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Beer Review #139 Spaten Oktoberfest

Is it weird that I didn’t have a single Spaten branded beer when I was in Germany? That reminds me, I need to get the rest of my Europe trip post on that site. In any case, Oktoberfest is an annual beer festival held in Munich each year and generally lasts for 16-18 days. It just started this last Saturday and I thought it appropriate to review an Oktoberfest today.

Spaten’s version of an Oktoberfest pours a rich amber color and has a thin off-white head. It wasn’t until the beer had emptied from the bottle that I realized that the bottle was actually green. My first thought was,  “bummer, I hope the sun didn’t get to it.” The nose was nice and malty with mixes of bread. There was a slight hop bump which was very nice followed by some slight lager sulfur.

On the taste I really got some nice strong caramel flavors. The bready notes promised in the smell could be found as well. There was a small hop bite on the end, but nothing too terrible. I forgot how balanced an accurate Oktoberfest is supposed to be. There was a bit of sun damage which I will call “Euro-skunk” since I have tasted it in many ill-cared for European lagers.

Overall I liked this one. I was happy to try a beer that comes from the home of Oktoberfest. The brewery that brews this beer, Spaten-Brau, is actually located in Munich, Germany. I found this one exceptionally balanced, even with a bit of sun damage. At 5.9% it makes me really want to go back to Germany and sit in a beer garden with a liter glass and relax the day away. (more…)

Beer Review #118 Espresso Amber Ale

When I reviewed Pipeline Porter a few weeks ago I talked about how much I liked a coffee flavor/odor in beer while I don’t actually drink coffee as a normal drink. I first had Espresso Amber Ale when I was visiting Max’s Taphouse in Fell’s Point, which is a “hip” area in Baltimore. My wife actually ordered it and loved it. I saw this beer at my local beer store not soon after our trip to Max’s Taphouse and bought a four pack of it. This beer comes from Peak Organic Brewing Company of Portland, Maine. I’ve reviewed several other of their beers and enjoyed them all. This, however, is my first non-seasonal brew of theirs.

This amber ale pours a nice amber color and is perfectly clear. It has a thin, off-white head to accompany the liquid. The nose is super roasty coffee. I didn’t get any malt or hops, just coffee. Like the Pipeline Porter, this coffee is very fresh and smells fantastic.

On the first taste I got a very slight sweetness on the front, but coffee dominates everything else. I really dig this beer. As a homebrewer I am still scratching my head on how they were able to get such a strong coffee flavor without giving it a dark color. This beer isn’t heavy either, like a coffee stout would be. It fits into the medium mouthfeel neighborhood and is something super unique. One other note with this beer, it is made with locally roasted fair trade coffee and comes in at 6.8% ABV. If you see this beer try it out, it is something totally different in a beer market that does not have a lot of standout unique ideas. (more…)

Beer Review #94 Gearys’ Winter Ale

I first had a D.L. Geary Brewing Company beer when my at the time girlfriend and I were doing a road trip through the northeast. The at the time girlfriend turned into my wife and we still enjoy a good Geary Brewing Company beer from time to time. Our first ale from this company was in Portland, Maine, home of Geary and we had a few others during out trip though the various states of the northeast. I remember them being straightforward beers that delivered on what they promised.

Geary’s Winter Ale was something that I hadn’t had a chance to try on our road trip and I jumped a the chance to try it when I saw it at my local beer store. It pours a deep amber color and comes with a wispy tan head. It is classified as an English IPA, which I though a bit odd, but strangely fitting for a winter beer. The nose didn’t present itself as an IPA, rather as a malty, complex ale. It had some hints of coffee along with some wonderful dried fruit aromas. I didn’t get any noticeable hops from the nose.

On the first taste I was shocked at how much this beer tasted like toffee. I’ve never had a beer that tasted like toffee as much as this beer did. There was some coffee mixed in there as well and it all combined to make a wonderfully balanced ale. I found it to be very enjoyable. My only complaint is that it is a bit on the rich side, so I couldn’t drink a ton of these without having something to breakup the toffee. It comes in at 6.00% ABV so it isn’t overpowering on the alcohol scale. Try it out if you see it, especially if you like malty, sweet beers. (more…)

Beer Review #81 Shiner Holiday Cheer

I made my first post about Shiner almost two years ago to the day. Shiner is one of the big Texas beers and at the time I was getting ready to move to Texas. Since that time, I’ve lived in Texas, and come back east and now live in Delaware. Surprisingly I can get this beer in Delaware. Shiner is brewed by the Spoetzl Brewery out of Shiner, Texas. On my last post about Shiner beer Lee from I Love Beer suggested that I try their Holiday Cheer. So I did.

Shiner Holiday Cheer pours a burnt amber color with a light tan head that quick fades back into the ale. It pours crystal clear as well. The nose is pretty interesting. The bottle says that it is an “ale brewed with peaches and pecans and with natural flavor and caramel color.” That’s a lot of “ands’.” The nose is peachy for sure. I didn’t really get anything else other than peach. The peach is super bright and vibrant. Most “fruit” beers don’t offer fresh smells, this one does. It also smelled like a fruit gum.

The taste doesn’t have a lot upfront. Peaches kick in during the middle part of the taste and continue through the rest of the beer. There is some nice biscuit in there as well. It has some slight nut character to it as well. I like it. The mouthfeel is light to watery, but it fits this beer nicely. It is a drinkable beer but I always fall into a trap with beers with fruit in them. The trap is that they are usually sweet and get undrinkable quickly. For my tastes, one glass was enough. It was easy enough drinking for more, but the sweetness would get to me. The side benefit is that I am going to be burping peaches for the rest of the day. Try it if you want something unique and easy drinking. (more…)

Beer Review #79 First Snow Ale

I am way behind on beer reviews, in fact, I had to save some of the fall beers for next year since it seems a bit silly to be posting pumpkin beers at this point in the year. I am committed to knocking out all of the winter beers before the winter actaully ends this year. On my last trip to State Line Liquors I picked up a hoard of winter beers. In fact I grabbed every winter beer I could find with the exception of some pricey 750 ml Belgian bottles.  First Snow Ale by RJ Rockers Brewing Company was one of the last beers I saw.

This beer is brewed in Spartanburg, South Carolina and I’ve never heard of the brewery before so I was eager/leery of trying it. It seems fitting to post this tonight as snow is falling outside of my window. This winter offering pours a nice amber color and is accompanied by a fluffy, off-white head.  It is crystal clear as I would of expected. The label says that honey and spices are used in the brewing of this beer. I noticed some honey sweetness on the nose, but no spices. I did get some slight grapefruit from the hops.

On the first taste I was surprised by the complexity of the beer. The spices tingle the tongue and the flavor is not nearly as hoppy as the nose suggests. There was also some nice bread notes to accompany the overall flavor. I was very happy with this purchase. First Snow Ale comes in at 6% ABV so it doesn’t rock your socks off, but it is a solid beer. I could see myself drinking this year round. It was refreshing and well balanced. I would recommend this beer to you if you see it. (more…)