Drinking beer is all well and good (honestly, it is very well and good if you ask me), but there are more ways to get your brew fix during daylight hours. If you’re looking to add some more books on beer and brewing to your reading list this year, check out these collections of books:
I spent a recent Friday night watching Wonder Woman and giving myself a pedicure. The only way I could think of to improve this otherwise perfect evening was a beer. I toweled off my feet from their warm water soak and grabbed a bottle of Uinta Season Pass Vanilla Porter to enjoy.
This pours a deep, dark brown with a very fluffy light tan head. Maybe I poured too aggressively? I didn’t mind, it was a handsome beer. The nose has lots of the usual suspects: roasted cocoa, dark bready malts, hints of sweetness. There’s no coffee that I’m detecting and nothing maple-sweet.
The first taste is just a hint metallic (this is not uncommon in my years of experience with stouts), but it isn’t watery or thin at all (which, again, is all too common with mediocre stouts). The mouthfeel on this is excellent. It tastes of graham crackers, dark chocolate, and pumpernickel bread with honey. The chocolate malts give this beer a real depth of flavor. It’s sweet, but not overmuch and a taste of dry cocoa lingers on the back of my tongue, but the flavors are never overpowering.
This is a great beer for cold winter nights, perfect for watching TV or movies, and having a little solo self-pampering at home. It’s a fine treat and I give it four out of five frosty mugs.
It never got above freezing today (and hasn’t for over a week now) and the wind is whipping something fierce. As a hater of the cold even on a good day, I was pretty properly miserable on my drive home, during which I had to stop and gas up my car. Shivering in a coat, hat, and gloves isn’t really my favorite thing. When I got home, I desperately needed something cozy to help me warm up.
Enter Southern Tier Old Man Winter, some manchego and salami, and some episodes of Critical Role (a D&D actual play stream, which I love, and which I am sadly almost caught up on – just in time for their new season). This is the kind of comfort that I needed this day.
Old Man Winter pours a handsome brunette color with a light cream colored, fine, smooth head that’s about one finger tall at its fullest. The head falls quickly enough, but leaves a bit of lacing behind when it does. It’s a good-looking beer. It smells warming to me, like brown sugar or honey. I’m not detecting any spices, but there is some depth and some richness to the malt profile.
The first taste is a little like a scotch ale and there’s some alcoholic heat to this. It’s 7.5%, so that’s no real surprise. It’s very balanced, inviting, rich, and just a hair sweet. Nice clean finish without any problematic dryness. It’s roasty like dark cocoa or maybe a touch of coffee – something just a hair bitter, but again, balanced.
A really enjoyable sipping beer for a winter’s night. Five out of five, and I’m so glad I bought a six pack to enjoy.
The quality of lacking any predictable order or plan.
If we can intuit anything at all about a brewery as successful as Stone, I don’t imagine that chance has much to do with anything. Their line of small batch, experimental brews has been given a name that means happenstance or dumb luck, but they’re clearly the result of anything but.
Grainiac, a member of the Stochasticity Project from Stone Brewing, is “a multigrain ale dry-hopped with Cascade and Centennial.” It uses nine different grains (including some unusual ones like millet and buckwheat), so between that and the dry-hopping, this is bound to be a real powerhouse of flavor.
Poured from a bomber into a glass, Grainiac is a refined, deep brown amber, filled with warm hues. There’s a tan head that’s about two fingers tall, made from fine foam. It leaves behind a bit of clingy lacing inside of the glass. The first smell I get is an alcoholic heat, mixed with those rich brown sugar and maple notes that higher ABV beers tend to have. This is 8.5%, which is hig though not insane by any means, but I also know I’m not finishing a whole bomber by myself on a weeknight. This would be inadvisable, though likely delicious. The scent reminds me of a rich amber or brown ale, with deep notes of stone fruit and honey or brown sugar.
