Friday, January 25, 2013

Flower Power

I walked into my favorite beer store and my favorite beer guy says to me, "You like IPA's." 

How cool is it that he knows what I like?  That's why he's my favorite.  :)

"Here, you'll like this."  As he handed me a six pack of  Flower Power brewed by Ithaca Beer Co.  Okay, I'll give it a go. Who am I to argue?

Flower Power (7.5% ABV) is an American IPA.  It pours a hazy golden color.  Despite all the bubbling over when I popped the cap, the head was relatively thin.

The IPA's a prefer tend to be very citrusy leaning towards mouthwatering bitter grapefruit that the West Coast IPA's put out.  Flower Power is a definite step back from that.  It's interesting to point out that other reviews that I've read of this beer say it's insanely grapefruity.  Odd that I didn't get that.  Variance in batches, perhaps?

What I got was an aroma that was more floral in nature.  The taste was deeply earthy and piney with hints of tropical fruit.  The bite of the bitter hops balanced nicely with the sweetness of the malt and fruit.   However, the bitterness prevails and takes over the finish.

Flower Power is dangerously drinkable; it goes down clean and easy.  But watch out for the relatively high alcohol, it will kick your ass.

This is a very flavorful beer with loads of complex and yummy stuff going on inside the bottle.  Overall - very good.

Visit Ithaca Beer Co.'s website for more info on their other beers or check them out on Facebook.

God is great, beer is good and people are crazy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Victory Headwaters

Headwaters - a 15th anniversary brew by Victory - is aptly named for the Headwaters Grant.  The Grant was  created by Victory to provide funding to the environmental groups that protect the Brandywine Watershed; which is the source of water for Victory beers.  A portion of the sales of Headwaters beer goes directly to this charity.

Interesting to me, but probably not you, is that I lived in the town where Victory Brewing is located when I was a baby.   

When I was 3 months old or so my family was moving from a trailer park in Downingtown to a new home.  While my mom and dad were packing up the moving truck they kept me safe and secure in a bassinet inside the trailer - which is exactly where they left me as they drove off to to wherever it was we were moving to.  Well, where they were moving to, I guess.  

Suddenly, Mom says, "Honey, I feel like we're forgetting something."  

"Nah, I grabbed all the boxes and stuff." said Dad.  

They drove on for a while longer when mom said, "No, dear, really.  I know we forgot something back at the trailer." 

"Well, what then?", Dad replied.  

"Oh, I don't know.  I just have a niggling  fee. . . THE BABY!!!"

A hasty U-turn was maneuvered.  The baby - me - was retrieved.  Victory attained.

I digress . . . 

Headwaters is a pale ale that is a very sessionable 5.1% ABV.  It pours a clear reddish-gold with a very big bubbly head that quickly dissipates.  The aroma is of piney hops, citrus and malt.

The first taste is a gentle bite of hops - pine and citrus - but it's not overly bitter.  This is anchored by the sweetness of caramel malt that creates a nice balance of flavors.  It finishes nice and clean with a lingering hoppiness.

The mouthfeel is light and bubbly.  Very go-down-easy drinkable.

I liked Headwaters.  It's a nice middle-of-the-road pale ale - just the right balance of malt vs. hops and enough complexity to be interesting.  Yummy!

Overall - very good.

Visit Victory Brewing's website for more info on their other beers or check them out on Facebook.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Vertical Epic 121212

You know you have a sister who really loves you - I mean, really loves you - when she buys you awesome beer for Christmas.

She totally hooked me up!  

The first beer I tried from this amazing trifecta was the Vertical Epic 121212 by Stone Brewing.  

Vertical Epic 121212 (9% ABV) is a Belgian Strong Dark Ale. It pours a rich sable brown verging on black with a thick fluffy taupe head that dissipates into layer after layer of glass grabbing lace.  I said GLass grabbing!

The aroma is interesting.  Typically, I expect to get a whiff of hops or malt or some other such beery smell.  Not in this ale.  121212 was all spice - especially clove and cinnamon - but mostly clove.

