Author Archives: Xander

Beringer Distinction Series Cabernet Sauvignon


Thanks to the fine folks at Casemates I was happy to receive a lovely little box containing a bottle of the 2014 vintage of Beringer Distinction Series Cabernet Sauvignon vertical (2014, 2015, and 2016)  from Napa Valley that they’re selling this weekend to review.   I popped it and let it sit in the open bottle for about an hour before pouring through an aerator,  and tasting at room temperature.

The color is beautiful, and on the nose I was getting a some leather and vegetal notes along with some blackberry and a bit of heat.  On the palate I was getting a flash of blueberry and a big pop of peppery spice which gave way to the distinctive very dry black tea notes of firm well-structured tannins.  In the finish, the tannins stayed in the fore with a bit of leather, but were met with a rising plum right at the end that balanced the dryness quite nicely with fruit.

My wife picked up a similar progression, categorizing the front of the palate as the same heavy spice and currants, followed by full-bodied tannins, and picking up tobacco and earth in the finish.

It isn’t a particularly complex CS, but progresses nicely though a series of flavors and there’s ultimately some good balance between the fruit and the dry, earthy flavors.   In my opinion this wine would be best with food, and though unfortunately I had oral surgery the day before last and can’t eat anything other than soft food for the next few days (and am not supposed to drink alcohol; oops!) it strikes me that it would be extremely well suited to pairing with lamb or pork.

Thanks again to Casemates for this bottle!

Frogs Tooth Sangiovese

Wine review!  I know it isn’t craft beer, but hey, we like good wine here too, right?  I know I do. sent me a bottle of Frog’s Tooth’s 2016 Sangiovese to try in advance of today’s offer, so I figured I’d post my review here as well for readers who are interested in the wine world as well.


First – This is a young wine, significantly more so than the other 2016 Cali Sangiovese examples I’ve had recently (Benessere and Pedroncelli) and to really bring out its strengths it will need to either be laid down for awhile, or spend a few hours in a decanter.

We drink our reds warm, so after it arrived Thursday afternoon, it went into the wine fridge to be chilled to a balmy 64F.   Popped it Saturday evening and left it to sit for an hour before pouring, and then for another half an hour in the glass before trying it. I’d give the tasting notes, but really it suffices to say that it wasn’t ready, so put a stopper in and left it for another go on Sunday.

Sunday evening, tried a taste and it wasn’t noticeably different, so the rest of the bottle went in the decanter for two and a half hours or so.  That, and a bit of time in the glass made all the difference.

The alcohol is fairly high at 15.3% ABV, and it’s noticeable in all phases, though it moved  from overpowering in the first tasting to a consistently present undertone in the final tasting.

The nose has pronounced cherry, and I got some leather, my wife got some earthy notes.

In the middle the cherry notes dominate.  I also got a bit of plum and a tiny hint of vanilla. Acidity is on the high side, though it dropped a bit after the decanting.  It’s tannic, and the tannins are still firm and well structured and give it a substantial drying finish.  The body is full and robust.

Ultimately, it was a really nice, straight-forward wine, balanced and full bodied, not a lot of complexity but a cherry central theme very much in keeping with the style of a California Sangiovese.

New Belgium Juicy Watermelon


From Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing, most famous for Fat Tire Ale, Juicy Watermelon is a watermelon lime ale. It’s got a light golden hue, a fizzy head that dissipates quickly, and it’s malt forward, so if you can’t find this brew locally, get yourself some Bud Light Lime, add a one quarter to one half ounce of watermelon juice, and you’ll have something reasonably close. The body is light to medium and the alcohol is a mild 5% ABV.

I give it a 2 out of 5.

Left Hand Extrovert IPA


Extrovert is an American IPA from the Left Hand Brewing Company. It pours with a voluminous head that disappears quickly. The nose is grassy, with a lot of lemon. The middle is pleasantly tropical with lemon, some mango and a hint of peach. The finish is dry and slightly buttery. The body is medium and the alcohol is 7.1% ABV. A really nice middle of the road American IPA.

I give it a 4.2 out of 5.

Allagash St. Klippenstein


From one of my favorite breweries, St. Klippenstein is an Imperial Stout aged in oak bourbon barrels. I love oak aged beers, and this is no exception. The nose has coffee and cocoa and toast. The middle is dry with roasted grain and bitter dark chocolate. The finish is milky and smooth, with signature oaky vanilla notes. The body is medium and the alcohol is a big 11% ABV, and while you can’t really taste it, you can certainly feel it. A fantastically good beer.

I give it a 4.8 out of 5.

Foothills Pumpkin Ale with Spices


It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and that means a pumpkin ale review. I have a couple of different pumpkin ales in the fridge right now, but the only one I haven’t reviewed before is Pumpkin Ale with Spices from Foothills Brewing of Winston-Salem North Carolina. Tee nose has pumpkin, caramel and a hint of nutmeg. The middle is rich and fairly dry with pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. A bit of sweetness comes out in the finish to really round out this pie style pumpkin ale. The body is medium and the alcohol is a moderate 5.7% ABV. This is a great beer choice to complement any autumn occasion.

I give it a 4.0 out of 5.

Back In Business

So, after a hiatus of a year and a bit, OpenCraftBeer is back and open for business once again.   While I haven’t been posting reviews for this past year, I have been writing them, so there is quite a backlog to get through, and plenty more still yet to be written.   So, crack open a tasty brew and enjoy what we have to come.

Green Flash Cosmic Ristretto

Cosmic Ristretto is a Baltic Porter brewed with espresso and Belgian candy sugar. The head is foamy rather than creamy. There’s coffee and licorice on the nose. Tons of coffee and molasses in the middle, brown sugar and star anise in the finish. The body is medium and the alcohol is a relatively high 8.2% ABV. This is an exceptional beer.

I give it a 4.9 out of 5.