal 77,Rye, Carafoam; HOPS: Bravo, Apollo, Centennial, Cascade; YEAST: Top-Fermenting English

What the Brewer Says: "Don't fear the hops...Little Horror of Hops is a hoppy Rye IPA balanced by a complex malt blend. Peppery spice notes and a robust citrus hop flavor complement the dry hop finish."

Color: Copper

Pour: Decent head with lingering effervescence, and pleasantly carbonated

Aroma: Malty with a grassy / hay / straw pungency.

Body: Medium

Taste: Balanced but leaning toward the hoppy, bitter end of the spectrum. English yeast gives it that British style IPA vibe with a bit of an American IPA bite.

Overall Impression: I Could Drink This!

Comments: "Not as hoppy as the name might suggest; Lingering bitter after-taste following a mild opening; Definitely taste the British yeast with that sort of clove-ish undertaste; Hoppier than most Brit IPAs though; The Cascade and Centennial hops come through to give it a kind of hybrid English/ American IPA taste; A nice fall beer with the sort of cozy bready taste, works well on a crisp fall evening."


The Beer Facts:BREWER: Devil's Backbone Brewing Co., Roseland, VA; STYLE: India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.2%; IBUs: 60; MALTS: Pilsen, Caramel Malts, Torrified Wheat; HOPS: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Simcoe

What the Brewer Says: "This is the first batch of beer we brewed after the conception of Devil's Backbone Brewing Company in 2008. Our brewmaster Jason Oliver was thinking about how to design the IPA when he heard a rustle near his fence line...where he saw two young proud eight point bucks walking along it. He decided to name the beer after those young bucks as it seemed to fit the spirit of the beer, which is proud, brash, youthful, yet approachable."

Color:Golden honey

Pour: Decent head

Aroma: Delicate aroma of citrus and pine with a bit of grain/hay


Taste: Hoppy grapefruit, pine with a nice bitter bite. Clean at the finish

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Tastes bigger than 6.2%, Fine malt underpinning; Sturdy; It's this type of IPA I really like; Great summer IPA; Very pleased with this choice; Made us break into song; Tastes just like another one; This really is what I look for when I drink an IPA."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Elysian Brewing Co,  Seattle, WA; STYLE: Pale Ale; ABV: 7.0%; IBUs: 53; MALTS: Pale, Munich, Crystal, Cara-hell; HOPS: Bittered with Sorachi Ace and finished with Crystal.

What the Brewer Says:: "Light tropical flavors balanced with a crisp malt-hop finish."

Color: Unfiltered buckwheat honey

Pour: Decent head

Aroma: Sweet

Body: A bit beyond Medium

Taste: Balanced but leaning toward more sweet than bitter, with hints of toffee

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough

Comments: "Sweet beginning - like a yellow Easter Peep; Complex flavor - not over-hopped; Pineapple notes; Tropical fruits; A Pale that could pass for an IPA; 7% is pretty big for a Pale; You can really taste the malt; Fills the mouth; I like the label, catches your eye; I've grown to expect this from Elysian, though it makes me sad that they sold out to A-B; I guess the name tells you what the brewers think of that."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Ninkasi Brewing, Eugene, Ore.; STYLE: IRA (India Red Ale); ABV: 7.0%; IBUs: 75; MALTS: 2-Row Pale, Cara-Red; Crystal, Flaked Barley; HOPS: Galena, Millennium, Ahtanum, El Dorado, Mosaic.

What the Brewer Says: "The idea for this beer was to make a super drinkable hoppy beer with a touch of caramel malt to bring some dryness and malt flavor into the finish."

Color: Cloudy golden

Pour: Decent head

Aroma: Grassy hop and spicey

Body: Between Medium and Full

Taste: Delicious grapefruit, citrus hoppiness with caramel malt underneath

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "I'm a fan!; I like the piney bite it has; Delicious; Holy crap, this is good; Great Red;Fast becoming one of my favorite breweries - also love their Tricerahops; Just a really tasty beer; That caramel taste with the hops creates a nice, complex flavor."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Elysian Brewing, Seattle, WA; STYLE: India Pale Ale; ABV: 8.2%; IBUs: 73; MALTS: Great Western premium two-row, c-15, Dextra-pils; HOPS: Chinook, Citra, Amarillo.