The flavors build layer after layer on the tongue starting with a subtle grapefruity, floralness that opens the door to the richness of dark chocolate and coffee entering the realm of stouthood.  But not.  Next comes rolling in a mouthload of beerific spiciness; clove predominates over cinnamon, nutmeg and molasses.  The mellow sweetness of the spice merges with an enticing bitterness that finishes crisp and clean on the palate.

The mouth feel is a smooth, creamy wow.  Very pleasant; much like a milk stout in texture.

I'm not a huge fan of spiced beer.  I find that many are simply spices with an alcohol carrier in the form of beer.  In 121212, however, there are so many other flavors to add contrast and balance that I almost forgot I was drinking a spiced beer.  It all works out quite nicely.

This is my first Vertical Epic and I rue not having experienced any of the others.

Overall - awesomeness!  Good job Stone!

Visit Stone Brewing's website for more information about their many great beers or check them out on Facebook

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Robert Johnson's Hellhound on My Ale

Ah, another day another Dogfish Head.  Life is good.

Today I am sharing a Robert Johnson's Hellhound on my Ale brewed by Dogfish Head with my hubby.  

This brew is so named after blues master Robert Johnson who died at the remarkably young age of 27; though not before making his mark on music forever.  As legend goes, sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads at midnight in exchange for fame and fortune. Unfortunately for poor Robert, his fame came after his death and never reaped the rewards. 

Dogfish Head brewed this beer to "get the hellhounds off his trail and into this finely-crafted ale".

Hellhound on my Ale (10% ABV) pours a rich, hazy reddish gold with a great big fluffy head.  The huge citrussy aroma get your mouthwatering and ready for the wonderful hoppy assault to follow.

My first reaction when I took a sip was - wow, that's a lot of little bubbles; very playful like music on my tongue.   

The first taste is bready and malty sweet followed by lots of lemon and the bitterness of lemon peel.  With my taste-buds trying to come to grips with all of that wonderful flavor, next came the big bite of citrus hops.  Mmm, yeah.

There is a definite boozy quality that is tasted and felt.  The finish is a lingering bitterness that is quite pleasant.   Hellhound on my Ale is a beer that wants to be drunk and I happily complied . . . very refreshing and delicious but not a slammer-backer.  

This is a big beer with near overloads of flavor.  But it all works out masterfully.  I loved this brew.  

Overall - excellent.

Visit Dogfish Head at their website  or on Facebook 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Three Six Points

I recently wrote a piece about my theory on why beer that is brewed in Brooklyn leaves an odd aftertaste - read here.

Six Point beer,  which is brewed in Brooklyn, is no exception. Except that this odd left over taste is less obvious in their darker beers.  Generally speaking, their beers are pretty good and they very often get rave reviews so I keep going back to try new ones.  But I still get that off taste.

Not to belabor the point or bludgeon a dead horse,  in the following reviews for three different Six Point beers I will not mention it.  However, you may just assume that the off taste is there, because it is.

The Crisp (5.4% ABV) is my favorite Six Point thus far.  Formerly known as Sehr (German for "very) Crisp, it is a pilsner style beer.  It pours a bright honey yellow.  It bubbles up a big airy head that leaves behind layers of lovely lacing.  The Crisp has a nice hoppiness, as is expected, that is meadowlike - grassy, earthy.  What I didn't expect was how malty it was. The maltiness is not particularly sweet but kind of bready.  It's not overpowering, by any means, but it's clearly there and supports the hops quite nicely.  The hops linger at the back of the tongue.  Overall - good.

Brownstone (6% ABV) pours a cloudy caramel color with a rootbeer like head that dissipates quickly.  The aroma is like a malted chocolate cookie.  The taste is reminiscent of a Russian Imperial Stout - malt, coffee and chocolate.  Malty sweetness is strong throughout but finishes with a nice hoppy bite on the tail end.  It's got a medium mouth feel with a lot of effervescence.  A nice balance of sweet and bitter.  Overall - good.

