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 Review: Abita Turbodog Brown Ale

Some things in life are very important to me: these include: dressing up for the Renaissance Festival, dressing up for Halloween, and beer. Lucky for me, I can combine all three of these things right here, right now. I donned the pirate ensemble I made for RennFest this year both for my office and for Trick or Treaters. I love how the dress/coat turned out!

As it got dark and more of them came out, I decided to level up my pirateness by getting out my mug, which I use at the RennFest as well as whenever I play or run tabletop games. Let me tell you what, this thing keeps cold beers mighty cold!

I wasn’t in the mood for anything with bite or fruit taste to it. Luckily, I had grabbed an Abita Turbodog in my last make-your-own-six-pack run to Total Wine in Laurel. This brown ale would be my Halloween beer! It poured out with a ton of off-white, creamy, fluffy head. The nose was a true brown ale with lots of malt and a little burnt sugar or caramel in there. It took a few minutes for that head to settle down before I could drink it.

The first sip is flavorful, not really sweet… but there was something tinny about it. Something metallic. And, yes, it’s the beer and not my long-proven mug – my first sip was even from the bottle. I’m not sure I love that imperfection that’s at work here. There’s a slight aftertaste of cinnamon or maybe apple. It’s autumnal and pleasant, but I can’t get past the metallic hint. It really ruins the whole thing.

I’m not sure if this was a flaw in the batch or if this is true to this brew, but I’m hesitant to buy this beer again because of that flaw. Two out of five, I think I’ll pass on it in the future.

 

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 : Atlas Brew Works Ponzi IPA

New-to-me DC-based Atlas Brew Works is, I can tell, a brewery that I will be going back to for more interesting pints. I like to drink local when I can and, while it’s not a guarantee of quality (everything in life is a mixed bag), keeping in a small geographical area can get you to try things you might have otherwise overlooked.

I pulled up a stool at Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg and stared down their sizable beer list. Ponzi was described as being “criminally hoppy” which is sort of my equivalent of “you had me at ‘hello.'” I ordered up a pint and settled in.

I could smell this beer when the waitress set it down on the bar about a foot away from me – big biscuit and wheat smells wafted over to me along with some herbal hops. This IPA pours a rich straw gold color that’s fairly clear in a frosty pint glass. There’s a nice, fluffy, slow-to-fall white head made up of a fine matrix of bubbles. A close-up sniff gives me more citrus notes to go along with the initial hop-forward smell.

The taste is a big, west coast punch of flavor. The male (Munich) is light, yet flavorful and the hops cover a wide range of tastes from bright green on through dank. The finish is dry, yet very balanced. And there’s a sweetness here that reminds me of milk stouts and that made me wonder if there was any lactose added to this brew. The description that Atlas gives doesn’t mention it specifically, but there’s something going on with the malts here that is a little bit brown sugary.

There’s a whole garden full of hop varietals in here: Cascade, Chinook, Centential, Mandarina, and Ahtamun. Just bring the whole crew, why don’t you?

The nose on this beer promised big flavor and the taste delivered. I thoroughly enjoyed this and would definitely order it again. Five delicious mugs out of five.

Beer Review: Founders All Day IPA

To acquire this beer, I took a walk to my corner store during which I got street harassed and followed in my own neighborhood and then was rained on in a sudden sundering of the sky by a thunderstorm. Honestly, this beer better be really good after all of that. Let’s find out!

This 4.7% ABV IPA (a little beyond a session, I would say). It’s a beautiful color like a rich, amber honey gold. There’s a handsome, fluffy, active head that hangs around for about a minute. It leaves a smear of foam and some pretty sticky lacing behind. It’s almost malty-sweet smelling to me, which I’m surprised by. There should be a lot of forest resin going on in this beer. I’m expecting a decent punch of flavor punch based on the nose of this beer.

The taste up front is a little bit dry, but it absolutely does deliver on those resinous hop flavors that the smell promised me. There is definitely a sweet note to it from the malts that I was smelling before. There’s a lot going on in this beer and I’m really enjoying the layers of flavor. It’s both sweet and dry, and very slightly bitter. I’d say it’s very well-balanced overall.

This beer has a fairly light body with some moderate combination. It’s extremely easy to drink and very refreshing. I give it five mugs, even in spite of the bitterness.

Beer 201: Greaves’ Rules

A friend recently introduced me to the drinker’s sort of ten commandments (there are ten pieces, yes, but that’s not why) known as Greaves’ Rules. Devised by now-retired British journalist, these ten rules describe the etiquette of round-buying and drinking conduct in public houses. Now, if these rules are any indication, British drinking culture is a bit different than the American one that I know.

Or maybe my practice of drinking solo to kill time between work and another social engagement means that I just do go out drinking properly. Or, at least, properly in the sense of the Brits. How do these rules strike you? Are they similar to your own drinking habits or do you do something different as well?

