Beer Review: Uinta Season Pass

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.

Beer Review: Tall Tales Blue Ox

Sometimes, we have to try new things! I was angling for somewhere near my office that I hadn’t been yet – somewhere I could enjoy a variety of craft beers after work – and where I could also enjoy a snack before a late dinner that night. Enter Old Town Pour House in Gaithersburg, MD. With over 90 craft brews on tap, you know I’m here for that. Plus, they do small 6oz pours, which is my preferred method of beer consumption most of the time.

This beer, on their limited menu, had me at the description of a blueberry stout with coffee and chocolate notes. I had to try it. It sounded like it could be great or really iffy. Adventure, excitement – a Jedi craves not these things. But a gamble on a tasty beer? Just maybe.

For $4, I got my teensy glass of 6.8% ABV Blue Ox and I threw in some $7 fried cheese curds with smoked tomato coulis, so chalk another one up to Team Adventure. The coulis is strange and I keep trying to decide if the smoke flavor is too much, too acrid, but then I go ahead and just dunk the next cheese curd and the next, so I guess it’s a winner in my book.

The beer is a deep, dark mahogany with a little over one finger of sturdy, tan head. It smells like dry, roasted malt and even a little like toasted bread – and, trailing behind that, is the faint smell of blueberry that reminds me of a fresh baked pie. I can’t wait to try this.

The first sip is simply fantastic. A slight roasted cocoa flavor, immediately followed by a bright, nut not overwhelming blueberry taste hits me – it’s got plenty of layers, but it’s not sweet or too much of a punch. It’s really delightful all around. It finishes on the tongue with more dry, roasted coffee and malt flavors. There’s a nice, clean finish that is pleasantly dry, as a stout ought to be.

This is a really beautiful little beer and I would definitely seek it out again any time of year. Five out of five mugs for me.

Review: Southern Tier Porter

Sometimes, it’s nice to appreciate the simpler things in life. I’ll take a meyer lemon gose or a cardamom IPA or an espresso stout any day of the week and love that variety. But today, it’s back to basics: a simple, standard porter from Southern Tier. I love a good porter and was a loyal drinker of the style for many years. I’ve lately turned away from it and sought IPAs and more exotic beers – but today, I’ll return to my roots and put my fate in the hands of Southern Tier, a brewery that I’ve generally liked in the past.

Again, this is what I get for experimenting with different tea towels as backgrounds.

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass, this is a beautiful, rich, dark brown with a slightly auburn tinge to it. No light seems to pass through it. It has just the tiniest head of a lovely cream color – a puff that dissipates very quickly. There’s a small trace of an island of foam left behind, but it’s not much. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by some recent stouts and porters on nitro.

It smells roasty, like dark bread , dark chocolate, coffee, brown sugar, and raisin. It’s only 5.5% ABV, but it smells boozy to me. Maybe it’s that brown sugar and raisin smell that’s often associated with higher ABV dark beers and brandywines.

Honestly, the taste is really lacking the punch that the nose suggested there would be. It over-promises and vastly under-delivers. It’s a little watery and thin, as porters sometimes are (and which I do not care for). It’s not at all full-bodied in either flavor or in mouthfeel. It tastes the most like that raisiny booziness that I got off of the nose. There is some flavor from the dark, roasted malts, but it’s also distressingly thin. The carbonation is relatively low. And there’s something sticky about the texture.

It’s a fine enough beer, it’s very much signature of the style in many ways, but maybe it’s not the style for me any longer. I think I’d pass up this particular porter in the future. Three out of five mugs for me.

Review: Deschutes Obsidian Stout Nitro

On this fateful day, I decided to try a new little bottle shop close to my work: Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg, MD. They’ve got a decent tap selection for a smaller place as well as some bar, high top, and outdoor seating. I came for a growler fill but stayed for a pint.

And what a nice pint! They had several selections of stouts on nitro and, let me tell you, a velvety smooth stout or porter is a big hit with me. I trust Deschutes, they’ve knocked it out of the park with me plenty of times before, so I went in for this beer.