Diesel (6.3% ABV) pours a very dark reddish brown with a thick tan head that leaves behind some impressive lacing.  The aroma is piney hops with cocoa and coffee notes.  The taste is very similar to a black IPA but with a stoutlike coffee and chocolate quality.  The malty sweetness comes through first and then transitions into a nice bitter hoppiness.  The combination of coffee and dark chocolate combined with the earthiness of the hops makes for an interesting balance of flavors.  The mouthfeel is thinner than I'd expect from a stout but exactly what I expect from a black IPA.  Good drinkability.  Overall - very good.

For more information about their different beers check out Six Point's website or visit them on Facebook.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier

Another Wings and Beer night, another new-to-me brew.  This week the guest tap at our favorite place for hot wings and cold beer - Porky's Cafe in Shelton, CT - was featuring Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier brewed by Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan.  Try to say that three times fast!

Founded in 1040, Weihenstephan is the world's oldest continuously operating brewery.  Practice makes perfect?  It is interesting to note that they are also the co-brewer, in conjunction with Samuel Adams, of Infinium.

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier (5.40% ABV) is a German Hefeweizen. It is a top fermented, unfiltered, bottle conditioned wheat beer.  

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier is a hazy golden color.  If you are drinking it from a bottle, there will be a layer of  yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle.  Mmm, that's good stuff. 

As it was presented to me, the head was thin and fuzzy.  The aroma is of bread, wheat and lemon.

The first thing you taste is the wheat and a breadiness that is smelled more than tasted.  This is accompanied by a light fruitiness - banana and citrus - that is only mildly sweet.  There is a spice note that I couldn't quite put my finger on.  I was initially thinking coriander but in retrospect I believe what I was tasting clove.  

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier is a smooth, easy drinking beer.  It finishes clean without a trace of bitterness.  

I imagine this beer would be execptionally refreshing on a hot summer day, but I think it makes a good all-around, anytime beer.  It's very nice and excellent overall.

I guess practice does make perfect!  Well done!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dogfish Head Red & White

I've not yet come across a Dogfish Head beer I didn't like. Limited release Red & White, a Belgian style witbier,  is just bursting with wheat flavor. 

I don't love this one, but I liked it.  If you're a fan of wheat beer then you're going to love this one.  

Red & White (10% ABV) pours a rich honey gold that seems to have a light of it's own.  In the glass, it is dense and cloudy in appearance with a thick white head that dissipates quickly leaving behind lovely lacing.  The aroma is wheat with citrus, caramel malt and spice.  

There's a lot going on with the flavor profile of this beer.  Personally, I think the wheat is a bit much but there's more to it than just that.   Red & White is brewed with Pinot Noir juice;  I can't say that I got much of that.  What I tasted was predominantly wheat accompanied by orange and other citrus flavors.   There's malty sweetness in the middle that lingers.  The coriander is hinted at on the back end with a bitter finish that melds with the persistent malt presence.  

The mouth feel is full and rich but there's tons of bubble action going on, as well.  There is also a alcohol taste and feel throughout.

Red & White is not for the casual beer drinker.  It would be most appreciated by someone who likes a bold beer with tons of character - and who loves witbier.

Overall, very good.

Visit Dogfish Head at their website  or on Facebook 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

How is the price of beer determined at a bar?

Checking my Twitter feed I noticed someone had posed a curious question.  A question I had never really considered . . . how is the price of beer determined at a bar?

So, I did some poking around.  It turns out that the pricing is pretty much arbitrary.  As best as I can determine, it's whatever the bar owner wants to charge.  Its mostly like determined on what they think the patrons are willing to pay.

For example, there is a sports bar in Washington D.C. that discounts some of the beer on their menu according to a pro batter's average on a given day.  For example, if his average is .212 then the beer will cost $2.12 for the beer selected for this special.  Mind you, the beer usually chosen for this discounted price are stuff like Pabst Blue Ribbon and Miller Light.