What the Brewer Says: "The hopping is pure starglow energy, with Chinook to bitter and late and dry additions of Citra and Amarillo."

Color: Clover honey

Pour: Decent head

Aroma: Pine

Body: Close to Full

Taste: Toward bitter with piney and citrusy hops combined with a nice butterscotch sweetness for balance.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Doesn't taste like an 8.2% - very smooth; Could make you fall off your stool; Just delicious; Balanced; The butterscotch taste is cut nicely with the bitterness of the hops; Great beer - can't believe we haven't rated it until now; I just hope A-B keeps a hands-off approach here and allows Elysian to continue to brew good beer. I'd hate to see them come in and ruin a good thing - we'll see."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse, Louisville, KY; STYLE: American IPA; ABV: 8.0%; IBUs: 68; MALT: Pale, Vienna, Munich, wheat; HOPS: Citra, Centennial, Columbus.

What the Brewer Says: "Citra hops are a relatively new variety introduced in 2008. It was bred as a hybrid of a number of different hops, including Hallertauer Mittelfruh, U.S. Tettnanger, East Kent Golding, Bavarian, Brewers Gold, and other unknown hops. The resulting hop, Citra, has a distinct citrusy and tropical fruit flavor and aroma. In Citra Ass Down we used American Columbus for bittering and 11# of Citra at the end of the boil for late kettle addition flavor and aroma. Then we added 6 more pounds of Citra and 5# Centennial post fermentation for aroma. Rebrewed for your tasting pleasure!"

Color: Unfiltered wheat

Pour: Decent head

Aroma: Hoppy citrus, a bit earthy

Body: Near Full

Taste: Bitter with strong hints of tropical fruit - orange, tangerine, pineapple.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Already has a '10' for the name; Yeah, that goes in my Beer Name Hall of Fame for sure; Tastes like some of the New Zealand hops; I bought it on the name alone, glad I did; Real tropical fruit vibe; Great job by C's market in Oswego, NY for directing me to this beer; Wow, another fantastic beer, not a loser yet today, well, besides Loser Pale Ale, which by no means was a loser."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Foley Brothers Brewing, Brandon, VT; STYLE: American Double / Imperial IPA; ABV: 9.0%; HOPS: Galaxy, Citra;  Limited release

What the Brewer Says: "Double IPA brewed with grain from Vemont and Maine."

Color: Unfiltered Wheat

Pour: Decent Head

Aroma: Pine

Body: Full

Taste: Strong bitter, pine, citrus-forward with subtle biscuit malt

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments:"Best nose of any beer today; Smells delicious; Should be drunk from a snifter; Takes the day - and we have had some really good beers; This could kill you; One of the best beers I've had; More of a grapefruit guy - but this piney beers is great; I don't want this one to end."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Clown Shoes Brewery, Ipswich, MA; STYLE: American Imperial Stout; ABV: 11%

What the Brewer Says: "In a world of uncertainty, hardship, and people trying to hold us back, do we need the undead and trademark attorneys too? Clown Shoes says, 'No. Die, monsters, die!' Forces of darkness brought about a change in the name of this beer, which was released to celebrate our second anniversary, but it still sports signature dark malts, holy water, and malt smoked locally with hickory and ash."

Color: Black

Pour: Decent Head

Aroma: Malty, biscuit

Body: Full

Taste: Toward the sweet end with smokey notes of caramel and chocolate

Overall Impression: I Could Drink This!

Comments: "Reminds me of Debbie who used to tend bar with me at Fort Drum - sweet and dusky; Big, bold beer; Full bodied; Dark caramel; It's a sledge-hammer; Punch you right in the mouth strong; Snifter in front of the fireplace beer; Sort of oaky chocolate taste."


There's nothing like a BOTB meeting where there's not a loser in the bunch (other than Loser, as mentioned before). Really tough to say which was our favorite. Of the lower ABV bunch, Devil's Backbone's 8-Point IPA we all loved unconditionally. The bigger beers created a tougher call. Maybe Foley Brothers Prospect IPA. with Dawn of the Red and Citra Ass Down right there. Yike! Tough call. This was a great bunch of beers. Period!