Obsidian Stout pours a beautiful, opaque, almost-black color with a silky tan head that’s about one finger high. It’s served up pretty cold, so I only got some slightly toasted grain and maybe a hint of cocoa notes. Also, maybe a warm, grain alcohol smell. Can something smell like that alcoholic heat? Maybe it’s whiskey that the smell reminds me of.

The first taste is a hint metallic, but immediately fades off into malty sweetness and roasted coffee. There’s a backbone of bitterness here and it’s like dark chocolate to me – and I love love love 70-80% dark chocolate bars (and cannot stand white “chocolate,” but that untruth which is perpetuated upon Americans regularly is a rant for another day).

This stout might have been a little watery were it not for the richness that the nitro brings to the table. It’s a little but thick, but never heavy. It’s such an excellent experience on nitro that I doubt I’d want to drink it any other way. Five out of five tasty beers for this one.

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: Founders Porter

My house is full of birds. No, really. This isn’t a euphemism for anything. There are seriously just a lot of birds in my house right now.

I’m currently bird-sitting for a friend, so I’ve got two more birds in addition to my usual two. That’s 100% more birds! And one of them (Stewie, the beautiful yellow-orange bird) is a screamer. My poor ears. In all of the chaos of packing up to move house and being screamed at all the time from 5:30 am until about 8 at night, I needed something reliable.

In my county in Virginia, it isn’t always easy to get the best variety of craft beer. Founders, though, abounds here. They’re a given. I hadn’t had a Founders Porter in a year or two, but something felt comfortable about this beer, which I used to drink when I clung dearly to dark beers and didn’t try a lot of varieties. Hey, I was still learning! I got better!

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I know that I loved Founder’s Breakfast Stout back in the day, but I just couldn’t for the life of me remember what impression their Porter had left on me. Well, there’s a reason for that: it’s just not very interesting.

It pours a brown so dark it’s almost black with a deep burgundy head that’s just barely there. A whiff of the beer gives off molasses, bread, and roasted grain notes. The taste is honestly a little metallic to me; this is something that I’ve noticed in a lot of porters, actually. Maybe it’s my taste buds interpreting something weirdly, but some porters taste a little like I’m licking aluminum foil. There are still hints of brown sugar and molasses on the back of my tongue. The mouthfeel is a little thin, but that’s kind of common with porters.

Generally, I’m unimpressed. I guess my inability to remember something interesting about this beer is due to it just being not interesting. 

Review: Deschutes Black Butte Porter

Black Butte Porter is the flagship beer of Deschutes Brewery of Bend, Oregon. They call it “the beer that started it all.” For me, it was one of the first west coast beers that I’d ever had and so, in some way, it started a lot for me, too.

I had this beer on draft at Dar Salam, an Iraqi restaurant in Portland, Oregon.It was their only draft option (they only had one tap in the Alberta location) and it was on happy hour special, so it was an easy choice.

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It poured a dark, almost-black brown with a small, light tan head. It didn’t offer much in the way of aroma, but that may be because it was served extremely cold. Cold was fine; Black Butter Porter is a very easy-drinking beer and this temperature works just fine with it. It tasted of roasted, toasty malts. It was not dry (as some roasty porters can be) and a hint sweet. There were subtle notes of chocolate to it.

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Black Butte Porter is a strong, sturdy beer without being overwhelming. It’s an excellent, well-balanced porter that people who want to learn about dark beers should definitely try. It paired well with the strong flavors of the Iraqi food. Flat bread and a fig dip, a salad with feta and sumac dressing, a big falafel sandwich (which was delightful, by the way) – the porter held up. I could definitely still taste it after I’d eaten my flavorful meal.

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Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, several Deschutes beers are readily available in the D.C. area. They travel far to come and bring us east coasters joy. I’ve absolutely seen the Black Butte Porter and the Mirror Pond Pale Ale in local pubs out here. I’m so grateful for the craft beer movement that has made such a variety of beers easier to find with every passing year.

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I’m writing this from home, having returned from Portland a week ago (though I’m still working on a backlog of beer reviews from when I was out there) and I’m pretty determined to live out there in about a year. I’m in a very tumultuous time in my life (divorce, my own health issues, a very sick parent, job hunting), but this blog gives me something to look forward to and enjoy doing. it gives me joy. It gives me hope.