Hubby and I go to the same bar every week for hot wings and cold beer.  Typically, we start out with by sharing a pitcher of, dare I say, Bud Light (hey, one must drink water sometimes, right?).  And then finish off with one of the craft brews on their rotating tap (kind of like having dessert).  I can pay as much or more for a pint or less of that craft beer - say Dogfish Head Olde School or Lagunitas Sucks - as I do for a whole pitcher of that watered down macro brew.  

However, I am willing to pay that price just to try a new-to-me beer or to try a beer I've already have to see how it tastes on tap as opposed to the bottle.  Heck, I've paid $9 for a 4 ounce glass of 120 Minute just to see how it tastes on tap.

Now, if I or any other customer refused to pay such stupid prices for a beer then it certainly would be stupid of the barkeep to charge those prices if his clientele wouldn't pay it.  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A couple of Bastards

When I think bastard I think of my husband.  Not my current husband, of course!  He's just big lump of sugar . . . yes, I said sugar.   Actually, the bastard I prefer to think of is the bastards from Stone Brewing.  And, I must say, I haven't met a bastard I haven't liked - beerwise, that is.

The other night I sat down to share a couple bastards with my hubby.  We started out with Arrogant Bastard.  The label says that I'm not worthy, but I have enough confidence in myself to know that I am certainly worthy enough to drink this beer. The label goes on to say,  "You probably won't like it.  It is doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this fine quality and depth."  Oh yeah?  Well, who do you think you are, you silly beer.  You are, indeed, arrogant.  

So I popped the cap off the bottle and sent it sailing across the room.   Arrogant Bastard is an American Strong Ale (7.2% ABV).  I poured the beer into my finest glassware - a mason jar.  It pours a rich amber color and builds a fluffy, thick head that you might as well drink through because it's going to take it's good ol' time dissipating.  The aroma is a of malt and piney hops.  The flavor is an explosion.  A controlled explosion.  At first there is a caramel maltiness with a touch of spice that progresses into a hoppy bite.  It finishes a little sweet with a lingering bitterness on the back of the tongue.   There is so much flavor that you almost want to chew it.  This is a great beer, certainly a sipper and definitely not sessionable.  Overall - excellent!

One bastard down, one more to go.

Next up with Double Bastard.  This is also an American Strong Ale, only more so, coming in at 10.5% ABV.  Like it's suppositious little brother, Double Bastard is a reddish-brown with a dense rootbeer-like head.  The aroma is a mouthwatering combination of sweet dried fruits and tangy hops.  The flavors evolve on the tongue starting with an interesting combination sweet caramel and dark coffee notes.  All this maltiness is backed up by grapefruit and piney hops.  It finishes crisp and bitter.  It goes down smooth but you can feel the alcohol burn.  This is a BIG beer, no doubt about it.  “Ye shall know the Bastard, and the Bastard shall set you free.”  I did and I liked it!  Overall - excellent.

Visit Stone Brewing's website for more information about their many great beers or check them out on Facebook

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Beer from Brooklyn

It's a beautiful thing when the guy from my beer store sends me a text message letting me know what latest and greatest beers have arrived in the store.  It’s always something good since he knows what I like and what I normally buy.  So when I received a message from him the other day letting me know that something I've been waiting for had come in, I rushed right over there when I got out of work.

Often there are distributors or other representatives set up near the front door offering samples in an effort to sell you there wares.  This day it was Brooklyn.

I make no bones about the fact that I am not a fan of beer that comes from Brooklyn - the place not the brewery. There’s just something about it that I don't like; but more on that later.

The man manning the kiosk offering samples asked if I wanted a sample. I simply replied "No" and walked right by him and went about my beer shopping business.

Having met up with my beer guy and made my acquisitions, I continued to browse for anything else that my strike my fancy. My travels took me back to the front of the store where the seasonals were on display.  And the Brooklyn sample guy. 

I walked by pushing my cart load of beers in front of me. As I passed him something occurred to me so I put the brakes on and backed up.

I asked the guy, "Do you work for the brewery or are you with a distributor?"

"I'm with the brewery, actually", he responded.