Gerry, one of the  BOTB founding members (well, technically we're all founding members, but it sounds good) has put together an interesting and fun beer book written for his own and our edification, but I thought I'd include a link to it for our loyal BOTB readers. Check it out below and enjoy. It's full of neat beer trivia, information and opinions with tongue often planted firmly in cheek. 


Got a beer you've been wondering about? Thinking: I wonder if the BOTB Guys have tried this one? Well, wonder no more. You have two ways to find out. You can type the name in the search box at the top of the page here. That will take you to any post that mentions that beer. For a quick reference you can also go to the link below for a quick look at beers the beers we've tested and what we thought (using a four star rating system). Check it out:

The BOTB Guys

Friday, November 13, 2015

Greek to Me

Greek Beer? 

If you were to make a list of countries you think of when you think about beer, in all likelihood Greece would not be on that list. Wine? Why not? Ouzo? Oh yeah. But beer? Not so much so. In fact even the most ardent of beer geeks would no doubt struggle to name a Greek beer, not to mention a Greek craft beer. So on a recent excursion to a couple of Greek Islands (Mykonos and Santorini) I was curious about Greek beers and if there was anything resembling the craft beer revolution we have experienced here in the states.

Fearing it might be a while before a truly tasty beer crossed my lips, I started our journey with a Wailing Wench from Middle Ages at the Syracuse airport. It's a delicious way to begin any journey
A Wench before flying.
At the Middle Ages
Pub - Syracuse airport.
and the main reason I don't complain when my wife insists on getting to the airport early.
We flew Turkish Air out of Kennedy. I am so used to flying various American airlines where you pay an outrageous amount for lousy beer, that I forget that most foreign lines serve beer, wine and liquor for free. Anyhow, the beer on this flight was Tuborg, a Danish beer with a worldwide presence. It's a fairly typical German-style lager. I soon discovered that it was one of the more popular beers in Greece. Virtually every restaurant and taverna sold Tuborg as well as Heineken. Those two beers, along with Mythos and Alfa, two Greek mega-brews, are as omnipresent as Bud and Coors here, . Mythos Brewery is a subsidiary of  the Carlsberg Group which also owns Tuborg. Whereas Alfa is brewed by Athenian Brewery which contract brews Heineken and Amstel among others. All part of the tangled web woven by the various mega-brews out there (though, amazingly, neither InBev nor MillerCoors seem to have a piece of the action here, which would explain the welcome dearth of Bud Light).

I tried Mythos and found it drinkable. Essentially a German style Lager with a bit of a hop punch to it. Alfa, on the other hand, I found pretty much tasteless. Reminded me of an American mega-brew light beer. It was on tap at this one bar and I was trying to decide what Greek beer to try. The guy behind the bar said, "Alfa is a very good beer. I'd go with that." I did and realized the guy didn't really know what good beer was!

On the island of Mykonos I was resigned to drinking Mythos or wine, when I happened upon a taverna, along the shore on the outskirts of Mykonos Town, with a sign out front listing specials: Greek wine and CRAFT BEER! I had to stop in. The place was called Captains and about ninety percent of its seating was outside overlooking the shore. I went in and asked about their craft beers. The woman behind the bar thought I said "draft beer" and said, "Mythos."  As I was trying to explain what I meant, a guy named Apollo, apparently a manager there, intervened. He knew exactly what I wanted and enthusiastically ushered me over to a cooler filled with beer. Of course it contained Mythos, Alfa, Amstel, Heinekin - but he quickly dismissed all of these and pointed out some beers brewed by smaller craft breweries. I picked up a bottle of Marea Double Malt Ale from Elixi Brewery out of Attiki, Mary Rose Red Ale from Septem Microbreweries in Paleo Faliro, Athens, and Volkan from Santorini.

All three beers I liked. I felt they all had a sort of unique taste. I'm not sure if it is the water or what. Volkan may have been the most unique. Brewed with grape honey and citron leaves and water filtered in volcanic stones, it was really very refreshing. While not particularly hoppy, it - as well as the other two - was flavorful.    

