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.
Merry Christmas Eve! Today is a day of anticipation for the celebration to come, and for the special occasion, a special beer. Lindemans is known for their fine lambics (several of which I’ve reviewed on this blog) but Gueuze Curvée René is a particularly unusual and amazing beer. It’s a lambic, but a mixture of two-thirds young lambic, and one-third old lambic, which is then bottle conditioned for six months. The result is one of a kind. The capped and corked bottle pops as if it were champagne. The nose is sour wild Belgian yeast. The body is medium, and the flavor from middle to finish is tart and dry, with the tartness followed by notes of apricot and grapes, with very little discernible residual sugar. This is closer to dry sparkling wine than to the typical beer. My bottom line: This is a beer to celebrate with.
I give it a 4.9 out of 5.
A new winter seasonal for this year, Juniper IPA is exactly as it sounds: An American IPA with the addition of Juniper berries to give some additional flavor. I like IPAs, and I like juniper, (well, I like gin anyway, which is the same thing as liking juniper) so what could go wrong? Not much, it turns out. This is a nice, classic IPA, and juniper gives it a bit of a west-coast piney twist and a bit of pepper. It’s pretty highly carbonated, which comes off as refreshing. The tasting notes on the bottle claim that the juniper adds “a slightly sweet, piney character” but I really don’t find any sweetness here at all, just pine and spice. To me, that’s not a bad thing, but this is definitely a hop forward beer, so it’s going to be closer to the wheelhouse for IPA fans than for those looking for a sweeter winter treat. There’s also a bit of citrus in the middle, some lemon and some oraange, as you’d expect from an IPA. It has a medium to heavy body, but it’s pretty light on the alcohol at 5.8% ABV, so it’s an easy drinker. I’m really quite impressed with this brew. I think the folks at the Boston Beer Company have a hit with this one.
I give it a 4.3 out of 5.
An American classic. Old Rasputin is a Russian Imperial Stout from the master brewers of California’s North Coast Brewing Co. Widely recognized as a world class beer, this was one of the first craft beers I was introduced to, and it was instrumental in building my interest in the wide world of beers outside of the macros. The head is a heavy, sticky dark brown that reminds me of frothing motor oil. The beer is not quite pitch black, but close. Hold it up to a white light and you can see the tiniest hint of dark red luminescence. The nose is bready with coffee and chocolate. The middle is quite bitter and dry, with burnt coffee and cocoa in the fore. That transitions quickly into a sweet finish with chocolate syrup dominating. The body is medium to heavy, and the alcohol is a substantial presence at 9% ABV, though it doesn’t materially affect the flavor, perhaps just adding a bit of effervescence right at the tail end of the finish. This beer is a universally recognized timeless classic, and even if it isn’t your style, is a beer that every craft beer aficionado should try at least once so as to understand what makes up a truly exceptional Russian Imperial Stout.
I give it a 4.8 out of 5.
I love fall and winter, and I love fall and winter beers. In this case, New Belgian’s fall seasonal pumpkin ale, Pumpkick. The nose is spicy with a bit of Belgian yeasty fruitiness. The middle is spicy pumpkin reminiscent of pie, and slightly sweet. The finish is tart, showcasing the cranberries this beer is brewed with, and a bit of citrus from lemongrass. None of the flavors are overpowering, and this medium-bodied ale has a very manageable alcohol level of 6% ABV. making it an excellent party or session beer. My bottom line is that this is a very nice, but not outstanding beer.
I give it a 3.9 out of 5.
Immort Ale from Dogfish Head is a great big (11% ABV) oak-aged ale of indeterminate style. It uses English and Belgian yeast, so it’s somewhere between an English Strong Ale and a Belgian Strong Pale Ale. The notes off the nose are of honey, vanilla, and cherries. The middle is spicy with pepper, vanilla, and apricot, and a tiny hint of smoke from the peat-smoked barley. In the finish you taste the sugar from the maple syrup, and faint hints of the oak and just a little more peat. There’s no bitterness in this beer at all, and only the tiniest bit of acidity and booziness that you often get with oak-aged ales. This is a richer, and more subtle brew. This would be an excellent introduction to oak-aged beers for those who aren’t familiar, and fine winter treat for anyone.
I give it a 4.7 out of 5.