"Ah," I said. "I don't like your beer and let me tell you why."  Yeah, I'm obnoxious like that. 

I suspect the guy inwardly groaned and rolled his eyes but he was quite professional and remarkably self disciplined.

I  proceeded to explain. "There is a specific aftertaste in beers that comes from Brooklyn that I don't like.  This aftertaste is not exclusive to beer brewed at Brooklyn Brewery. I’ve detected a similar if not the exact same exact flavor from beers that come from Six Point Brewery, as well.  So, I have deduced that the most probable common element associated with both of your breweries is most likely the water." Yep, I talk all fancy like that.

He agreed that the water is the most common element in their beer.  But, then went on to add, "the water in Brooklyn is very good water."

"Mmm." I replied. "I've noticed that this strange lingering aftertaste on the back of the tongue.  It is more pronounced in the lighter beer and far less noticeable in the darker beers like the dark chocolate stout.  However, even with the darker beers, it’s still present."

He was handing out samples of their Winter Ale, which is a Scottish Style copper ale, and the dark chocolate stout and asked if I’d like to try either of those.  I’ve had the Black Chocolate Stout, which is pretty good if you can ignore the weird aftertaste thing, so I opted to try the winter beer.  Like most of Brooklyn Brewery’s beers, it was tasty going down but then it there it was - that taste.

Well, even though the guy listened intently to what I was saying, he just didn't get was I was trying to explain.  He wasn't buying what I was selling so, therefore, I want going to buy what he was selling. So, I went on to buy a bomber of Rogue Double Chocolate Stout instead - delicious.

Back to the water . . .

If you’ve ever had one then you know that the best bagels in the world are made in New York City.  It's pretty much established that it is the NYC water that makes the bagels so distinctive.  So, much so that someone invented a proprietary water filtration system that "Brooklynizes" water from any source by stripping it of its native properties and infusing it with chemicals and minerals found in New York City water.  Thereby, being able to recreate the wonder of New York City style bagels anywhere.  And, people are paying good money for this!

My opinion is that the element that makes Brooklyn bagels so uniquely awesome makes Brooklyn beer distinctly off.

That's all I'm saying. And I think my theory holds water - quite literally.

Coincidentally, as I was writing this piece, my husband directed me to an article about Brooklyn Brewery opening a brewery/restaurant in Stockholm in the coming year.  I wonder how the Brooklyn beer brewed in Sweden will taste.  Will they have specialized equipment in place to "Brooklynize" the water?  Curious.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fresh from the west coast . . . I can't wait to bust into this stuff!

Milly’s Tavern - Manchester, NH

This past weekend I was in Manchester, New Hampshire - AKA Manch-vegas because, just like its namesake, whatever happens there stays there - for an annual meet-up with fellow bloggers and blog groupies. 

While in town, since it was nearby, I got the opportunity to swing by Milly’s Tavern to sample of their delectable beers.

The tavern is located below ground level of an old factory building.  The brewery is Manchester’s only micro brewery. 

As I hunkered down bright and early (11 AM) on a Sunday morning to start sampling beer I was greeted by Olivia, one of the beertenders serving the bar.

With beer menu in hand, I began perusing the rather impressive list of brews available on tap.   It is interesting to note that, despite being a full service bar and restaurant, the only beer available at Milly’s is the beer they make on-site.  You can’t order a Miller, or a Coors, or a Bud in this place.  I think that’s awesome!  I cannot tell you how absurd I think it is when someone walks into a brewpub that makes wonderful and unique beers only to order something they can pick up at just about any corner store and probably have stocked in their fridge at home.

I asked to order a sampler.  I made my selections - very difficult with so many appealing choices to be had - and was delivered a flight of sample glasses filled with a colorful array of brews.

Mt. Uncanoonuc Cream Ale (4.3% ABV) is a slightly hazy straw color.  The aroma is a bit wheaty with hints of lemon and the twang of hops.  As the name would suggest, this beer has a creamy, yet lightly bubbly, mouth feel.  Light and refreshing, Mt. Uncanoonuc is right in line with the aroma.  I was immediately stuck by a mellow wheat flavor accompanied by a little lemon.  It finishes with a mellow but lingering bitterness.  Overall . . . very good.