The taste is full of grains (obviously) and a lot of malt flavor, with a huge punch of complex tastes. There’s a pleasantly dry finish from the dry-hopping process. Additions of hops in the latter part of the brewing process (originally used to stave off putrefaction around the 12th century) give a mild bitter flavor to beer, which is very in demand in today’s IPA-rich market. This is a beautiful beer, wonderful for sipping, and there’s an awful lot going on here. Notes or rye or dark bread, rich honey and maple, apricot or plum, and a note of wheatiness at the end all come together in harmony. It’s not too dry, but the sweetness does not linger on the tongue, which is great because it could very easily be cloying in nature.
What a great beer! With an ABV like that, I’d buy it again, but certainly plan on splitting it with someone. Five out of five.
It was a cold and exceptionally windy night and we haven’t had a whole ton of those yet this season, so I guess we were overdue. This outing to Frisco Taphouse before my writing critique group absolutely called for something warm and cozy and winter appropriate. Why, something at around 7% and on cask sounds like it’ll hit the spot. And with “winter” in the name, how could I go wrong?
In a rare stroke of luck, this pour killed their cask a little shy of a full pint, so they were kind enough to put the drink on the house. Frisco is a good place in my mind and this is just another tick in the Why They’re Awesome column for me. I was happy to take my lucky beer and enjoy it.
It’s a handsome, deep brown hue with hints of ruddiness where light struggled to pass through at the outer edges of the glass. I imagine the head on this beer is all wrong because it was the end of a cask, so it seems silly to try to reflect on what the head is supposed to be like on this one. There are no spices in the nose, which I found a little surprising as that’s common in a lot of winter beers. There’s a strong scent of roasted malts, though, which I’m usually. Flying Dog K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale is apparently brewed with cardamom and vanilla, but I’m not smelling any of that – it just seems like a standard porter at a glance.
The taste is dry and has some richness that makes me thing of Scotch ale, but it’s not at all sweet. Not even a little bit. It’s cozy enough for winter, but it is also overwhelmingly dry to my palate. There’s some bitterness at work here that I’m finding very unappealing. I guess I’m doubly lucky that this was on the house since I’m not really loving it. It reads more like a disappointing porter to me than a winter ale.
It was fine, sure, but not at all what I was expecting and not something I will buy again. Just two out of five.
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.
I love beer and I love food. I’m a simple creature, really. I also love cooking and few things go better with food prep than a cold beer. In this case, I had plenty of time for beer as I was braising a small pork shoulder with some apple cider vinegar. This would eventually become some beautiful pulled pork with a spicy-sweet bbq sauce.
The Oliver Brewing Co website promises “a gratifying hop punch” with this beer, so I had some expectations in place before I even tasted it. No one likes to be disappointed, so don’t get me all worked up for nothing, please, beer.
Balls to the Wall fills my glass with a rich golden color that’s slightly hazy in appearance. There’s a fluffy, energetic white head that falls away fast, leaving behind a few spots of lacing. It smells very hoppy (as promised!) in the family of something very piney and green. It doesn’t smell dank at all, but very bright and fresh, perhaps like mowed grass (which I sort of hate because it sets off my allergies, but in theory it smells really nice).
The first taste is a hop wallop to be sure. It’s not a palate wrecker, though. It’s still very refreshing on the whole. And – good in my book – it’s not too terribly dry on the finish, so that’s a thumbs up from me. It’s honestly kind of like licking a pine tree… if it weren’t for the sap and bark and other gross stuff, I guess. Imagine with me, here.
I really enjoyed this and found it flavorful and fairly well balanced. Five out of five mugs, I’d definitely seek this out in the future.
Somehow, I had never heard of the Beer Camp project from Sierra Nevada. Maybe I’ve been living under a rock. If that’s the case, I still need beer for my dark, dank rock-home. Enter Gilly’s on a fateful afternoon when I went in for a pint and some bottles and stumbled into the Beer Camp Across the World promotion/tap takeover. I was given a little paper passport and told that if I drank seven of the BCAW beers, I’d get a prize (it was a Nalgene-like water bottle plus some stickers and sunglasses, I think). Even seven half-pints is a lot of beer and anyway I had a BBQ to hit later that day, so I couldn’t loiter all day and drink a bunch of beers.
