Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout Winter 2011-2012

Today I'm drinking Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Winter 2011-2012, brewed by The Brooklyn Brewery in Utica, New York. This is an annual favorite of mine and based on past experiences, I'm pretty sure I'm going to adore this beer again. The label is simple yet elegant, with gold and white lettering jumping off of a black background.

When you get a moment, check out this article I wrote about being thankful for beer, with this particular beer named as exhibit A. I also contributed to this holiday indulgence list, with BBCS topping my must-have addiction list. Finally, this was the one special beer I took to Disney with me this Thanksgiving. Pure Genius!

Rich milk chocolate aroma with a nice roasted quality. Rich chocolate flavors also come on strong in the beginning, and they are paired with a boozy warmth. Yeah, this beer has 10.0% alcohol. A few more sips and you will not miss plenty of vanilla nibbles along with some more nuanced licorice and spiked cherry flavors.

Creamy and velvety smooth texture, which is quite a highlight. Carbonation is low but perfect. The sweet start is challenged throughout by a roasted bitter balance. And then there is more of that boozy bite and bang. Perfect in every way. And of course you know I need to factor price into this--this is a fabulous deal! A 4-pack at Total Wine is $7.49 which makes it eligible for your $1 off coupon. $1.62 for a magnificent beer is pretty freakin' amazing!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2011

Today I'm drinking Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2011 brewed by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California. Actually, it's not just today. I've been sucking these things down for a few weeks now since this vintage hit the shelves. So I'm just making it official for the year, a review I can do without really concentrating at all.

Anyway, this will be the fourth year in a row reviewing this beer. I only really mention that because of the first year I gave an opinion on it. Holy Cow! Was 1 vs. 100! Here is last year's review, where you can easily be linked to the other years as well. I think what mostly happened is that I have developed into a closet hophead and enjoy this beer more and more every year. It's tough to drink this beer without developing a liking for intense hoppy bitterness.

Big fluffy head. Malty aroma--bread dough, sweet orange, fruity, very pleasant. Fruity orange and caramel, great flavors to start. Pine flavors aggressively attack with a bitter army and leave a resinous stickiness in the mouth that persists for a long time. Citrusy lemon and orange rinds further the bitter experience. Hoppy and floral as well.

Carbonation is big, yet very nice and creamy. Fresh and refreshing. Bitter wins by a mile. You finish a bit drier, feeling the alcohol just a little at the end. This is a great beer, no doubt. But there is definitely this distinct medicinal undertone, something a little beyond chewing lemon rinds, that I wish would go away. Probably a lot of other people taste that too, but very few are willing to say anything negative about this beer. I don't get it. It's like it can do no wrong. You can trust me, though. :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Vixen Chocolate Chili Bock

Tonight I'm drinking The Vixen Chocolate Chili Bock brewed by The Boston Beer Company in Boston, Cincinnati or Breinigsville, Pennsylvania. A handful of bloggers and commenters have dissed this beer a little for lacking spiciness, which is certainly promised on the label. We'll see. I'm still excited.

The bottle shape and label on Big 22 are really different from the corporate line Sam Adams usually puts out. And that is an awesome thing! First, the illustration of the seductive woman with a rose in her teeth must be who the beer is named for. Her eyebrows are TO KILL FOR. LOL.

This beer is brewed with chilies from Mexico, cocoa nibs from Ecuador and cinnamon from Southeast Asia. The hops and malts are also listed on the front. The back label is titled "DARK, RICH, & ENTICING WITH A SPICY KICK". A story about what to expect follows, which you can read below. This is Batch No. 1 of this beer, which is part of a series of favorite "small batch" brews they have done. And by "small batch", they mean larger batches than many Indie Breweries brew all year.

Nice head. Rich milky sweet chocolate is the dominant aroma, but a vigorous swirl will show you some of the cinnamon. Chilies in the aroma? Not unless I tap my ruby slippers together three times.

Rich, chocolaty cocoa power flavors come through first, sweet but not too sweet. A solid roasty bitterness balances the initial sweetness almost to neutral. The Vixen has a creamy smooth texture that feels really nice in the mouth. Cinnamon flavors do appear and add an interesting hard candy-like flavor, at least initially in Big 22. And in the beginning of the bottle, I thought that the chili spiciness was fairly muted to only a light heat in the throat.