Once we made it to the Island of Santorini, we had an opportunity to visit a craft brewery. Within easy walking distance from our hotel was the Santorini Brewing Company. They brew and bottle three (and sometimes four) beers. Their three main beers are Yellow Donkey, Red Donkey and Crazy Donkey IPA. They also brew a White Donkey, which is a wheat beer. They were out of it on the day we visited, which was alright by me. I enjoyed the other three beers. Yellow Donkey is a blonde ale with an ABV range of 5.0% to 5.2%. IBUs come in at 19, but with an exotic international mixture of hops - Aurora and Styrian Golding from Slovania, Cascade from Oregon, and Motueka from New Zealand - the beer comes across as a very refreshing, citrus-forward ale. 

Red Donkey (ABV 5.5 - 5.7%, IBUs 26) is a Belgian Pale Ale again utilizing Styrian Golding hops from Slovania, but this time paired with Citra from Oregon and Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand. The use of a Belgian-style yeast strain complements these hops nicely. The result is a fruity pale ale that is not an over-the-top Belgian style.

Crazy Donkey IPA (ABV 5.8 - 6%, IBUs 50) not surprisingly was my favorite of the three. It was the first and, as of 2012, the only IPA produced in Greece. Cascade and Nelson Sauvin hops make this a very solid IPA. Very drinkable with nice hints of citrus and pine. Great beer to have while enjoying views like the one below.


This month we decided on a kind of "theme-less" transition into fall. There's just so many Octoberfest beers you can try and even fewer Pumpkin Ales we really want to try, so we just all brought some good beers we hadn't reviewed before. 

(Formerly Dirty Blonde Ale)

The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Adirondack Brewing, Lake George, NY; STYLE: American Pale Ale: ABV and IBUs: Unavailable; HOPS:  Cascade, Centennial.

What the Brewer Says: "Dirty Blonde Ale is a frisky, unfiltered, American hopped session ale, with a big-bubbled head and loads of character. Brewing with American ale yeast keeps her casual, flirty and never boring. Enormous Cascade and Centennial dry hops lend a strong grapefurit aroma and a pleasant citrus flavor - this is a great mouth-pleasing year-round beer."

Color: Cloudy, unfiltered straw or wheat

Pour: Decent, bubbly head

Aroma: Bready/yeasty

Body: Toward the light/thin end 

Taste: Balanced with hints of citrus and lemon

Overall Impression: I Could Drink This.

Comments: "Nice mouthfeel; Not heavy; Sessionable; Pleasant; Enough hoppiness to keep it interesting; Bitter on the end; I would actually buy this although I usually avoid Blondes, other than my wife; Nothing objectionable."


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Small Town Brewery, Wauconda, IL; STYLE: Ale brewed with spices; ABV: 5.9%.

What the Brewer Says:"Silky, smooth and satisfying finish is unmatched in flavor. It appeals to craft beer aficionados as well as those who don't typically drink beer but crave something unique."

Color: Mahogony

Pour: Creamy, impressive head. Full and bubbly but doesn't last. Disperses quickly.

Aroma: It smells like root beer. Vanilla.

Body: Between Medium and Full.

Taste: Sweet, vanilla, sarsaparilla, sugar.

Overall Impression: Doesn't fit the usual mode so we're going off chart on this one. We all said we wouldn't buy it as a beer. Dan tried it with ice cream for a root beer float and said it was great. As far as root beer is concerned, most of us agreed it was one of the better tasting root beers we've had. In fact we did a side-by-side comparison with a (non-alcoholic) boutique root beer and the general consensus was that Not Your Father's was superior.

