Tonight I’m trying another of this year’s winter seasonals from the Boston Beer Company, and it’s like their Chocolate Bock, only this year it has been infused with cherry. Now, this isn’t the first bottle I’ve had. I picked up their winter variety pack which came with three of these babies, and I have to say this is the first time I’ve been dreading a review because of the fact that I would rather throw the beer away than drink it. I’ve reviewed the chocolate bock before, and to be frank, it wasn’t very good. For this beer, they’ve apparently added large quantities of cherry cough syrup to it in order to turn it into something truly awful. It pours a nice dark brown with a reasonably pleasant head that reminds one of root beer float. The nose is of cough syrup. The body is thin and watery. The middle is an unsubstantial chocolate that reminds one of a chocolate-flavored sucker, drowned liberally in, again, cherry cough syrup, which is quite overwhelming. The finish is cherry and a bit metallic. The alcohol level is quite moderate at 5.8% ABV. There are no discernible hop flavors at all. Regardless of your taste, I can unequivocally recommend that you give this beer a pass. Personally, if it came down to a choice between this and Bud Light, I’d take the Bud every time.
I give it a 1.4 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.
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.
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.
Weird name, good beer. I have a strong predilection for fruit beers in the summer, and Rübæus from Founders Brewing in Michigan is a lovely example of the raspberry persuasion. So, here it is, late August, and I’m drinking yet another pink beer. Rübæus is a fairly traditional raspberry lambic. It isn’t as heavily carbonated as some, which really helps one to enjoy it as beer, rather than mistake it for a spritzer. The nose is yeasty, with berries and sugar. The middle is strongly raspberry and super tart. There’s not room for many other flavors here. The finish transitions from tart to cloyingly sweet, with herbal notes right at the tail end. It’s quite nice, but it also quite resembles an alcoholic version of fruit punch. It’s a great beer to try out on those who traditionally choose sweet wine, or wine coolers, or hard lemonade rather than beer. It’s a good lambic, but could use a few more flavor notes to keep the palate interested.
I give it a 3.9 out of 5.
Heavenly Feijoa is a delicious Belgian Tripel from New Belgium Brewing’s extra special Lips of Faith series, and it’s brewed with feijoa and hibiscus for a unique flavor. The nose is yeasty and distinctively Belgian. The middle is super tart and fruity, with notes of pineapple, cranberry, and peaches. The finish is still tart, but a strong herbal note comes forward as well. The body is quite heavy, and the alcohol is very subdued, though it’s quite a big beer at 9.4% ABV. It’s definitely strongly fruity, but I like it a lot.
I give it a 4.5 out of 5.
Sweetwater Blue is a fairly typical craft wheat ale, but with the addition of blueberries which give a subtle twist. They did a really nice job of adding a fun and different flavor, but without overpowering the beer. The nose is very light, with a bit of grass and yeast. The middle is where the blue berries add some tang to the mild wheat base that turns slightly sweet, and then finishes dry and dusty. There’s a little bit of slate in there as well. This is a nice summer beer, and would be a good alternative for introducing Blue Moon fans to craft beer.
I give it a 3.7 out of 5.
My favorite beer that the reviewers love to hate, Shiner Ruby Redbird by the Spoetzl Brewery of Shiner, Texas, while a beer of only modest acclaim by the authorities one might fine on the Internet, is also one of the few brews to make it onto my Five Best Beers for Summer list recently. To me, this beer is light, well-carbonated, and loaded with tangy citrus which makes it just about a perfect liquid refreshment for a hot summer afternoon. The scent is bready, and there is a bit of spice, and the middle is all grapefruit. There’s some ginger, which shows up a bit in the finish along with some toasty malt and a bit of bitter grapefruit rind, and just a little astringency. It may not win any awards, but it’s one that I’ll reach for without any hesitation, summer after summer.
I give it a 4 out of 5.
Porch Rocker is another of the styles in this year’s Beer of Summer variety pack from Samuel Adams. It’s a shandie, which is a mix of beer and lemonade which is a nice refreshing combo but a style that seems to generally lack a bit when pre-blended before bottling. The flavors just don’t seem to mesh well, and there’s a bit of a back and forth tussle between the sweet lemonade and the malty lager. I’ll give this one a pass in future.
I give it a 1.8 out of 5.
Continuing my quest to try (and review) every single Dogfish Head beer, today I’m sampling a gluten-free Tweason’ Ale. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that gluten-free beers really just aren’t very good, but Dogfish Head has made a valiant effort with this one by adding several interesting ingredients including strawberries and buckwheat honey. The result is something that’s much closer akin to a lambic than anything else, but without the funk that you get from the wild yeast in a lambic. The head doesn’t hang around long at all, and the nose distinctly strawberry. It pleasantly reminds me of a fresh strawberry display at a farmer’s market, in fact. The middle is tart and fruity, and the warmth of the honey comes through in the finish and adds just a touch of sweetness. The hops are quite subdued and there’s no bitterness in this beer at all, and it has a medium weight body to it. It’s a reasonably decent fruit beer, and one of the better gluten-beer free beers I’ve found, so if you have a gluten intolerance, you might want to give it a try.
I give it a 3.8 out of 5.