Hopilicious American Pale Ale (6.3% ABV) is a clear amber with a thin bubbly head.  I caught a mild hoppy aroma.  What I got in the flavor was a lot of citrus hops.  It wasn’t overly bitter, just a nice drinkable beer that would be good for anyone who enjoys the magic of hops.  The mouth feel is smooth and bubbly . . . very nice.  It finishes clean with the tang of hoppy bitterness. Overall . . . very good.

Burton Ale (4.1% ABV) is a deep, rich red and looks very pretty in the glass.  I got a whiff of bourbon in the aroma that also came through on the palate.  I’m not sure where that comes from considering the beer type but that’s what I tasted.  It starts out light and finishes mildly bitter.  Overall . . . extra good.  **One of my favorites.

Chocolate Porter (5.9% ABV) is all chocolate all the way around.  It looks, smells and tastes just as it is described . . . chocolate.  But that’s not all!  There is a definite smokiness that accompanies and adds character this terrific porter.  It’s bubbly on the tongue and has a crisp finish.  Overall . . . very good!

Coffee Espresso Stout (3.7% ABV) is surprising low in alcohol content but it’s not lacking in flavor.  It is black coffee in color with mahogany highlights.  The aroma is an eye-opening coffee, coffee, coffee.  It’s creamy yet bubbly and loaded with wonderful coffee flavor.  They did a really nice job with this one.  If you love coffee and beer this one is a must try.  Overall . . . very good!

Milly’s Oatmeal Stout (4.9% ABV) is dark and rich in appearance with an immensely thick, luxurious head.   The mouth feel is incredibly creamy and smooth.  The aroma . . . I got a good whiff because I accidentally inhaled some of the foam . . . is just like an oatmeal cookie.  The taste like drinking a beer-i-licious oatmeal cookie.  No kidding . . . it was SO good. Overall . . . excellent.  **One of my favorites.

After drinking all that - yes, I had some help - I wasn’t done.  I’d enjoyed every single beer and I wanted more.  So, what’s a girl to do?  Order another flight of samples!  What else!  Olivia was more than happy to oblige.  (I wanted a Café Razz, which they have as their cask beer, but it wasn’t available.  So, Olivia recommended Manchester Mild, so that I what I started with.)

Manchester Mild (3.7% ABV) is clear and the color of honey.  The aroma . . . berries?  The mouthfeel is very bubble and refreshing.  The taste is slightly sweet and reminiscent of sour cherries followed by malty caramel.  Very crisp, clean finish.  This is one of those beers you could drink all day long and enjoy every glass . . . and not get totally crocked.  Overall . . . very good.

Amoskeag Harvest Ale (4.8% ABV) is the only beer I found disappointing.  That’s not to say it’s a bad beer because it wasn’t, it just wasn’t what I expected it to be.  It was a clear, lemony color.  The aroma was mildly spicy . . . maybe cinnamon or nutmeg.  It starts off light and clean with a bit of mellow spice in the middle.  It finishes lightly bitter.  The disappointment was in that I expect a harvest ale to be deeper in color, spicier, richer.  This was light and refreshing and good, just not what I had anticipated when I ordered it.  Overall . . . good.

Tasha’s Red Tail Ale (4.8%) was, by far, my favorite beer!  It is a lovely amber color.  The aroma . . . holy cow . . . butterscotch!  The taste . . . butterscotch!  Despite that, it is not sicky sweet.  It’s perfectly balanced with sweetness and bitterness and exceptionally drinkable.  This sample was hard to share and, I dare say, a fight nearly erupted over who would get more of the sample . . . my glasses even flew off my head as a greedily slammed back the last drop!  Overall . . . excellent.  **my absolute favorite.

New Hampshire Honey Brown (4.3% ABV) is a rich, caramel colored beer.  The aroma had hints of apple and cinnamon.  The flavor was a bit of spice and caramel.  The sweetness lingers on the tongue and it finishes smooth.  Overall . . . very good.