Comments: "The alcohol is not really noticeable, maybe a bit at the end, but when you try it side-by-side with the soft drink, you can taste it; They make a 10% ABV version of this, I wonder how different that would taste; Better root beer than root beer; Just too sweet for me to take seriously; I'll bet this could get kids in a lot of trouble; It would be easy to overdo it with this if you really liked root beer."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Troegs Brewing, Hershey PA; STYLE: Harvest Ale; ABV: 6.2%; IBU: 87; MALTS: Crystal, Pilsner, Vienna; HOPS: Cascade, Chinook, El Dorado - DRY HOPS: Centennial, Citra, Columbus; YEAST: Ale

What the Brewer Says: "Hop Knife Harvest Ale recognizes the time-honored tradition of hand-harvesting at the peak of maturity. At the end of fermentation, the beer flows through our HopCyclone releasing a bounty of preserved citrus rind, crushed jungle and tropical aromas."

Color: Straw / honey

Pour: Somewhat less than Decent Head which didn't last.

Aroma: Pine

Body: Between Medium and Full

Taste: Hoppy with strong notes of grapefruit, pine and earthy flavors.

Overall Impression:. Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough"

Comments: "The surprise of the day for me so far; Strongly hopped; Hardly any malt to it; A big vehicle for the hops; Tastes as good as it smells; This and Perpetual are my favorite Troegs"


The Beer Facts: STYLE: American IPA; ABVs: 7.0%; IBUs: 70; HOPS: Hopped at 5 separate stages; AWARDS: Multiple awards including a gold in the 2010 World Beer Cup.

What the Brewer Says: "Our Sculpin IPA is a great example of what got us into brewing in the first place. After years of experimenting, we knew hopping an ale at five separate stages would produce something special. The result ended up being this gold-medal winning IPA, whose inspired use of hops creates hints of apricot, peach, mango and lemon flavors, but still packs a bit of a sting, just like a Sculpin fish."

Color: Lightly filtered wheat

Pour: Decent off-white head

Aroma: Hoppy - grassy/fresh hay and pine

Body: Slightly more than Medium

Taste: Nice - tastefully bitter, not sharp, with citrus notes.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Tastes like a double; Full flavor; Fills all the senses / hits all the spots; This is s-o-o-o-o-o good; I'm thinking this is the best IPA on the planet; As a battle - maybe I'd like to put it up against Flower Power from Ithaca Brewing and see how it fared."



The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Abita Brewing, Abita Springs, LA; STYLE: India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.9%; IBU: 80; MALTS: Pale Ale; HOPS: Apollo, Equinox, Mosaic.

What the Brewer Says:"Abita Wrought Iron IPA embodies the resilient, indestructible nature of New Orleans. This India Pale Ale is forged with the intensity of Apollo, Equinox and Mosaic Hops. Brewed with pale ale malt for a golden color as bright as iron from a fiery forge."

Color: Cloudy golden

Pour: Better than decent head which dissipates quickly.

Aroma: Hoppy floral

Body:  Beyond Medium

Taste: Hoppy bitter bite with hint of cloves, toffee with a spicy citrus finish. Bready malt taste with some grapefruit.

Overall Impression:  Close to "Can't Get Enough" but not unanimous

Comments: "Well malted; Big malt backbone; Probably the biggest Abita I've ever had; Bitter on the end; Best Abita I've ever had; A little rough, not very smooth - some edges; Nice full-flavored beer, big taste, I like it."


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Ninkasi Brewing Company, Eugene, OR; STYLE: Double IPA; ABV: 8.0%; IBUs: 100; MALTS: 2-Row Pale, Munich, Carahell; HOPS: Chinook, Cascade, Summit, Centennial, Palisade.

What the Brewer Says: "Tricerahops is double everything you already love in an IPA. More hops, more malt body and a highter gravity define this Double India Pale Ale. Fiercely flavorful, guaranteed to satisfy."

Color: Cloudy buckwheat honey

Pour: Decent Head

Aroma: Sweet / malt, maybe a bit of hay

Body: Full

Taste: Strong hop bitterness, pine, grapefruit, earthy, floral, a bit of toffee malt for balance

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "If I were to drink this, I'd have to wear a chastity belt (?); Great flavor; I'm in heaven with this beer; Big, big taste; Hop bomb; Sneaky 8%; I may have a new favorite beer; Wow!; You'll want a driver after a few of these." 


