Beer Review: 21st Amendment Down to Earth Session IPA

It sure gets dark early these days. Personally, I hate it. But nothing can soothe the stress of a dark, rainy, trafficky commute home like enjoying a beer while I make dinner. And this one should be pretty easy-drinking, so I have high hopes for an overall nice experience.

21st Amendment Down to Earth is a pretty marigold color, going from can to pint glass in my kitchen. It looks heavily carbonated from all of the bubbly activity going on in there. There’s perhaps one finger of fluffy, off-white foam that’s fairly ephemeral. I get a big nose of fresh, green hops with hints of something fruit and citrusy like orange or pineapple. There’s lots to smell here and I hope this beer delivers on taste.

There’s some decent flavor going on in this session IPA! It’s bright and tropical with some grassy notes from the hops. It’s exceedingly refreshing and not dank at all. This really is an easy drinking beer and I could imagine a nicer, sunnier, warmer afternoon with two or three of these highly crushable 4.4% beers to enjoy while watching the sun set. This would be a great spring or summer beer, yet here we are, stuck in late fall. It’s fairly carbonate, but it suits the beer style.

I loved this and I’d buy and sip a few of these all afternoon. Five out of five frosty, relaxing mugs.

Beer Review: Brookeville Beer Farm Hugelkultur

I love this time of year, when it’s finally properly fall. Crunchy leaves, crisp, cold air, pumpkin-flavored everything, and festbier. My favorites. With a weird, waffling warm/cool fall here in the mid-Atlantic, I was worried that autumn would never show up. I decided to honor fall by having a brew at Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg after work one fine Thursday. Now, do I know why this beer was named after a method of raised-bed farming? I do not. But I did enjoy it

This beer by Brookeville Beer Farm pours a lovely, saturated amber color, through which plenty of light passes. There’s some cream-looking off-white head that leaves a cute little cap on the beer for several minutes before finally dissipating. There’s really no lacing to speak of here. There is, however, plenty of malt on the nose. It’s rich and sweet and smells almost caramel or brown sugary. From this smell, I’m expecting something rather sweet.

The taste  is great, malty, full of flavor – but not actually very sweet at all. This is on the darker, roastier, fuller-bodied end of what festbiers are. Many festbiers are really just Vienna lagers in style (but not brewed in Vienna, so they don’t really take on that moniker). Unlike many of its brethren, this beer packs a lot of flavor. There’s hints of caramel or burnt sugar in here that are really lovely.  It’s not at all bitter and is exceedingly drinkable with lots of flavor. It’s a very approachable beer.

I love this beer and would seek it out again. Brookeville Beer Farm seems to be churning out a lot of winners in my book. Five out of five mugs!

Beer Review: Burley Oak Sorry Chicky

A friend was kind enough to lend me a book that I’m pretty excited about: From a Certain Point of View. It’s a collection of 40 short stories/character pieces to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars Episode IV: A New  Hope. It’s a nice, quiet evening at home with birds, books, and beer (my fav!) and a chance to reflect on the transformative power of stories. There’s hardly a better way to relax, if you ask me.

I opted for a can of Burley Oak‘s Sorry Chicky, which is a dry hopped sour ale that I picked up from Total Wine in Laurel. I’m very jazzed about the sound of this beer because when am I ever not excited about a sour beer?

It pours a rich straw gold  that looks awfully carbonated at a glance, which might just make for a very fun sour to drink. There’s no head, just a thin trace of foam that vanishes in less than a minute. It smells very richly sour with a real punch that will hopefully cause a bit of puckering. But it’s a complex smell that isn’t just bright and citrusy; there’s almost something earthy and spicy in the nose here. And maybe even a sweet melt backbone at work here? I have to dig in.

And whoa! It’s very sour and in your face! What a wallop!

But then there’s that unpleasant sort of cheerio taste that indicates that it’s a flawed sour most likely made with Brettanomyces. This beer is not at all enjoyable to me because of that wheaty cereal aftertaste. Now, does it pack a pucker punch? Yes. It does that right. It’s ambitious and unusual and I salute the creativity, but I feel like it wasn’t well-executed.

Two out of five mugs. I would not buy this again unless I heard that they changed their recipe.

Beer Review: Southern Tier Pumpking

Look, I warned you that I like pumpkin beers. Get ready to read about a lot of them for a long, long time! I have fond memories of this beer, but it’s not really official until I review it here on Beerily Thus, right? Right. This is, luckily, not one of those unpleasant, tinny pumpkin ales. This is a robust pumpkin beer with lots to offer!

I had a 6oz of this at Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg because even though I’d had a stressful Monday at work, it wasn’t so stressful that I felt like I needed twelve-to-sixteen ounces of an 8.6% ABV beer in the afternoon. Taako’s good out here.

Southern Tier Pumpking is a beautiful marigold color, which is appropriately autumnal in appearance. There’s a thin, pure white head with a little lacing, but this is an Imperial Ale and a lot of head isn’t necessarily something to expect. The clinginess of the lacing is likely due to a somewhat high sugar content; I remember this being a fairly sweet-tasting beer. It smells very warm, sort of peppercorny, but I’d bet that’s the allspice that I’m getting.

