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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ambers"

AMBER WAVES OF FERMENTED GRAIN

What exactly is an Amber Ale besides a beer that is, well, amber in color? An Amber Ale is a form of Pale Ale. Think of a Pale Ale as a sort of broad category of beer. If it gets hopped up considerably, it becomes an IPA. If, on the other hand, it leans more toward the malty side of the beer spectrum you might have an Amber Ale, or possibly a Red Ale (a sort of blushing cousin of Amber). Amber Ales and Red Ales tend to be malt forward with varying degrees of hops settling into the background. But, like so many beer styles since the Craft Beer Revolution, strict adherence to a particular style profile is often tossed aside in favor of creating something that might set one's Amber apart from everyone else's. One of the things we (the BOTB Guys as opposed to the Royal We) discovered early on in our Craft Beer journey was the frustration with reviewing certain beer styles such as Octoberfests because they all were so similar it became pretty repetitious ("Yup, tastes just like the last three we tried.") 
 All this is to say: we dove into some interesting and diverse Amber Ales. Our humble opinions follow. I suggest you give them a try yourself and see how your opinion compares to ours. After all, when it comes to taste, the only thing that matters is how it tastes to you.


VALOR AMBER ALE
14TH STAR BREWERY



THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: 14th Star Brewing Company, St. Albans, VT; STYLE: Amber Ale; ABV:  5.4%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "14th Star Brewing Co. is a veteran-owned craft brewery in St. Albans, VT with a mission to brew high quality craft beer while enriching our community."

COLOR: Unfiltered amber

POUR: Slight head with some lacing

AROMA: Mild, bit of bread

BODY: Light

TASTE: Balanced, malty, bread

OVERALL IMPRESSION: I Could Drink This

COMMENTS: "Not much of a nose - sort of malty; Neutral, easy drinking beer; Not objectionable; Nice refreshing feel; Solid bitterness at the end; Refreshing beer; A solid beer; A bit fruity up front; Tastes like what I think an amber should taste like; Not real hoppy."


ASHLAND AMBER ALE
CALDERA BREWING


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Caldera Brewing Company; STYLE: Amber Ale; ABV: 5.6%; IBUs: 24; MALTS: Premium two Row, Crystal; HOPS: Centennial, Cascade; AWARDS: Gold Medal Amber Ales - 2016 World Beer Cup.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Caldera's Ashland Amber is a crisp refreshing amber, balancing premium imported malted barley and Cascade whole flower hops. Simplicity is the key to this recipe."

COLOR: Deep copper

POUR: Decent head

AROMA: Yeasty, bready

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Balanced - malty, nutty bready with some hoppiness

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Just shy of Can't Get Enough

COMMENTS: "That's got a lot of flavor; Could drink this along the Oregon Trail; This is a good beer; The picture of the hops on the can is a bit misleading, to me it tastes like thin flavored water; Oh man, I like this beer; Full-flavored; I really like the brewery so I expected more; Sort of the star of the day for me;"


FULL SAIL AMBER
FULL SAIL BREWERY
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THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Full Sail Brewery, Hood River, Oregon; ABV: 6%; IBUs: 31; MALTS: 2-Row Pale, Crystal, Chocolate malt; HOPS: Mt. Hood, Cascade.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Anyone remember the grocery store cooler back before it turned into a kaleidoscopic fantasy world of beer options? You pretty much had two choices: Regular or Light. In 1989, when we brewed our first batch of Full Sail Amber ... two things became immediately apparent. It wasn't Regular and it sure as heck wasn't Light. Our amber is a sweet, malty, medium-bodied ale with a spicy, floral hop finish.


COLOR: Copper

POUR: Decent Pour

AROMA: Caramel

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Malty with strong flavors of bread, nut, toffee and caramel

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "British!; It's got that kind of Pilsner taste; Really nice; I like this; You could sit down and have several; Very smooth; It's definitely got that British vibe; Evening-on-the-deck beer; Good boat beer; Fruity nose, lacks hops; Kind of typical amber."


FAT TIRE AMBER ALE
NEW BELGIUM BREWING


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO; ABV: 5.2%; IBUs: 22; MALTS: Pale, C-80, Munich, Victory; HOPS: Willamette, Goldings, Nugget.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Fat Tire's unique flavor profile originates from the late 1930's, when local Belgian breweries aimed to satisfy the tastes of visiting British soldiers. English floral hops, subtle malt sweetness and spicy, fruity notes from Belgian yeast made for a balanced yet magical combination."

