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Beer Review #77 Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale

How can you not grab a beer named Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale? Perhaps that was the same thought that River Horse Brewing Company out of Lambertville, NJ had as well. To make it better, they made a hippopotamus out of pumpkins for the logo. I love it, creativity at its best. I’ve enjoyed a fair number of other River Horse beers with my favorite being their Tripel Horse.

This pumpkin ale pours a cloudy amber color with a thin, off-white head. I should mention that this beer is part of their brewers reserve and is batch 006 to be exact. On the nose I found a lot of pumpkin pie notes. There was a bit of brown sugar and heat in there as well. For a beer that comes in at 9% ABV, the heat wasn’t overwhelming. Again, I think it gets broken up by the spices a bit. The label says that it is “brewed with pumpkin puree and spices.”

On the first taste of Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale I noticed the heat, and a lot of it. The malt isn’t very prevalent and the spices are there in force.  Think of a normal pumpkin beer and double the spices and you get this beer. They are really out of balance with the rest of the beer. It does have a surprisingly nice aftertaste. This beer is also thick, chewy even.

I found this beer wanting to be really good, but it isn’t there yet. It isn’t balanced enough and the spices and heat come out a bit too much for my liking. I am wondering if I would of waited a few months for the heat to dissipate and the spices to lose their strength if this would of been better. I think the brewers are onto a good recipe, it just needs some tweaking. Maybe lowering the ABV down a bit and thinning the mash out would help, along with backing off of the spices. It has some good reviews on the major beer review sites but it wasn’t for me. Maybe you would like it better. (more…)

Beer Review #67 Festbier

It’s the time of year when the fall beers are rolling out. I have about a dozen pumpkin, Oktoberfest, and fall style beer lined up so far, and that’s just from one trip to the beer store. Today’s beer is Festbier from Victory Brewing Company. Festbier is actually not a seasonal brew anymore, Victory brews this year round but it can only be found in bottles September through November.

Victory describes the beer as “a rick amber lager in the tradition of Oktoberfest.” They also brew this beer with a decoction mash, which basically means they take some of the wort out of the mash tun, boil it, and then throw it back into the mash tun. By doing the brewing method, you get a very strong malt component added to the beer.

Festbier pours a brilliant amber color and is perfectly clear. The pours with a thin white head that quickly fades to nothingness. The nose is very malty, which is to be expected as I mentioned earlier. There are some bread components in there as well. I didn’t notice any hops or ABV on this beer which isn’t super surprising.

On the first tasting you really get a sense of the malt component. The beer has a very nice body. Festbier is a slightly sweet beer, which, with all of that malt, should not come as a big surprise. There is a nice slight hop bite towards the end, but it is very approachable. I love beers that have a nice bread aftertaste, and Festbier delivers.

Overall I really enjoyed this beer. It comes in at 5.8% ABV so you don’t have to plan an afternoon around drinking this beer. It has a nice malty body and not a lot of hops. It should be a dream for a new comer to the craft beer world but is a solid choice for the seasoned expert. I enjoyed every drop and I am going to be getting another six pack soon. I can’t wait to have my patio door open and enjoy a crisp fall night while sipping this and watching my Phillies play in October. (more…)

Beer Review #60 Snake Dog IPA

We have reached the end of the week of Flying Dog. There have been a great number of different beers tried (5 to be exact) and I think that they were all pretty solid. Snake Dog IPA is as solid as the others. It comes in as the biggest beer of the bunch at 7.1% ABV and 60 IBUs. This beer is also dry hopped with Columbus hops. Exciting.

The beer pours an orange amber color and is perfectly clear. There is a large off-white head to goes along with the pour. The nose is full of hops. Go figure, a IPA that smells hoppy. These hops are very bright like the pale ale, it might do due to the fact that both beers are dry hopped, but I really have no idea.  These particular hops give off a piney smell more than anything else.There is some malt in there, along with some caramel, but the hops really dominate the nose.

On first tasting I was pretty happy with the malt backbone in the beer. It was strong enough to support the hop that dominates the beer itself. There are some caramel and bread notes, but you more just get the hop than most other things. The hops have a really wonderful mix of pine and citrus. Some beers really blow you away on the piney hops, which I really don’t care for, but Snake Dog IPA was a nice mix of both varieties of hop flavors. As far as balance goes, this one is a bit out of balance and learns more towards the hop end of things. For an IPA that is fine, and can almost be expected.

