Review: Sam Adams Ginger Beer

This was brought to me by a thoughtful friend as a housewarming gift. He arrived, winter beer sampler pack in hand, and stay for an evening of board games and card games. We consumed several of those beers that night and I admit that I take absolutely no notes, so none of those got reviewed. Oops. This was one of the remainders from that night of revelry and so I pulled it out of its box in the fridge and gave it a taste.

All right. So. Real talk. This is called ginger beer. When I think of ginger beer, I think of a spicy-and-slightly-sweet soda beverage, kind of like Goslings in the ever-popular Dark and Stormy. This? This is not what this Sam Adams drink is.

This beer pours a rich, absolutely beautiful golden color, very clear. It has a fine wisp of a white head that leaves a little lacing. It has a nose like a light pilsner, I think, but with a little hint of a ginger zip to it.

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Up front, there’s some gentle ginger and spice with a kind of soft heat to it. It’s sort of malty and balanced. No hops to speak of and it’s only just slightly sweet. I’d call it crisp overall. It has some more Christmassy spice taste as it warms up, but the mouthfeel thins a little as the carbonation peters out.

It’s not at all what I expected from something calling itself “ginger beer.” To me, ginger beer is a wholly different animal. There’s nothing wrong with this beer, but I wanted something else from it. I expected more flavor and got a beer that is, quite honestly, a little bit bland. I would most definitely not buy this beer again. I would, however, opt in for some extra bird cuddle from a little friend who I’m bird sitting.

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Review: Jailbreak Ryemin’ and Stealin’

What can I say? I’m a sucker for rye. I like me some rye beers and some rye whiskey (especially in a well-balanced Manhattan). There’s a spiciness that the grain adds to the beverages it goes into. It adds a kind of depth that is very appealing to my palate!

I didn’t use to like lighter beers. They scared me. I’d had an aggresively hoppy IPA early in my beer-drinking days, and it put me off them for years. Eventually, I got bold and decided to work them into my beer rotation – but I wasn’t ready to go all in yet. So I started with black IPAs and rye beers and IPAs. I couldn’t tell you what my first one was, but I know that I liked it and that it lured me back over and away from my safe zone of porters and stouts.

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This was another pint at my beloved Gilly’s. This beer pours a handsome ruby brown with a small, off-white head that quickly vanishes, but does leave a little lacing behind. Perhaps because it was poured pretty cold, I couldn’t really get any nose off of this beer. I was also chatting with a friend over drinks, so I didn’t spend too long huffing my beer like a total weirdo. This time.

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The taste of Jailbreak Ryemin’ and Stealin’ is all resin and pine and caramel malt up front. There’s that pleasant rye and spice flavor that lingers and warms the tongue. It has a slightly dry finish, but is relatively clean; it doesn’t linger overmuch. There is definitely some dry pine on the back end.

As far as rye beers go, I feel like this one is pretty balanced with a sweet enough malt backbone to hold up to the rye and pine flavors that it brings to the table.

 

 

Review: Duclaw Gingerbread Euforia

Another pint (okay, 10oz pour, technically) at my old watering hole, Gilly’s! I sometimes have appointments in the area of it and a good friend works nearby – when I’m in Rockville and she can get away for a long lunch, we meet for a beer and a chat. This was one such day and, I’ll admit, these are some of my favorite afternoons when I can make them happen.

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My friend is all about the IPAs, but I opted for something a little different. This beer was a golden-hued, rich brown with honey undertones. No real head on this pour, but there was a hint of lacing.

It had a good bit of dessert-like sweetness to it with some spices mixed in. I get cinnamon and ginger from it. It smells like baking cookies at Christmas time. There’s big  gingerbread flavor here! There’s a slightly bitter aftertaste, though, which is throwing me off. Maybe it’s the beer or maybe it’s some lines that need cleaning – but I know Gilly’s to be really diligent about keeping their system clean, so I suspect it’s the beer. Not sure I’d buy it again.