Now, I'm almost done with this bottle. It's taken me longer to drink this than most 22s. Not sure why. What I do know is that as you progress through your experience, the cinnamon starts to be lost in an ever increasing amount of chili spice and heat. It's like the cinnamon and chilies reversed roles. I don't know what spice immunity Lost and the rest of these guys have, but there is definitely some spicy chili heat to this beer. Not like the Left Hand's Pepper Porter which I recently had, but a significant and (what I think) just right amount!

One other thing I started to notice as I sipped and sipped and sipped--there is an underlying graininess to the entire beer that once you realize it, you totally taste it. Hard to explain. Anyway... you will finish dry with a pleasant cocoa aftertaste and residual heat. I liked it and definitely recommend it. Sweet but not by too much. Very enjoyable. I think this beer was $5 so go ahead and grab it, even as a bomber. You have my permission.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Whip Ale

Today I'm drinking Whip Ale brewed by Diamond Knot Brewing in Mukilteo, Washington. This is the beer that was designed and named after Queensryche's Michael "Whip" Wilton, who personally handed me this beer I'm drinking today. The label has gold designs on a black background. I feel that some band designs are incorporated into the label, but I'm not cool enough to know them. "Superb Quality" and "Bold, Rich, Aromatic" are front and center in case you are incapable of making your own determination. Finally, you can find out more at

Caramel, doughy aroma with nice citrus quality. Caramel flavors also start but are more fleeting than in the aroma. Some lemony citrus shows up right away and is really the star of the beer. Nice zesty zing but then some doughy, malty balance evens things a little. Grassy and floral, yet with some orange sweetness. Have you figured this out yet? It's a well balanced beer, though it definitely favors bitter.

The carbonation is prickly and excellent, much better head than when we had it in those Total Wine plastic thimbles. I am really enjoying all of Big 22. The 6.0% alcohol adds a little dryness to the finish but is otherwise unnoticeable. It is a great refreshment as I de-string my pre-lit Christmas tree of all 1000 lights. They haven't worked for a few years. The tree is beautiful still. But my fingers are rubbed raw. Ugh! Grab this beer and rock out to Queensryche while drinking!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Long Trail Brewmaster Collection Coffee Stout -- Doctor Carolyn Guest Post

I was headed out of town a few days ago when Doc Carolyn sent me a post-exam rant turned beer review. She told you about her trip to Cigar City a few months ago. I hope you enjoy this as well.

Long Trail Brewmaster Collection Coffee Stout

Let me tell you something you could have guessed. 8 hour tests SUCK. Staring at a computer and THINKING for 8 hours SUCKS. I just finished one of the many licensing exams necessary to become a doctor. And all I could think through the entire exam was "Lord, beer me strength." And I got done and miracle of miracles, I GOT BEER!

Picked this one up a while ago on one of my beer shopping sprees at Total Wine in Claymont, DE. Long Trail Brewmaster Collection Coffee Stout. Pours a dark, mysterious black with a hefty head that's a lovely walnut color. Smells like Starbucks up in here--the best dark roasted aroma I've stuck my nose into. Velvety on the palate. Tastes like, well, coffee (would ya have guessed it??). Nice and smoky and roasty up front without the sweetness. Develops nicely with a solid malty middle and finishes bitter with same caramel and vanilla. 

And at 8.0% this malt beverage fermented with coffee from Vermont Coffee company, this is the perfect "oops, I got drunk" beer for a weekday evening after a tough day. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hibernation Ale 2011

Today I'm drinking Hibernation Ale 2011 brewed by Great Divide Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado. Each year since 1995, these guys have brewed this beer as their winter seasonal. I've had the pleasure of taking part since 2009. I believe the label has remained the same, depicting a cross-country skier speeding through a mountain forest. And she's really cruising too, as her scarf is flowing behind her. This English-Style Old Ale was bottled on October, 19, 2011 and is suggested to be paired with Roomano (aged hard Dutch cow's milk cheese), grilled beef tenderloin, or apple crisp with ginger ice cream.