The mouthfeel is medium and creamy. I think this beer is very drinkable. It isn’t my style of beer as I am not a huge hop head but the beer has enough other features to offer that it was enjoyable. I have had better IPAs but just like the rest of Flying Dog’s beers it is a solid example of a style of beer. If you are looking for a good tasting of an IPA, this beer is for you. (more…)

Beer Review #58 Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale

Day three of our week of Flying Dog and today we bring you Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale. There are a lot of Pale Ales out there today and the take on them can be very vaired. Depending on how the brewer designs the beer, it can be malty with slight hops or less malty with a fair bit of hops. Doggie Style does a nice job of giving a good malt body while also delivering on the hops. The hop component might be punched up a bit because of the fact that they dry hop this beer with “buckets full of Cascades for an unrivaled hop flavor and aroma.”

Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale pours a nice amber color and is perfectly clear. It also comes with a large off-white head. The nose of the beer hits you with hops. And they are bright hops. When I say bright hops I am referring to the fact that they smell fresh and clean. Often when hops age they have a staler odor to them and don’t really hit your nostrils. Bright hops on the other had have an unrivaled smell and you can feel the difference in your nose. Behind the bight hops is some slight malt.

On my first taste I was surprised about how much malt I could get. There was a nice mix of caramel in there as well. Soon after was the hops. The nice thing about this pale ale is that the hops are there, but do not overwhelm the beer. It is such a well balanced beer. The sweetness of the malt and the dryness/bitterness that comes from the hops mix and do a wonderful job of equalizing each other while not canceling each other out. I also noticed an ever so small hint of so heat (alcohol) in there.

The mouthfeel is light to medium and has good carbonation. Overall I would say this is an extremely drinkable beer. I enjoyed it a lot. It comes in at 5.5% ABV and rocks 35 IBUs. I generally tend to lean away from pale ales as the majority of them I have had recently lose all sense of balance and just overdue it with the hops. Not Doggie Style, it is wonderfully balanced. I could drink this in the fall, spring, or summer. If you are looking for a great example of a Pale Ale this is a beer for you. (more…)

Beer Review #57 Old Scratch Amber Lager

Continuing with out week of Flying Dog comes Old Scratch Amber Lager. This beer may be a lager it according to the brewery it is fermented at medium temperatures to develop both ale and lager characteristics. If your not sure what that means hear is a quick review. Ales are brewed at warmer temps usually 60-70 degrees and because of the warmer temperatures, they have a quicker fermentation period which causes the production of a few esters that impart their own flavors on the beer past what the raw ingredients do. Lagers are brewed at lower temperatures usually 35-50 degrees and take longer, but also result in a beer that is much cleaner. These are just the basics because each style of beer could compose parts of another. From what I read, this beer uses a lager yeast at a higher temperature so you would expect it to be clean tasting, but also have more esters than a normal lager.

Old Scratch Amber Lager pours a beautiful amber color, I guess that’s were part of the name comes from. It had a nice off-white head and was perfectly clear. The nose was malty with some slight bread components. I didn’t really get any hops on the nose from this beer. There were some earthy components in there as well, which could of been mixed in with hops but they didn’t really stand out all that much.

On the initial taste I wasn’t hit with a lot of flavor. There is a little malt sweetness along with those bready flavors that were on the nose, but there really isn’t much else. Some slight caramel notes can also be found. The finish had a nice hop crispness to it. Nothing overwhelming, but dried out and finished the beer nicely. The mouth feel is light and watery, but it does have a very nice carbonation.

This beer is very clean. There isn’t a lot of flavor to be found but it is drinkable. Old Scratch comes in at 5.5% ABV and sports 19.5 IBUs. This would be a good beer for someone just getting into craft beers. While the flavor notes are not terribly strong, it blows away a mass production beer in every way. Even if you are not new into craft beer, this would be a good summer beer as well as it is light and refreshing. If you get it don’t be expecting to have your typical American Amber Ale, but a much lighter version that clean out very nicely.  (more…)