Review: Fordham Route 1 Session IPA

So what the hell is a session IPA? Generally, it’s an India Pale Ale that clocks in at no more than 3 or 4% (though some folks call beers with an ABV of up to 5% a session). The origin of this beer style and its name are murky at best, but I most like the story of it being part of a daytime drinking “session” that British workers could enjoy in the WWI-era factory jobs they held. This Fordham beer might be a little high on the ABV scale for a session, then, since it’s at 4.5%.

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Fordham Brewing Company is a Delaware brewery that partners with a local-to-me tavern, Rams Head (another review for another day). I wouldn’t call it local, but it’s not coming from too far away, so it gets some brownie points for that. I’m trying to look it up on Fordham’s website and not seeing it, so I’m concerned that this beer has been discontinued. Uncertain at this time.

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Poured from a bottle, this beer is a medium golden hue with a fluffy white head that has staying power. The nose is hoppy and maybe a touch floral. It’s sort of a mellow smell, kind of biscuity. It’s highly carbonated (which is easy to tell when it’s poured into a glass), but is smooth and relatively light-bodied in general.

It has a blanked flavor with some hops over a backdrop of lightly toasted malts. There’s orange peel at the front that mellows into a nice, piney finish.

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If I hadn’t been so tired that day from moving boxes and unpacking, this might have been my couch-assembling beer. Instead, it was my very crushable Gilmore-Girls-watching -while-sitting-on-the-floor beer.

Review: 21st Amendment Brewery Brew Free Or Die IPA

Oh, nothing. Just hanging out on a Christmas Eve and making caramel sauce. Like you do.

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While babysitting a pot full of molten sugar, I decided to grab a brew from my fridge. I had a single can (yes, a can! let’s talk about cans!) of this in the fridge and cracked that bad boy open. Some people turn their noses up at canned beer, but I have never had the problem of my canned tasting tinny or off. What’s great about cans is that they are air-tight and allow no light through – so no skunked beer! Plus, cans weigh less so they’re easier to transport, making for a smaller carbon footprint in the end.

This IPA pours a deep honey golden color – maybe a little cloudy – with a sturdy white head that slowly sinks. The nose is fresh, with an emphasis on floral hops all the way. There’s a hint of citrus, too, I could swear. It’s green, even. Piney maybe.

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The first taste is sweet, surprisingly sweet, with malt and caramel flavors with a background note of piney hops. This is a bold, west coast style IPA for sure. Those piney hops really do it. There’s a drier finish to it that is sharp without being unpleasant.

 

Review: Port City Brewing Essential Pale Ale

Port City Brewing, based out of Alexandria, VA (right next to Washington, DC for those not from the area), is the very model of a reliable, simple brewery. It doesn’t go crazy or try to show off. They offer five flagship beers year-round as well as a few seasonal and one-offs – and they are all genuinely solid beers. Would I call any of them exceptional? No. But if I want a pale ale or a porter that’s going to be a sure thing, I know that I can turn to Port City.

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Essential Pale Ale is an American Pale Ale and not an IPA (APAs have a relatively even hops-to-light-malt ratio while IPAs are happier by nature) and does reflect that style well. This is a mild beer that still packs a punch of flavor, but doesn’t overwhelm the palate. It’s a great pairing with almost any food.

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This beer pours a slightly hazy honey gold with a short white head that fades and leaves a little lacing behind. The smell is yeasty and maybe with a little citrus – it is balanced and inviting to me. At first taste, it is very mild. Almost more like a pilsner than what I think of as a pale ale. Not much bite, not much in the way of strong hop or malt flavors, and not really sweet, either. It’s pleasantly bready with just a hint of sweetness.

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Based on everything I’ve just written, this beer sounds… bland. But it’s not! While mild in nature, it is really very flavorful. It’s balanced, as a pale ale should be, and it never relies on a hoppy punch in the face as many IPAs do. I recommend it highly, especially if you’re scarfing down a easy burger or other American comfort food.

Review: Evolution Craft Brewing Company Lucky 7 Porter

Evolution Craft Brewing Company is based in Maryland, so I guess it’s local – but it would be about a two hours’ drive. I like a good road trip as much as anyone, but it would take a pretty special brew to get me to deal with I-95 traffic for very long. So I guess when I say that I want local beer, that I mean just a little more local than that. I’m spoiled. It’s true.