The first sip is alive with sweetness, warm spices, and rich pumpkin flavor. This is more like liquid pumpkin cake than many of its lackluster pumpkin beer cousins. It warms my tongue and the back of my throat. The taste of the spice blend stays on my tongue for a minute or two of quiet contemplation (I am of course meditating on how darn good pumpkin beers can be). It’s very easy to drink, which is dangerous because of that aforementioned high ABV. Enjoy, but watch out for it. It’ll bite you.

This is a seasonal treat that I look forward to every year and time hasn’t change that one bit. It’s as good as I remember, if not better. Five out of five, I’ll drink this for as long as I can find it.

 

Beer 101: Pumpkin Beers

Pumpkin beer is a surprisingly divisive issue. It seems like folks either love it or hate it. I’m on the love side of the equation, but I’ve also been burned by enough mediocre pumpkin brews to be cautious when trying a new one.

These beers can be bursting with fall flavors , or watery and taste a lot like the tin can that pumpkin puree comes in. My best friend, M, is firmly in the pumpkin beer hate camp and, while I’m not trying to convert her, I am certainly always looking for the best pumpkin beers, as if proving to both her and I that this category can be really good.

I’ve noticed some common threads among really, truly excellent pumpkins beers – the most major of which is depth of flavor. More than a one-note, vaguely gourd-flavored ale, the best pumpkin beers incorporate rich pumpkin flavor along with spices or secondary flavors to keep them interesting. These beers have to be so much more than JUST full of orange gourd goodness!

Elysian’s Punkuccino uses coffee as a backdrop for their excellent version of this seasonal beer.

Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale has plenty of cardamon, ginger, and nutmeg flavors.

Two Roads Brewing Co. Roadsmary’s Stepchild resembles a Flanders Red, tart and with hints of spice.

Firestone Walker El Gourdo is earthy, tart, and funky.

Beer Review: Peabody Heights Mr. Trash Wheel’s Lost Python Ale

I learned something today. In Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, there is a large trash-collecting water wheel vessel, featuring big cartoon eyes to give his dirty work a charming appearance. His name, it turns out, is Mr. Trash Wheel. I appreciate the directness in that. I’ve never seen him in person, but maybe I need to change that. Peabody Heights says that a portion of the proceeds from this beer go toward keeping the harbor clean, which is something I can get behind. Beer and cleaner waterways? Yes, please!

There’s still more to this tale. Because of course there is. Because Baltimore has to be a weird sort of place. The second part of the name? The Lost Python Ale? That’s a nod to a five-foot-long African ball python  that found its way onto the water wheel a few years ago.

Truth really is stranger than fiction.

This is in the style of a session ale and when I got the pint at Beers and Cheers Too, there wasn’t much of a nose going on. There’s something slightly tropical and a little bit vibrant, not really hoppy- or dank-smelling. There are also maybe some notes of orange zest in a very spring or summer fashion, making it an odd beer choice for the first day of fall. It’s a beautiful marigold color that’s bright and clear in a pint glass covered in condensation on a humid, warm September day.

Right away, there’s a nice burst of flavor – juicy and bold, but not sweet or excessively fruity. There’s plenty of bright hop flavors and just the right amount of dryness on the back end of this beer. It’s tropical, but not sweet, I am sure, thanks to the Mosaic hops. They’re a goldmine of bold flavors and a wonder of modern hop farming.

This beer is supremely easy-drinking, but never exactly mellow; it’s so flavorful! The dry sensation is mild and well-balanced with this flavor punch. Five out of five from me.

Beer Review: Captain Lawrence Powder Dreams IPA

On a warm and bright day, I required an equally bright beer. It was surprisingly hot, honestly, given that this was basically fall at this point – and humid, too. Weather like that calls for something exceptionally refreshing.

Enter Captain Lawrence Powder Dreams IPA. I’ve had good experiences with New York-based Captain Lawrence before (Barrel Select Green, I think) and this sounded like just the craft brew to make my evening at Frisco Tap House complete.

Because this is a precious, carefully crafted beer, it was sold to me in a smaller sized goblet (not my favorite way to drink a beer – I don’t personally prefer this unwieldy and heavy vessel) at a higher price, but I was willing to go for it. The taster that I’d tried had really impressed me.

Through the thick walls of the glass goblet, the beer is a light and bright yellow color with slightly orange undertones. It looks hazy to me and there’s a tiny smear of white head in this wide-mouthed and thick-walled monstrosity of a glass. Right away, it smells very tropical and juicy, backed up with the promise of plenty of pine resin. The scent is bright, yet earthy. It’s a real powerhouse of aroma.

There’s a flavorful punch of orange and mango that is immediately chased down by a faintly spicy earthiness that’s almost reminiscent of an herbal tea. I say this partly because of the dry finish (a little drier than I’d like), but for this much flavor in every sip, that’s a trade off that I’m willing to make. There is perhaps too much resin and dryness to be considered easy drinking in my opinion, but it’s still a joy to taste.