Sour Brown Ale (3.7% ABV) I’m not a huge fan of brown ales or sours but this one surprised me.  It was a cloudy brown with absolutely no head . . . whether it had diminished while I was drinking other samples, I can’t say.  The aroma was tea and sour cherries.  The taste was initially lemon iced tea followed by sour cherries.  It was tart with a little sweetness to back it up . . . or maybe other way around because it finished on a sour note.  Either way, this is a very interesting beer that I liked a lot.  Overall . . . excellent.  **One of my favorites.

John Stark Porter (5.4% ABV)  Olivia says this is her favorite and I can see why.  This porter is black with amber highlights and a thin head.  The aroma is a smoky coffee.  The taste was all the things I like in a porter all wrapped up in a tasty little package . . . coffee, smoke, dark chocolate and vanilla.  Really quite good and very drinkable.  Overall . . . very good.

Even after all that I wasn’t quite done.  There was one beer that was taunting me even though I’m not a huge enthusiast of the style.  According to Milly’s it’s their most famous and most popular beer and therefore was worth a go.

Pumpkin Ale (5% ABV) I don’t like much of anything pumpkinish but I was willing to take a risk.  And I’m so glad I did.  Olivia started out by rimming the glass with a cinnamon/sugar mixture . . . mmm, so far so good . . . before filling the glass.   This beer is a clear golden color with a thin head.  The aromas is pumpkin pie.  The flavor is also reminiscent of pumpkin pie but it’s mild and not overpowering.  This is a light, drinkable beer and I’m glad I tried it.  **One of my favorites.

So, to break down my favorites, I liked the following beers best in this order . . .
Tasha’s Red Tail Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Burton’s Ale, Pumpkin Ale and Sour Brown Ale. 

After drinking my share of 13 samples, I was really happy that I made the stop. Keep in mind, even after 13 samples of Milly’s beer I still hadn’t had a sample of every one of their brews.  I guess I’ll have to return another day.

Might I add that we also ordered garlic Buffalo wings and onion rings.  Both were really, really good!  If these appetizers are any indication, I’m willing to bet the rest of their menu rocks!

It is worth noting that despite the fact that Milly’s has 19 beers on tap none of them are really BIG beers.  I find this interesting because the trend seems to be going that way for craft brewers . . . who can make the biggest, most extreme beer.  Milly’s seems to have a beer for every palate and something for everyone despite their beer preference.  Again, they don’t serve watered-down macro brews here . . . only their own creations.

One final comment is on the bathroom.  Yes, I must.  The ladies room - and, according to Olivia, only the ladies room has theses particular features (I didn’t verify) - has fun beer related sayings all over the walls and stalls to keep the women distracted while doing what women do in the bathroom.  And what that is I’m not saying.

Disclaimer:  due to some congestion, my sniffer wasn’t working to full capacity so I’m sure I wasn’t catching all the wonderful smells the beers had to offer.  So, it is quite possible my olfactory assessments are off slightly.

Visit Milly’s Tavern at  500 Commercial Street in Manchester, New Hampshire.  Check out their website or  Facebook.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Insanely Bad Elf and Lump of Coal

The holidays are passed . . . thank the sweet goddess of brewskies . . . and now as we bust into those holiday brews that filled our stockings and were packed into boxes stuffed with tissue paper and wrapped in  floofy ribbons we have to wonder . . .  are these beers with the clever names and fun labels really any good?  Are they all show and no action? Well?  Are they?

I admit I fall prey to those bottles so craftily displayed at the check out counter and snatch them up as stocking stuffers for my hubby.  They are practically irresistible with names like Santa's Butt and Very Bad Elf.

So, I cracked open a couple of these naughty fellows to see if the awesome packaging translated into a great beer.

I started out with Insanely Bad Elf (11.2% ABV) brewed by Ridgeway Brewing.   The label depicts a drooling elf clad in a straight jacket surrounded by holiday accouterments.  Cute. I'd also like to point out that it has an adorable Santa on the cap.