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Saranac Brewing Company, FX Matt Brewing, Utica, NY, STYLE: Imperial IPA; HOPS: Galaxy, Pacific Jade, Vic Secret

What the Brewer Says: "Brewed with tropical and fruity hops of Australia and New Zealand...this Imperial IPA showcases big passion fruit, lychee and mango hop character with subtle notes of black pepper, herb and spice."

Color: Wheat

Pour: Beyond Decent Head

Aroma: Hay, grassy

Body: Full

Taste: Fruit and spice and everything nice. Hints of butterscotch.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Tastes like an 8.5% - the alcohol comes through - in a good way; Doesn't taste like most Saranacs; Orgasmic!; Really good beer - lots going on in there - a full range of flavors that just fill the mouth; Bravo, Saranac!"


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Captain Lawrence Brewing Co., New York, NY; STYLE: American Double / Imperial IPA; ABV: 9.00%

What the Brewer Says: "Hops and lots of them. The aroma is bursting witht he classic citrus and pine aroma of American-grown hops. the flavor is dominated by a hoppy bitterness, with just enough malt to make you want to take another sip. (Formerly known as Captain's Reserve Imperial IPA.)"

Color: Unfiltered pale yellow, almost green.

Pour: Just shy of Decent Head

Aroma: Hay, grassy, clean

Body: Full

Taste: Toffee, caramel, alcohol, with grapefruit and citrus notes, bitter hop

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "You could put this in a shot glass; I would want to drink this in the comfort of my home surrounded by concubines; This beer will sneak up on you; Well balanced, especially with the alcohol content; Not as sophisticated, but a little slap in the face; Nice grapefruit/citrus flavor against a solid malt backing; Nice beer."


As you can see, the three big beers - Palate Shifter, Pacific Galaxy and Tricerahops - plus Sculpin were all hits with us. All four were right in our hop-bomb wheel house, delivering big hop taste in a complex full-bodied beer. 

Wrought Iron  we were split on. While most of us agreed it was the best Abita we've had, not all would seek it out. 

Troegs Hop Knife we all found to be a tasty, easy-drinking beer, while Adirondack's Dirty had just enough of a hop kick to place it in our "I could drink this" level of beer.

Not Your Father's Root Beer was an interesting change of pace. Most felt it was the best root beer they'd ever had and your enjoyment would be entirely based on whether or not you liked root beer.

Next month: Scary Beers.

The BOTB Guys

Friday, September 11, 2015

Backyard Brews - A look at Some New York State Beers


Once upon a time, Central New York was the country's leading hop producer. In the mid 19th century, the place for hops was Central New York. Not the Pacific Northwest, but all the way 'cross country on the opposite coast. Unfortunately, three blights - two natural and one human borne - combined to doom a once booming industry. In 1909 sphaerotheca humuli - a mildew struck hop farms followed in 1914 by an attack of aphids. The coup de grace came with Prohibition, one of the greatest examples in our history of cowardly politicians bowing to the whims of a vocal minority.
Prior to prohibition New York State was rife with small, regional breweries. Take a look at some of these pre-prohibition New York breweries:

Though that by no means is a complete list, it begins to show the number of lost breweries since only two of those are still in existence: Genesee and Utica Club (West End Brewing Company - known now for their Saranac line of beers). Some were done in by Prohibition while others were quashed by the mega-brews - either bought out or put out of business.

So it is great to see, like the Phoenix of myth, both hop farms and regional breweries rise from the ashes of their respective ancestors to breath new life into New York's venerable brewing history. This month we delve into some of the latest brews - from small, regional breweries to larger ones with a national presence - to appear in Upstate New York .


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Craft Brewers, Honeoye Falls, NY; STYLE: Session India Pale Ale; ABV: 4.5%; IBUs: 48; MALTS: Superior Pilsner, GoldPils Vienna, Aromatic Malt; HOPS: Bravo, Centennial, Simcoe, Amarillo, Mosaic, Sorachi Ace

What the Brewer Says: "Light on alcohol but not on flavor, this session ale presents a beautiful golden color. Predominant lemon and pineapple meet and carry into a distinct pine finish. The specialty malts add a biscuity complexity to this ale perfectly suited to paradise. This is your go-to IPA to enjoy over an entire evening or afternoon."