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Poured from a bottle (just a single, bought in a boil-your-own-six-pack setup) into a pint glass, it’s a an opaque red-brown color with a short, cream-colored head that slowly fizzles out. It does leave some nice lacing behind on the glass.

I deliberately let it warm up before drinking it because I really wanted to smell and taste it properly and really get something from it. I also warmed up my new apartment a little by watching Blues Brothers (one of my favorite movies) and by hanging my beer cap map – and, yes, I know a lot of those caps are in the wrong places; I just have too many east coast caps that are all vying for the same spots in the map.

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This nose on this porter is toasty, nutty, and filled with roasted malts. There’s notes of chocolate and coffee there as well. The first tastes are a bitter dark chocolate with very faint hints of sweet caramel. It’s a solid porter, though perhaps a little dry for my tastes.

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When I poured it, it looked like it was very carbonated, but it was a pretty smooth mouthfeel and easy to drink. With a moderate ABV of 5.8%, it could easily start a night (since it isn’t too strong-tasting) or easily finish it with its smooth flavor and dessert notes.

Review: Bell’s Winter White Ale

After a long day of unpacking and running errands for my new apartment in December, I knew that I had most definitely earned a beer. Enter Bell’s Winter White Ale (heinously overpriced at $12.99 for a six-pack), available during a quick duck in to my neighborhood grocery store. After doing so much lifting and moving and hauling and driving all day long, I was most interested in something straightforward that I could drink at home, preferably in pajama pants.

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Poured from a bottle and into a Perfect Pint glass, it presents as a somewhat hazy gold color with no head to speak of. What little smattering of foam there was vanished quickly and left no lacing behind.

The smell is slightly hoppy, fruity, and zingy. There’s some clove in there. The signature backdrop of this nose is the witbier, which is bready or yeasty in nature. This beer is apparently not brewed with any spices, so the clove notes are all from fermentation.

The carbonation is moderate and the taste is ready at first. Next comes clove, allspice, and a slight banana undertone. The finish is slightly dry to me. It’s very drinkable, though maybe more like a witbier and a little less like a winter ale than I was expecting, but still good overall.

Review: DC Brau The Corruption

I call the DC area my home and I definitely love the craft beer scene that DC and Baltimore have to offer. One of the staples of the area is DC Brau, a brewery inside of the District, and one of their flagship beers is The Corruption. It’s their take on a Pacific Northwest-style IPA and is made with plenty of Columbus hops that bring it up to 80 IBU.

DC Brau was formed in 2009 by two local restaurant industry veterans, Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock, who saw a gap in the area craft beer market and sought to fill it. The brewery experiments a little  with beer styles and have had offered a lot of American Double/Double IPAs in the past as well as a rye beer, some Belgian styles, and a Scotch AleWee Heavy.

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I had this brew at Yard House in Springfield, VA. Yard House, if I understand correctly, is a chain of  sports bars with a large tap selection of craft beers and is owned by the same company that mans Olive Garden and Seasons 52. So it’s no hipster-owned craft beer neighborhood bar, but it does tend to sport a massive beer menu with plenty of variety.

I met a friend for lunch there one day and figured I might as well review a beer while I was at it! I have a soft spot for local food and beverage, so I opted in for The Corruption. It’s a medium golden hue with a thing, nearly-white head (maybe a little hard to tell because Yard House is quite dimly lit). The head didn’t stick around long at all in my glass and didn’t really create any lacing.

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It has a very grainy nose with plenty of hops as well. It smells a little like fresh bread to me. The taste is slightly dry and bitter – not unpleasant, but a little drier than is my personal preference. It’s a good, solid beer with plenty of flavor, but that isn’t overpowering. All the same, it is solid in the way that it isn’t exactly stand out to me, either.

It did balance well with some savory food (roasted brussels sprouts and potatoes, a Cuban sandwich, some sweet potato fries), which I only barely remembered to photograph because I was famished and it was all delicious.