POUR: Decent head

AROMA: Malt, hint of clove

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Balanced with malt and clove, bit of banana

OVERALL IMPRESSION: I Could Drink This

COMMENTS: "It's not bad, Kind of British thing on this one too; Some caramel; Definitely can taste the Belgian yeast, very distinctive flavor - I like it much better when paired with a big hop presence; I'm a fan of most New Belgium beers, but this one isn't my favorite even though it's their most popular; It's okay, but not my first choice."


EAST COAST AMBER ALE
EMPIRE BREWING COMPANY



THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Empire Brewing Co., Syracuse, NY; ABV: 5.6%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "East Coast Amber is clean and refined, with just the right balance of English Malt and American Hops. It's not too sweet and not too bitter, just like our beloved East Coast brewers."


COLOR: Amber

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Malt, bread, yeast

BODY: Between light and Medium

TASTE: Somewhat sweet, malty with clove

OVERALL IMPRESSION:  I Could Drink This

COMMENTS: "Kind of light; Not a lot of flavor; Some malt, hint of cloves, not much of a hops presence."


SWITCHBACK ALE
SWITCHBACK BREWING


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Switchback Brewing Co., Burlington, VT; STYLE: Amber Ale; ABV: 5.0%; IBUs: 28

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Switchback Ale was developed as a flavor concept, not adhering to any style guidelines. Using only traditional ingredients, Switchback Ale is an unfiltered, reddish-amber ale which is particularly well-balanced, allowing for complexity of flavor coupled with an unusually smooth and refreshing character."

COLOR: Unfiltered honey wheat

POUR: Better than Decent head

AROMA: Bready

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Balanced with malt, bread, nut and clove, some toffee sweetness

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Can't Get Enough

COMMENTS: "British yeast; Nice backend bitterness; If i go out to dinner in Burlington, I always start out with one of these; Really good beer; Kickback to the old Genesee bottles; Not terribly hoppy, but really tasty beer; I like a lot; Could drink several; I also like the retro, squatty bottle."


BLAZING WORLD ALE
MODERN TIMES BEER


THE BEER FACTS: BREWER: Modern Times Beer, San Diego, CA; STYLE: Hoppy, Dank Amber; ABV: 6.8%; IBUs: 85; MALTS: Two-Row, Munich, Midnight Wheat; HOPS: Nelson, Simcoe, Mosaic

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This beer is the stickiest of the icky. It's a luxuriously hoppy amber loaded up with intemperate quantities of Nelson, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops, which are some of the fruitiest, dankest hops sweet, sweet money can buy. Despite its amver hue, Blazing World is pleasingly dry, sproting a lightly bready malt backbone that serves as platform for the huge and complex hop profile."

COLOR: Amber

POUR: Decent head

AROMA: Big grapefruit aroma

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Grapefruit, pine, with solid malty base

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Can't Get Enough!

COMMENTS: "Best nose of the day; Awesome; That's like an IPA; Right next door to an IPA; I am impressed; Nice pine finish; Delicious; Fantastic; Nicely hopped without having the 'edge' of an IPA; Sooo drinkable; Nice and hoppy without sacrificing the basic Amber-ness."

THE RESULTS
While we are admittedly fans of hoppy beers, we found these Ambers to be pretty enjoyable, easy-to-drink beers. After sipping these amber waves of fermented grain, our collective opinion of how they fared is below:

1. Blazing World from Modern Times Beer - Admittedly, they had us at "It's a luxuriously hoppy amber loaded up with intemperate quantities of Nelson, Mosaic, and Simcoe hops." It was by far the hoppiest of the beers and therefore appealed to our bias toward those lovely flowers.

2. Ashland Amber from Caldera - By no means unanimous, one of us rated it toward the bottom, but it garnered enough 1's and 2's to land it in second place. It's a balance brew with a nice nutty, bready taste.

3. Full Sail Amber Ale - The first American brewer to bottle an Amber, Full Sail is one of the early craft beer driving forces. Full Sail Amber is solidly a British inspired Amber - very good.

4. Switchback Ale - A very tasty, wonderfully drinkable beer. The equivalent of a really nice table wine in that it goes well with a meal.

5. Valor from 14th Star Brewery - We felt this was pretty much exactly what one should expect from an Amber - malt forward with a hint of hops. Nice beer.

6. Fat Tire from New Belgium - An Amber with a strong Belgian vibe - hints of clove and banana. Wouldn't be any of our first choice, but drinkable. We all have other New Belgium's we much prefer.

7. Empire Amber - We felt this suffered from being a bit light, without anything to really make it stand out. 

Next Month: New England Style IPAs (AKA: Northeast Style)

Sláinte,

The BOTB Guys