Color: Pale yellow gold

Pour: Somewhat better than a decent head

Aroma: Big flowery hop nose

Body: Medium

Taste: Strong hoppy bitterness with strong notes of citrus, lemon, grapefruit and pine. bit of malt balances the beer.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "A lot of flavor for a session beer; Full flavor; Color leads you to think there's not much malt, but there's a nice breadiness there that compliments the hops; Lots of hop flavor for a Session; There's no "monkeying around" with this session beer; Actually, I like it better than Founder's All Day, and I like Founder's All Day a lot."


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Davidson Brothers Brewing Company, Glens Falls, NY; STYLE: Scotch ale: ABV: 6.2%

What the Brewer Says: "Dacker is a heavily-modified scotch ale that morphed into a completely different style after four generations of being brewed in the Adirondacks. At present, it is similar to a Scotch ale, with a stronger hop presence and correspondingly less maltiness. A very flavorful beer with definite subtle points. It'll teach you something new every time you take a drink."

Color: Orange/Copper

Pour: Decent head with light yellow lasting lacing

Aroma: Bready/metallic

Body: Medium

Taste: Sweet malty flavor with hints of toffee, slight hop. Bready, biscuit, toasted malt.

Overall Impression: I Could Drink This

Comments: "Nice malt presence - not overly heavy, though; A little clove and British yeast taste; Could be a lawn mower beer; Very pleasant; I could drink this; Nice clean finish; It's got that toffee taste you kind of expect from a Scotch ale; Bit of a hop bitterness there, but not much."


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Middle Ages Brewing, Syracuse, NY; STYLE: India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.3%; HOPS: Centennial

What the Brewer Says: "We make dozens of different beers throughout the year. While many are available all year round, many others are brewed seasonally or even just once a year." Single Batch #2 is one of those.

Color: Dark honey

Pour: Decent head with nice off-white lacing

Aroma: Floral / soap aroma

Body: A bit more than Medium

Taste: Balance and complex with a nice mix of malty and citrusy notes

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Very drinkable; Good mouthfeel; I've never had a Middle Ages that I didn't like; Good hop presence, but nice malt presence as well; Nice hop-bitter after-taste that stays with you; Subtle at the beginning; More of a West Coast style than most of Middle Ages other brews; Aroma and taste reminds me somewhat of Flower Power."


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Saranac Brewing, Utica, NY; STYLE: American Brown Ale; ABV: 7%; IBUs: 25; MALTS: North American 2-Row, Munich, Crystal, Chocolate; HOPS: Northern Brewer, Fuggles, East Kent Goldings

What the Brewer Says: Disruption is a nitro infused Brown Ale, brewed with a distinctive mix of caramel and chocolate malts. Northern Brewer and Eastern Kent Goldings hops balance the deep maltiness, imparting their own rich earthy-fruitiness."

Color: Dark brown almost black. Very dark for a Brown Ale

Pour: Decent tan creamy head

Aroma: Malty, bready

Body: Full

Taste: Mostly sweet redolant of chocolate, coffee, caramel notes

Overall Impression: I Could Drink This!

Comments: "It's tastes more like a good porter or stout than a Brown Ale; I think it's a Brown Ale only because they decided to call it one; I really like how smooth it is; Give me a Stout or a Porter with that rich coffee/chocolate taste and you can call it whatever you like; Real creamy with a bit of earthy bitterness to counteract the sweet; Nice beer; I just love a beer that has a big taste like this."


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Genesee Brewing Company, Rochester, NY; STYLE: Imperial Black IPA; ABV: 8.0%; MALTS: Caramel, Black; HOPS: East Kent Goldings

What the Brewer Says: "Heavy in caramel, roasted and black malts, this Imperial Black IPA is balanced with an intense bitterness from East Kent Goldings hops"

Color: Dark mahogany, nearly black

Pour: Guinness Class with big, rich dark head and lots of lingering lacing

Aroma: Sweet, molasses, caramel

Body: Full

Taste: Sweet toffee, caramel and coffee initially with a bitter hop bite at the end

Overall Impression: Between I Could Drink This and Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Bitter bite at the end there; Can taste the alcohol; Has a British vibe; Definitely new direction for Genny; Not your Grandfather's Genesee; I hope they continue in this direction; A really rich, full-bodied beer, one that you want to just sip on; It seems to lean more toward the malt than the hops, but then you get a bit toward the finish."