This beer is an Imperial Red Ale.  It pours a nice amber color with a thin off-white head.  The aroma is malty sweet.  And the beer is that indeed.  More like a mild barley wine than a red ale.  Malt, dried fruit and some spice come through but over all it's rather flat tasting . . . I'm not talking about the mouth feel, there was plenty of fuzz.  There is a definite alcohol burn going down.  I'd say this beer is good . . . if not a touch harsh.  There's nothing remarkable about Insanely Bad Elf.  Overall, it's an average and drinkable brew but nothing special.  Get it for the fun of it but . . . 

Next up was Lump of Coal (8% ABV) brewed by Ridgeway Brewing.   A Dark Holiday Stout stating quite clearly on the label that it's "much more than you deserve for Xmas this year".  Again . . . cute Santa on the capper.

It pour a rich, dark red with a frothy coffee-n-cream colored head.  Based on the aroma alone I was expecting much more from this beer than the other . . .
espresso, cocoa and spice.  Mmmm . . . 

The taste?  Disappointing . . . all the flavors from the smell come through, but weakly.  It starts out a little sweet and finishes a little bitter.  And, I expected more spice for a holiday ale. This is a light tasting beer with average carbonation.  

Generally speaking, this is decent beer but nothing spectacular.  "Much more than you deserve for Xmas this year"?  I don't know.  I think was better than that . . . but maybe I did deserve a lump of coal.  Again, buy it for the novelty but don't expect to be wowed.

So, there you have it . . . my brutally honest review.  And, yes, I expect that I will compulsively buy another couple of this type of beer next year . . . they are awfully cute and fun!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Ninkasi - Goddess of Beer

I know it will come as a shocker but I am not the goddess of beer.  

However, there was once such a goddess.  Born of clean, fresh water, Ninkasi  . . . who's name means ‘the lady who fills the mouth’ . . . was worshiped as the goddess of beer and alcohol in ancient Sumaria some 6000 thousand years ago . . . give or take a few hundred years . . . to  "satisfy the desire" and "sate the heart."

She fulfilled prayers by brewing up a monster batch of beer every day.  That's a goddess who knows how to keep her worshipers happy and coming back for more.  Smart lady, that one!

Clay tablets with ancient Sumarian writings that sang the praises of this diety of ale were translated in the 1800's.  “A hymn to Ninkasi” was, in fact, not much more than a recipe for brewing up this nectar of the gods.  It waxes poetic about combining bappir  . . . twice-baked barley bread that was used in beer brewing as a source of yeast . . . with malted and soaked grains until the liquid is fermented and then filtered into a vessel. 

A hymn to Ninkasi - roughly translated

Given birth by the flowing water ......, tenderly cared for by Ninhursaja! 

Ninkasi, having founded your town upon wax, she completed its great walls for you.

Ninkasi, your father is Enki, the lord Nudimmud, and your mother is Ninti, the queen of the abzu.

Ninkasi, it is you who handle the ...... and dough with a big shovel, mixing, in a pit, the beerbread with sweet aromatics.

Ninkasi, it is you who bake the beerbread in the big oven, and put in order the piles of hulled grain.

Ninkasi, it is you who water the earth-covered malt; the noble dogs guard it even from the potentates (?).

Ninkasi, it is you who soak the malt in a jar; the waves rise, the waves fall.

Ninkasi, it is you who spread the cooked mash on large reed mats; coolness overcomes .......

Ninkasi, it is you who hold with both hands the great sweetwort, brewing it with honey and wine.

Ninkasi, you place the fermenting vat, which makes a pleasant sound, appropriately on top of a large collector vat.

Ninkasi, it is you who pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat; it is like the onrush of the Tigris and the Euphrates.

Ahh . . . Ninkasi . . . I worship you often and well.  I feel your blessings flow into my body and enchant me.  You fill me with a sense of deep satisfaction and bring me restful sleep.  I love you . . . oh my sweet goddess . . . how I adore you.  Praise Ninkasi!!!