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Beer Review #182 St. Bernardus Abt 12

This is the third beer that I have reviewed in the St. Bernardus “brand” of beers brewed by Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV of of Watou, Belgium. I have really enjoyed the other two beers from the brewery. They really strike a cord as being traditional Belgian beers that are made with a healthy respect for brewing tradition. I would love to visit the brewery whenever I get the chance to visit Belgium again.

St. Bernardus Abt 12 pours a flat brown color that has a thin off-white head. The liquid is a bit cloudy thanks to the yeast left in the beer to naturally carbonate it. The nose is highly yeasty and spicy. There is some heat present, as this beer comes in at 10%, but it isn’t overwhelming. In addition to the typical Belgian spices I found some of the malt odors very nice. I got some nice whiffs of bread and biscuit. I also got a slight sour smell in the beer, but nothing to really make a big note of.

On my first taste I again noticed a bit of sour flavor, but I found that it wasn’t as much of a sour flavor as it was dark fruits that share the same type of tart flavor. The heat is there, but all of the malt and dark fruits really cover it up nicely. For a beer that has such high alcohol, the heat is well restrained in the flavor realm. The Belgian yeast comes in to finish up the beer with a very “Abbey quality.”

This beer is very thin and highly carbonated for such a big beer. I find that “normal” American beers at this level of ABV tend to be thicker the higher the ABVs. This beer is supposed to be the standard for what a Belgian Quad should be and I can see why it is. It has a complex flavor malt and spices happening and the alcohol is clean. If you want something to keep you warm during the winter, I think this is a great option for you. (more…)

Beer Review #178 Old Man Winter Ale

I finally finished with the beers specifically labeled as “Christmas Ales” and I am now on to some winter beers. As I mentioned previously, I am going to cut off or seriously limit myself from seasonal beers after my current batch of winter beers is done. Anyway, today’s winter beer comes from Southern Tier Brewing Company of Lakewood, New York. As with a lot of breweries I write about, I have had a number of their beers, but I haven’t had a chance to get all of my reviews up on the site yet. I have generally liked everything that I have tried from this brewery, so they have that going for them.

Old Man Winter Ale pours a nice amber color and has a white head to accompany the amber liquid. The nose has a bit of citrus hops, but the malt really shines here. There is some of the normal caramel sweetness but also a nice grainy flavor that I really enjoyed.

This beer has a nice malt flavor up front with those classic caramels returning. I didn’t get any of the grainy notes from the nose upon tasting this one. The citrus hops in the nose follow through to the flavor but they also flood into a slightly piney hop. The pine flavor then coats the tongue, but doesn’t stay for too long as a spicier hops flavor comes in. Right at the end some biscuit and dried fruit come in to round out the beer.

I really liked this one. It was an interesting mix of malt and hops that lead to an enjoyable drink. I also love when a brewery combines ingredients in a way that makes them taste different than they normally would. Old Man Winter Ale only uses two types of malt and three different types of hops. As a homebrewer, the lack of malt variety is encouraging since a lot of people get complexity by adding tons of different types of malts to their beers. Well done Southern Tier, I will be grabbing some more of this beer shortly. (more…)

Beer Review #175 Breckenridge Christmas Ale

I know that it is after Christmas, but it is never too late to review a Christmas Ale (hey it’s still winter). I actually picked up this beers, along with the next two beers to review, after Christmas. The nicest part about getting a beer specifically labeled for a period of time is that after that time period has passed, they usually get discounted. Christmas Ale, as it is labeled, is brewed by the Breckenridge Brewery of Denver, Colorado. They are a pretty big player in the crowded Colorado beer market and I have generally found that I enjoy their beers.

Christmas Ale pours a nice burnt amber color and a nice thin white head compliments the color of the beer well. The nose isn’t intense in any way, but has some slight toffee and caramel. There are some dried fruity esters from the yeast present along with a slight biscuit flavor. The mix of odors was really nice and expected.

On my first taste a lot of what was in the nose came through on the flavor end. The toffee flavor outshines any caramel but they both provide a good solid sweetness and base for the beer. Some slight plum and biscuity goodness come in to add a bit of complexity. The hops, which were not present in the nose, come through nicely and help to dry out the beer. One thing that I liked was that the carbonation of this beer helped clear out most of the flavors at the end, leaving a crisp feel to the ale.

I liked this one a good deal. As a winter beer it was exactly what I was looking for. It had a wonderful balance and a good malt profile that clinches the win for this beer. The fruity esters also add a nice touch without becoming overpowering. I’ll make sure to get this one before Christmas next year. (more…)

Beer Review #173 Goose Island Christmas Ale 2011

Last winter I enjoyed Goose Island Beer Company’s Mild Winter and/or Snow Goose. The beer I had last year is not the only winter seasonal they make, Goose Island, for Chicago, Illinois, has also been making a Christmas Ale for a number of years. Just like Anchor Steam, they change the recipe each year “so that you have something to look forward to each year.” The bottle mentions that this beer is an American Brown Ale and “develops in the bottle up to five years.” I only bought two, and they were both drank within days of each other so that five year plan isn’t going to have a chance in my house.

This years Christmas offering pours a nice caramel color and a light tan head rests on top of the liquid. The nose isn’t very complex with some caramel and slight biscuit odors. I didn’t find any hops, which I was expecting for an American Brown Ale.

On the first taste the caramel that has been prevalent throughout the other criteria is present as well. There is some slight toffee mixed in the malt flavor as well. There is a flavor that kicks in about half way through the beer, but I’m coming up with  a loss of words for how to describe it properly. I assume it was the hops coming in, but they were mixed with a richer flavor, almost chocolate. The hops really didn’t kick in anything major to the flavor of the beer, but the light touch kept it from becoming overly sweet.

I didn’t find this one overly aggressive in any respect. The malt is there and the hops come in to lightly brush back the sweetness. Goose Island Christmas Ale 2011 comes in at 6.2% ABV. I might go back and grab a few bottles to age and see how it ages, but as it stands, it doesn’t do much for me. Maybe next year’s will be more suited to my palette. (more…)

Beer Review #171 Prelude Special Ale

My then girlfriend (now wife) and I visited the Shipyard Brewing Company in Portland, Maine a few years ago during a road trip through the northeast. I remember being surprised at how small the building seemed to be for the amount of beer they produce. I generally like their beers but there are a few that have been disappointing me recently (namely their pumpkin beer).

Prelude Special Ale is Shipyard’s winter beer and one of their better beers. The beer pours a nice caramel color with a slightly off-white head. The nose is full of caramel and toffee. There is some slight biscuit sweetness in there as well, but no hops of any kind.

On the first taste the caramel makes an appearance right away. It isn’t an overwhelming caramel flavor, but provides a solid malt base. A nice biscuit flavor then mixes in along with some slight toffee. Hops make their appearance on the backside of this beer and they linger on your tongue for awhile. They are not overly bitter but they do add a nice punch of flavor. This beer also drys out very nicely.

I really liked this beer. This beer is classified as a Winter Warmer but that particular category is pretty open in terms of flavor and alcohol. Prelude Special Ale seems to fit more into the English style of Winter Warm according to my taste buds. I found it very drinkable and it really fits nicely with the winter season. I would be happy to try this beer again. (more…)