“Inspired by the flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine” is what South Carolina’s Westbrook Brewing Co. says about White Thai, a wheat based ale with lemongrass and ginger instead of the traditional witbier’s coriander and orange peel. It’s a mild drinking ale, as appropriate for a wheat ale, with lemongrass and a bit of yeast in the nose, some orange and ginger in the middle, and a hint of pepper in the finish. There’s a slight buttery undertone, but overall the character is relatively light and summery. The body is medium, and the alcohol is a reasonably low 5% ABV.
I give it a 3.5 out of 5.
Sierra Nevada has expanded east, and to celebrate the opening of their new brewery in Mills River, NC, they released Rain Check Spiced Stout. Though released in summer and tasty any time of year, this has all the flavors of a classic winter treat with chocolate, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon coming through and just a hint of citrus. This is a sweet beer from start to finish, with the flavors transitioning from sweet and spicy in the middle to sugary at the end, with brown sugar and caramel notes, and a bit of root beer right at the end. It’s wonderful to see the success of a great brewery like Sierra Nevada lead to an expansion like this, and this was a great brew to celebrate the achievement.
I give it a 4.6 out of 5.
So I lied. Or was at least mistaken. I said last week that my review of Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale was going to be the last winter seasonal review of the year, but now I’ve found a can of 21st Amendment Brewery’s winter seasonal, Sneak Attack hiding in my fridge. I guess that’s exactly what I should expect of a beer named Sneak Attack. Sneak Attack is a Saison, which is a really nice style to welcome in the spring, so it’s probably fortuitous that it gets to be my actual last winter seasonal review of the year. As you can see from the picture it pours with a massive head of light meringue-like white foam that sticks around for a bit, but will disappear after a few minutes. The nose is scented with herbs, grass, and yeast. The middle is tart, with herbs again, as well as lemon. The finish is dry and woody with a bit of lemon zest. The body is medium weight, and the alcohol is a reasonable 6.2% ABV. At any time of year this is a nice solid Saison.
I give it a 4.2 out of 5.
Positive Contact is another of Dogfish Head’s occasional musically inspired collaborations, this one with Dan the Automator of Deltron 3030. It’s a hybrid wheat ale and cider with spices that aren’t typical with either, such as cayenne pepper and fresh cilantro. With that variety of inputs, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but the result is excellent. All the components show well, and none are overpowering. The nose is distinctly Belgian yeast, with some apple notes in there. The middle is bready with quite pronounced wheat characteristics that are balanced by strong apple flavors that are moderately, but not excessively sweet, and also not quite as complex as they might be. The wheat comes back powerfully to give it a drying finish, and this is where the spices start to come though as well, adding peppery and herbal notes before fading back to apple. This reminds me most of a pre-hop spice beer, and is refreshingly unusual. It’s a medium bodied beer, and pretty big on the alcohol at 9.0% ABV, but you’d never know it because it hides it well. My bottom line is that this is an excellent off-centered ale.
I give it 4.5 out of 5.
I’ve previously reviewed Unibroue’s Apple variant of Éphémère, but tonight’s bottle is brewed with Black Current juice, Coriander, and orange peel. The result is a fruity beer that’s delightfully unsweet. The frothy champaign-ish head gives it a fizzy, carbonated texture, and there’s not much of a nose. The middle is spicy and heavily current flavored, but there’s an unusual lack of sugar that pegs the profile of this beer solidly in the “spiced ale” camp. It’s a medium bodied ale, and quite dry. The finish rounds out with some notes of plum, but again, without sweetness. Éphémère Cassis is a very unusual and enchanting brew.
I give it a 4.5 out of 5.
Éphémère Apple is a white ale brewed with apple must, curacao peels, and coriander from my favorite brewers in Quebec. The first thing that strikes me is that it isn’t sweet. This is not a cider-y apple beer, or a dessert-wine-like fruit beer. There’s definitely some strong apple flavors, but none of the sugars to speak of. The first flavors on my tongue are apple peel and coriander, and there’s some strengthening citrus notes towards the finish from the curacao. There’s an malt backbone throughout that’s understated as wheat usually is. This is a really nice, different fruit beer. Well worth a try if you enjoy Belgian lambics, or other fruit-based beer.
I give it a 4.6 out of 5.
One of Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales line of beers, Theobroma is said to be the earliest known alcoholic beverage containing chocolate. But make no mistake, this is no chocolate stout. The nose resembles what you might expect from a chocolate stout, thick and sweet, but the flavor is something else entirely. This is true spice beer, and predominate flavor is bitter cocoa, followed by spicy chili oils. This is not an every day beer, but it’s definitely been a treat that I wouldn’t dare miss.
I give it a 4.7 out of 5.