Beer Review: Ninkasi Sleigh’r

I picked this beer up in a crowler (something I’m really starting to like as I live by myself a whole growler is a bit much) from Frisco  Tap House the other week and saved it for the Dungeons and Dragons game that I play online every other Monday. I know I’ve written about beer and dice going together so well before and I stand by it. A brew and some imagination just go hand in hand.

Ninkasi Sleigh’r pours a very, very dark and rich brown with a faintly tan head that’s not quite one finger high. The head doesn’t have much staying power, but it leaves some very pretty whorls of foam behind once it falls. The smell, to me, is all dark berries or stone fruit or raisins with hints of brown sugar and other rich, sweet things. There’s maybe some notes of dark bread or maple.

Upon tasting, this is a rich and flavorful stout with plenty of dry, roasted malt flavors. It’s barely sweet, which is perfect to me, as the nose hinted that there might be a lot of sweetness at work here. Luckily, that was a little misleading. There’s a hint of banana and clove flavor in here, or maybe that’s just some saison-like funk that I’m getting and associating with banana notes. This is an alt beer that ferments ale yeast at a colder lagering temperature, which makes it pleasantly crisp.

There is an aftertaste that is a hint metallic, which is the biggest flaw of this beer. That’s ultimately forgivable as this brew is very enjoyable on a cold winter’s night. I’d say four out of five mugs. I think I would order it again if I found it somewhere, but I won’t necessarily be seeking this out.

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: Southern Tier Old Man Winter

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.

Beer Review: Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Owl

If you ask me, it’s never too late in the season for pumpkin beers! I believe I have made my love for them rather apparent by now. After work one Monday, I wanted to grab a six pack of something new to me and so I stopped in to Beers and Cheers Too (which is so convenient to my office). While I was there, I also decided to treat myself to a little something – and that something happened to be Elysian’s Night Owl Pumpkin Ale.

Now, I’ve had some of Elysian’s other pumpkin beers before and adored them, but I was pretty sure I hadn’t had Night Owl before. If you ask me, Elysian are some of the very best pumpkin beer brewers out there, so I wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity to taste another one of their creations.

For $3 at happy hour, I grabbed a 6oz pour of Night Owl. It’s a lovely golden amber color with not quite one finger of off-white creamy head. This falls in about a minute and mostly disappears, leaving a white smear behind, in about two minutes. It leaves behind some pretty sturdy lacing as I drink it down. It smells very pumpkiny right off the bat even as I’m snapping pictures. There’s a slightly spicy smell, but the most prominent note is the gourd itself – slightly vegetabley and a little bit sweet with hints of brown sugar on the nose. There’s maybe a whiff of yeasty or malty funk mingling.

The nose is accurate; there’s a little ginger or clove in here for sure, but this beer is legitimately pumpkin-forward, which is rare. Usually these poor beers get strangled with spices. I’ve had an aggressively cinnamony pumpkin beer from them in the past (I wish I could remember the name, it was a few years ago) which was delicious, but it masked the pumpkin taste. This beer plays very nicely with the natural autumnal produce that it’s showcasing.

Five out of five frosty mugs of pumpkiny goodness.

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 : 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.

Review: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across the World Dry Hopped Berliner Weisse

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!

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.