Despite the higher price tag, I’d absolutely order this again in a heartbeat. Five out of five, easily.

 

Beer Review: Mendocino Brewing Co Red Tail Ale

Two friends are about to get married and I couldn’t be more excited. Although it was not on purpose, I still like to take credit for having introduced them. I met one in a writing group and dragged the other to it and they hit it off right away. Now, they’re getting hitched! They’ve asked me to be in the wedding, give some speeches, and even make some very minor alterations on the bride’s gown. For love, I’m more than happy to help.

This will be a picnic wedding, potluck style, so I’m bringing some of the stuff for a charcuterie plate (though there will also be a mini fonude pot because my friends and I are nothing if not ambitious). One thing I’m cooking off is some pork and apple sausage made at a local buthcer shop. It smells amazing. While a work, there’s nothing like a beer to keep me company.

To celebrate one union (my friends), I’ll opt in for another: birds and beer (two of my favs). Poured from a bottle into a pint glass, this rich, honeyed brown beer is just a touch hazy looking to me. Though there is an extremely minimal head, there’s a bit of a dusting of foam that dissipates in about a minute. The smell is sweet and raisin-like, which must come down to the malts in this beer as it’s only 6% ABV. There’s no hops smell at all – I get nothing but malt (but not the roasty kind), all sweet amber brown scents.

The first taste is as sweet as is to be expected. There’s not a lot of depth here, flavor-wise, and it’s a little watery-tasting or thin to me. There aren’t layers of flavor at work here. It’s malty, it’s brown, it’s sweet. That’s really it. I feel like the carbonation is a little high for what this is trying to be. There’s actually something slightly acidic and off about it to me.

I bought a six pack and I’ll probably drink them, but I doubt I’d buy this again. Two out of five. No thanks.

Beer Review: Manor Hill Experimental IPA

I love growlers. Don’t get me wrong there. But the first pour from one is always a challenge for me. I’ve got sad noodle arms and have a hard time hoisting a growler and pouring with one hand, so I use two to make sure I’m not going to drop the thing on the floor. Unfortunately, this means that I can’t tilt the glass at a 45 degree angle like I normally would and this definitely impacts the pour that I get out of growlers for the first one to two glasses.

All the same, I get the things filled now and again and then fight with them to get a good beer out of them. This time, I went to Gilly’s in Rockville, MD and got my growler filled with Manor Hill Experimental IPA.  This is a beer that I wish I knew more about (I even have in my notes, “research hops”), but there is really no concrete information about it out there. I don’t even know what hops they used. My impression is that this is a rotating series and that different hops will be used in different batches. Basically, I have no way of knowing exactly what I was drinking.

This is a somewhat hazy pour with a rich golden color and a very fluffy head (no doubt from my ham-fisted growler pour). The head loiters for a few minutes, but then sinks slowly, leaving some decent diamonds of lacing behind. It smells hoppy in a green way with notes of pine resin. It’s fresh and bright, but there aren’t any fruity smells.

The first sip is full of flavor. it’s lightly grainy and bright with refreshing, almost herbacious hops. It’s piney, but never dank. This is a great beer for warm months because it’s both flavorful and light at the same time. Hoppy, but not overwhelming at any point. There’s no dry finish to be found in this beer, so I definitely love that.

I give it five out of five because I would absolutely drink this again… but I can’t be sure that I’d ever have the same beer twice. It’s a conundrum, but I’m willing to take a risk, I think.

Beer Review: Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata Ale

Do you ever just get an idea for a dish stuck in your head and it pesters you until you finally buckle under the pressure and try to make it? That’s what happened with this sandwich. I had some leftover brie and a bag of brussels sprouts in my fridge and the thought of this creation haunted me.  I wanted a brie grilled cheese stuffed with roasted brussels sprouts and smothered in grainy mustard.

Well, it was a mess. It oozed out all over the place. I had to pick globs of brie up off of the plate with my hands and just sort of tuck in like I had no manners at all. It was an experiment, but it was a damn delicious one, even if it was maybe a failure in some ways.

This beer was, similarly, an experiment that I think didn’t really pay off. It pours straw gold with a hint of orange from the bottle. There’s a very ephemeral, short-lived head that’s less than a finger high, which disappeared in about 30 seconds. Maybe less. The carbonation in this beer is very active in the glass, bubbling away.

It doesn’t smell like much: faintly bready and almost like a witbier. I don’t smell a whiff of cinnamon, though, which is disorienting. You think it’d be in there, front and center.

The cinnamon is the dominant taste, though. It’s nice and strong up front, but fades about as quickly as it came. Honestly, the aftertaste of this beer, once the cinnamon disappears, taste a lot like applesauce with cinnamon sprinkled into it. The beer is made with long grain rice so it’s no wonder it has a very light body and flavor.

Honestly, there’s not a lot going on here. It’s refreshing enough if you like cinnamon (and I do), but nothing really great in the end. Personally, I wouldn’t bother buying this experiment again. Just two out of five mugs.