Greaves’ Rules

1. When two or more enter the pub together, one – usually the first through the door – will begin proceedings with the words “Now then, what are we having?” He or she will then order and pay. This purchase is known as “the first round”.

2. This player, or “opener”, will remain “in the chair” while other friends or colleagues come through the door to join the round. He will remain in this benefactory role until either (a) his own glass sinks to beneath the half way mark or (b) another drinker finds himself almost bereft of his original refreshment and volunteers to “start a new round”.

3. In the absence of new arrivals, any player other than the opener may at any time inquire whether it is “the same again?” On receiving his instructions, he will then order and pay for “the second round”. (N.B. The second round is the last one to be specifically numbered. Beyond that point, nobody wishes to be reminded how many they have had and, anyway, no-one should be counting.)

4. The round acknowledges no discrimination. All players, regardless of sex, age or social status, are expected to “stand their corner”. (Pedants might like to note that we are talking here of the only “round” in the English language that also contains a “corner”.

5. Any new entrant, joining the session after its inception, is not expected to “buy himself in” but should be invited to join the round by whoever is in the chair (see Rule 2). If, however, he is greeted by silence he may either (a) buy a drink just for himself or (b) attempt to buy a round for all present. If (a) or, worse still, (b) is not acceptable to the congregation then the new entrant has been snubbed and should in future seek out more appreciative company. There is one important exception…

6. For reasons of haste or poverty, a new arrival may insist on buying his own with the words “Thanks, but I’m only popping in for one”. If he is then seen to buy more than three drinks, he will be deemed a skinflint, neither broke nor in a hurry to get home, and will be penalised for his duplicity by being ordered to buy the next round.

7. Although everyone in the group is normally required to buy at least one round before leaving, the advent of either drunkenness or closing time sometimes renders this ideal unattainable. In such circumstances, any non-paying participant will (a) have “got away with it” and (b) appoint himself “opener” at the next forgathering. However, any player who notices on arrival that the round has “got out of hand” and has no chance of reaching his turn before “the last bell”, may start a “breakaway round” by buying a drink for himself and all subsequent arrivals. This stratagem breaks the round in two, keeps the cost within manageable proportions and is the only acceptable alternative to Rule 5.

8. When a pressing engagement elsewhere precludes further involvement, it is wholly unacceptable for any player who has not yet been in the chair to buy a round in which he cannot himself be included. In such circumstances Rule 7 (a) and (b) therefore apply.

9. In the event of any one glass becoming empty, a new round must be called immediately. This should not necessarily be called by the owner of the empty glass, however, because this place the slower drinker at an unfair fund-saving advantage. (N.B. Whereas it is permissible for any member of the round to decrease the capacity of his individual order – “just a half for me, please” – the opposite does not hold good. A large whisky, for instance, may be offered by the chair but never demanded of it.)

10. Regional variations. In various parts of the country, a particular establishment will impose its own individual codicil. In one Yorkshire pub, for example, the landlord’s Jack Russell terrier expects to be included in every round. Where such amendments exist, and are properly advertised, they must be piously observed. We are, after all, talking about a religion

Beer Review: Stone Brewing Jindia Double IPA

When I pulled up a stool at Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg, I heard one of my bar neighbors talking smack about a peppery, spicy beer. That had my name written all over it, so I asked which beer that one was and ordered a pint blindly. Sometimes we just have to trust in fate pointing us to the right brew.

Stone Brewing’s Jindia Double IPA pours a very handsome, rich golden-amber hue. There’s about a finger of cream-colored head on it with some staying power in those little bubbles. It smells almost wine-like to me, which may have something to do with the 8.7% ABV on this beer. There are also notes of bread, ginger (but not too aggressive – no burning nostrils here), light citrus, and a dash of herbaceous juniper.

At first taste, it’s peppery up front, but in a nice, warm sort of way – which is where the ginger comes in, a close second in this marching order of flavors. It moves through a slightly sweet citrus phase before finishing dry, but in a pleasant way. It’s full of many layers of great tastes that go well together in my mind. It gets a little dryer as it warms up and is maybe on the cusp of being too dry, but honestly it is overall really delightful. The mouthfeel is good, pleasantly light, and the carbonation seems balanced for the flavor profile.

There’s a wonderful, refreshing mix of botanicals in this brew. I’m usually on the fence about juniper in anything – I’m just as likely to like it as have my stomach turned by it. It’s always a fun surprise. I’m not sure I would have ordered this if I’d known it would have juniper in it. All the same, I’m glad that I did. This was a juniper beer that went over well for me.

This was a risk that paid off well for me. I would most definitely order this beer again, as long as I had the time to slowly enjoy a DIPA. 8.7% packs a wallop. Five out of five mugs from me.