Sweet caramel and toffee aroma, very powerful and inviting. Sweet caramel and toffee are also the main flavor introduction. Right behind those, some rum-soaked raisins and figs and cherries burst in your mouth creating a flavor explosion. The 8.7% alcohol is not shy in getting your attention early on, really adding some heat and depth to the beer.

In the middle, there is quite a large vanilla profile, very strong and noticeable. Some spicy and sharp flavors come next and pair with a low-grade alcohol burn. Those spices along with a hefty dose of hops tone down the initial sweetness quite a bit, to the point of where this beer is even a bit bitter.

Carbonation and body are both around medium. Tons of different flavors and interactions are all competing for attention. It's tough to really get a grasp on this beer. Enjoyable and some really nice flavors. I thought the vanilla flavors were a little much, however, and the alcohol was a little hot and raw and aggressive. Check it out and let me know what you think. Until next year...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tasman Red

Today I'm drinking Tasman Red, a Red IPA brewed by The Boston Beer Company in Boston, Cincinnati or Breinigsville, Pennsylvania. The illustration on the front of the label depicts a Santa-Claus type guy that broke into a 1960's Crimson Tide locker room and stole Bear Bryant's hat. The back label calls this a "wily red IPA" which I guess is a play on their character's disheveled beard and appearance. Blah, blah, Tasmanian hops, blah, blah, bold flavor, blah, blah. This is Batch No. 1 of this experimental beer.

Big 22 is branded similarly to their other beers in this series, for example The Vixen. Bravo for an upgrade from their tortuous corporate look that was starting to aggravate me. The malts and hops are also listed in like 2 pt. crazy-man scribble font, barely readable without a microscope. Anyway...

Caramel aroma with some citrus and orange and pine. Caramel and toffee sweetness right at the beginning lasts a second or so before more bitter flavors attack them. Lemon rind and pine aggressively balance and swing the pendulum toward bitter shortly afterward. That bitterness grows and grows more intense with each sip.

But then you start to taste more caramel and candied sugar sweetness. I was a little confused (not really, remember this is just chatter) until more grapefruit and lemon bitterness clobber that sweetness. Back and forth, tug of war, but the sweet demonstrators ended up in the mud pit in the middle.

Herbal, earthy, hoppy. Oh, and by the end of the bottle, you will definitely be feeling continuous spicy black peppery nips at your palate. Reminds me of a rye spiciness. The 6.75% alcohol warms a little and the finish is dry. Enjoyable, flavorful, complex and another winner by Sam. Great (relatively speaking, for those of you that don't mind being ripped off by bomber prices) price too!

Oh, one more comment. If you give two shits about "lacing" on your glass, well, this is definitely the beer for you! It was achieved perfectly. Grab this beer and let me know your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ommegang Adoration

Today I'm drinking Ommegang Adoration, a "True" Belgian-Style Dark Ale brewed by Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York. For the record, this is one of my favorite breweries! This wine bottle was cellared at the brewery after being brewed with coriander, cardamom, mace, grains of paradise and sweet orange peel. The story on the side of the label talks about the beer and why its name is so perfect, ending with an anonymous quote: "Love acknowledges others' flaws. Adoration accepts them." Serve at 50° F.

Rich and malty aroma composed of a basket of dark fruits: raisins, cherries, prunes, red grapes. Quite inviting. Rich caramel flavors meet dark fruits, the story of this beer. Raisins, prunes and grapes combine for a rich initial flavor. The 10% alcohol wastes no time grabbing the wheel and offering a really nice warmth. Spirts-like cleansing, sherry, rum-soaked fruit, all without being an alcoholic mess.

Perhaps a hint of wood comes next, but the main supporting actors are coriander and cardamom and cloves. Those spices don't take over on their own, thankfully. Rather, they bring out and highlight the fruits even more, like this beer was a baked good or something.

Hold up. I'm pouring another giant glass from my wine bottle. So much for not disturbing the yeast at the bottom.

So you have a really nice creamy texture. The carbonation is big and fine and awesome. Good body. Not syrupy sweet, yet sticky and boozy. Sweet wins but this is a well-balanced beer. The finish is a little drier and fruity flavors linger along with a bit more alcohol warmth. Complex and very enjoyable, I wish I would have shared. Grab a bottle before it's too late. Oh, and "Special Winter Ale"? Whatever, my AC just kicked on for the 100th time today!