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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve been remiss is reviewing beers lately…It’s about time I finished off the last of the winter beer, and started on the spring seasonals, of which I already have several among the dozen or so in my refrigerator waiting patiently to be reviewed. With that, I give you Bell’s Winter White Ale. A medium-to-full bodied wit bier, there is citrus in the nose, and the middle is sweet with a strong hint of orange. I really like Belgian ales and this is a good one. Not a great one, but definitely a good one.
I give it a 4 out of 5.