I first tasted the the ginger lager and the Thai-style iced tea and they were both amazing. It was genuinely hard to choose. Then my next door neighbor recommended the Dry Hopped Berliner Weisse, which I had overlooked, so I gave it a try.
It’s a cloudy straw color with a slight foamy head. There’s a touch of lacing, but nothing very strong there. There isn’t much of a nose. Maybe there’s a hint of lemon peel or something else citrusy and similar. It smells sour. Can something even smell sour? I vote yes.
Its taste is not overwhelmingly sour, but it is absolutely packed with flavor. It’s zingy and gently wheaty up front, which makes sense because they use their in-house kellerbier/Hefeweizen yeast. The dry hopping definitely comes through on the back end of the taste with a nice, resinous green hint. It really rounds the beer out. It’s not just sour; it has layers. There’s no dry finish to be had, this is a very clean beer.
Would I buy this again? Over and over. I actually did buy the sampler case for BCAW this year and then brought it to a party and drank the whole thing with friends. So, sadly, no more BCAW beer reviews. You’ll have to forgive me. Five out of five mugs!
I’m growing attached to Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg. It’s very convenient to my work and their rotating tap selection is pretty varied most of the time. I went ahead and got my growler filled here again on a Friday. This time, I went with a brewery that I’ve learned to lean on when I can’t decide what I want: Sam Adams. They’re not exceptional, generally, but they’re very reliable. I hadn’t had this IPA before and I was in the mood for something bright and fruity, so this seemed like a good match based on the taste that I tried.
I had a pint glass of this at home that same evening and, as usual, made another somewhat sloppy pour from the too-heavy growler, full of beer. This picture and review are of the second glass, poured a day later, and which still tasted perfectly fresh after being open for a day. There was a finger of fluffy head on day two. There’s some strong lacing and a little wisp of foam that’s slow to fade away.
It’s very aromatic, I don’t even need to put my nose right up to the glass; I get tons of big, juicy, citrusy hops without getting in close. But when I do put my nose down to the beer, I get plenty of the same. It’s not a simple one-note orange smell, but lots of tropical fruit and citrus and even some green notes. Not dank green, not sharp or bright, but a fresh and somewhat grassy green.
The first taste is orange with maybe a little mango or pineapple flavor to it. Again, not one-note orange, it’s fairly complex. It’s very refreshing up front with some well-balanced hoppiness that’s a hint dry, but not more than I like. I’m very into the wide range of tropical and citrus flavors at work in this beer. I would buy it again for sure, but it’s nothing terribly risky from Sam Adams as citrusy IPAs are really having their day right now. This is a gentler IPA for the crowd that isn’t into too high an IBU rating. Four out of five for me.
I got my growler filled at Beers and Cheers Too with this IPA when I grabbed a pint there earlier in the week. I tried a few IPAs and other ales to find the right one and this one seemed like the winning taster. As growlers are wont to do, this one kept a good seal before I opened it the first time to have this pint.
Brookeville Beer Farm’s Interdependence IPA pours a beautiful golden hue that’s bright and quite clear. There’s a fluffy off-white head on it that leaves behind some handsome lacing behind as it falls rather quickly. Of course, my first pour from a full and heavy growler is always a mess and a little head-heavy. Damn my noodle arms! It smells delightfully bright and fruit – passion fruit and strawberry and maybe just a hint of a wheat background with some bright piney notes.
The taste is, to me, grapefruit and berry-forward. Then it hits the roof of my mouth with a dryness that isn’t terrible, but it is a little more than I love in my choices in beers. It’s sweet for the first few moments and then a touch bitter. It’s full of flavor for sure, but I wouldn’t call it especially balanced. The dryness gets a little overwhelming as the beer warms up further and the berry flavor fades away.
I’ll finish the growler (of course – I don’t waste!), but it wasn’t the best choice. I enjoyed it more when it was quite cold, as it was when I sampled it at the shop. I don’t think I’d repeat this one. Three out of five (preferably) frosty mugs.