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Skewed Brewing, Watertown, NY; STYLE: Imperial IPA; ABV: 8.7%; IBUs: 123

What the Brewer Says: "A hop-centric Imperial IPA with bursts of lemon and a resinous-spice finish."

Color: Golden honey

Pour: Decent Head

Aroma: Malty/bready

Body: Medium

Taste: Balanced with hints of grapefruit and horehound

Overall Impression: Just shy of "Can't Get Enough!"

Comments: "doesn't taste as big as it is; Could sneak up on you; Nice beer, I like it; a little malt boost; Strong bitter after-taste; Drinkable, edging toward sippable; Definitely a winner."


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Genesee Brewing Company; STYLE: Imperial IPA; ABV: 9%; IBUs: 100

What the Brewer Says: NA

Color: Wheat

Pour: Guinness Class head

Aroma: Resin, yeast but not a big aroma

Body: Full

Taste: Big bitter finish with citrus notes, alcohol warming

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "This is from Genesee? Malt, then alcohol, then bitter hops; A "hot" beer; Big bitter finish, A sipper for sure; Not a big nose - but there's no question there's a lot of hops; It's a beer that reminds me of a good scotch - nice to sip before bed; Doesn't taste like the Genesee River and that's a good thing; Wow! I'm just so used to Genesee making lighter German lagers, it's great to see them jump into the big beer arena; Their bigger beers seem to lean more toward British beers as far as taste profile goes - though much bigger than most of the Brit brews."


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Brewery Ommegang ; STYLE: Dry Hopped Tripel; ABV: 9.2%

What the Brewer Says: NA

Color: Hazy golden orange

Pour: Near Guinness Class heat - white head that quickly settles

Aroma: Bottom-fermented yeast, pilsener

Body: Between Medium and Full

Taste: Initially sweet with hints of cloves, coriander and orange as well as banana.

Overall Impression: Falls short of "I Could Drink This"

Comments: "I wouldn't seek this out; One of those beers where you either like that style or you don't and I just don't; I don't mind this one, actually; There's a spiciness that follows the sweet malt that I kind of like; It's that banana taste that is common to many of the Belgian brews I just don't care for; Really liked the last few Ommegang's we've tried - Hop House, Nirvana - thought they were really good; There's no question that among Belgian-style fans Ommegang is greatly revered."


We had three beers we rated "Can't Get Enough!" Two - Middle Ages Single Batch #2, and Genesee Brew House Test Batch #3 - were big test batch beers available only at the brewery, while one - Bonobo Session IPA was a low ABV beer.

Top 3: Bonobo Session IPA - We really liked this session IPA - a bigger taste than we generally find in sessions.
            Middle Ages Single Batch #2 - Another tasty beer from Middle Ages - big beer with a West Coast vibe - a bit of a departure.
            Genesee Brew House Test Batch #3 Imperial IPA - The Genesee Brew House series is a real departure for Genesee, which has made its mark with German-style lagers. This is a big, bold IPA with a nice warming alcohol hit to it.

Next:   Skewed Brewing 3rd IPA - Just shy of "Can't Get Enough!" this is a delicious big IPA. It didn't taste like an 8.7%.

Then:   Genesee Brew House Imperial Black IPA - Another good one from the Brew House. The beer has a definite British vibe with a nice blend of malt and hop.

ICDT (I Could Drink This): Saranac Disruption Nitro - We felt this was much closer to a Stout or Porter than a Brown ale. A terrific Stout or Porter with big taste of dark chocolate.
                                              Davidson Brothers Dacker Adirondack Ale - A pleasant beer that didn't really knock our socks, but certainly drinkable.

Also: Ommegang Independence Day Ale - This came up shy of I Could Drink This primarily as a result of personal preference - none of us are particular fans of Belgian-style ales. If you are, you will no doubt enjoy this.

The BOTB Guys