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Beer Review #246 Boxcar Pumpkin Porter

I have yet another new brewery to add to my tasting lineup today in the Starr Hill Brewery. They are located in Crozet, Va and I have wanted to try their beers since the Washington D.C. season of Top Chef. I figure if some World class chefs enjoy the beer (even though it was product placement based) that it must be pretty good. I haven’t seen their products in my neck of the woods until recently and I grabbed a few of their beers.

Boxcar Pumpkin Porter pours a nice dark brown and has an off-white head. I always enjoy seeing a porter that isn’t black, but rather dark brown. In my eyes a porter should be a lighter version of a stout. The two cross in many areas, but you never see a dark brown stout and you can have a dark brown porter. The nose is very porteresk with chocolate and some smoky elements reaching out of the bubbles. I didn’t get any pumpkin or pumpkin spices on the nose.

The taste follows the nose at a “T.” There is a good chocolate malt flavor that runs through the beer and finishes a bit smokey. There wasn’t a hoppy finish but just enough to dry it out a bit. Again, I didn’t get any pumpkin flavor or spices. I don’t know if I just got an old bottle or if the other flavors masked anything that was there.

This was a pretty solid porter but I wouldn’t call it a pumpkin porter. It didn’t have any pumpkin beer qualities. If you would have given me this bottle without a label I would have told you that the beer was a porter. No more, no less. (more…)

Beer Review #241 Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout

I’m not a fan of coffee as a hot drink but I do enjoy the occasional iced coffee from time to time. It should come as no surprise that I love coffee beers. Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout from Flying Dog Brewery is a new coffee beer to me and I believe it is my first imperial one. Imperial Stouts tend to be hit or miss in my eyes. Sometimes the heat over powers everything else going on and you also get those beers that are too “dark.” The roasted malt levels become so high that they don’t produce a favorable flavors. When you get an Imperial Stout right, it’s a very nice, magical moment.

Kujo pours a dark, thick, black with a thin tan head. One of my friends refers to beers that pour like this as “sludge from the tap.” This one came from a bottle but you get the idea. The nose has a rich coffee odor that is mixed with some chocolate notes. There is some caramel in there as well which helps add to the richness. I didn’t notice any heat on this one but it did remind me of what an iced coffee and a stout would smell like if mixed. Point Flying Dog.

There are some super roasty notes that appear right off the bat with this one that then go into a healthy dose of caramel. Some bittersweet chocolate mixes in there as well once the sweetness has a chance to fade away. A hint of heat makes an appearance but is quickly masked by coffee notes. The whole flavor progression is very nice and surprisingly smooth. I was worried that the roasted notes at the beginning of the beer would fall victim to the problems I previously talked about but the large amount of sweetness ensured that this did not happen. Coffee does a really nice job of cleaning out this beer as I didn’t get anything on the hop end of this one.

The bottle says a “stout with coffee added.” If it were my label, I would have just put Imperial Coffee Stout in every spot possible as this beer really screams it. It has a large creamy mouthfeel, much like other Imperial Stouts. When drinking this beer I put “rich and loud” at the end of my notes. This beer rocks in at 8.9% so it’s no slouch. With winter coming (insert Game of Thrones joke) I highly suggest this one. (more…)

Beer Review #227 Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout

Today’s beer review may seem like an odd choice, considering that it is summer and that the mercury is already in the mid eighties before noon. It is an odd choice, but I’m also an odd beer drinker. I like have big beers in the summer. I know a lot of people reserve stouts for the fall and winter, but I like them year round. They are one of the few styles that agrees with me all of the time. Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout, say that five times fast, is brewed by Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. I’ve never been a giant Leinenkugel fan, but I do like that they put an a vast array of beer styles and, like Sam Adams, they generally have something new to try each time I visit the beer store.

This imperial stout pours a jet black color with a creamy, but fading tan head. It pretty much fits the mold of every imperial stout that I have ever had appearance wise. The nose has a bit of heat which should be expected for a beer that comes in at 9.5%^ ABV. There are some nice notes of chocolate and roast in there was well. According to the bottle this beer was brewed with 11 different malts and 3 different hops. I didn’t get any hops in the nose and I was surprised at how many malts go into this one. As a homebrewer I’m a fan of KISS, and keeping my malt bill as simple as possible. I find that my beers tend to get a bit “muddy” tasting when I use to many ingredients. I was really looking forward to trying this one to see if my own bias was correct or not.

The first thing you notice when tasting this beer is a good helping of chocolate and roasty flavors. There is some heat that falls into the beer about halfway through. A spicy hop character then enters and finishes out the beer on the backend. I didn’t notice any particular muddiness to this one and it tasted along the lines of most imperial stouts that I have had. I didn’t get any caramels or strong sweetness that I was expecting and the hops were toned down to reflect this lack of sweetness. Also, like most imperial stouts that I have had, this one is thick and creamy in the moutfeel department.

Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout is pretty decent and smooth. For a style that is really open to interpretation, this one sits on the tamer end of things. I found it to be presentable but not aggressive in any particular area. I would be trilled to brew something like this and I think this beer is a great introduction to what a Russian imperial stout should be. (more…)

Beer Review #220 Hop Noir

If you have read this blog for a period of time you will know that I think very highly of Peak Organic Brewing Company. While I haven’t reviewed them in almost 100 beer reviews, they still rank up there in my books. When I was at the beer store a month or so ago I finally saw a new beer from them, Hop Noir. According to the bottle Hop Noir is a black IPA and comes in a 5.3%. There is some debate if a black IPA should be called a black IPA. I only have one other black IPA under my belt, and regardless of the name, the style is wonderful.

Hop Noir pours a jet black color and has a dense tan head. The nose is fully of fun smells. There are some great chocolates, both milk and dark, that jump out at first and then give way to a dull sweet roasted smell. When combined, all of these aromas have a cocoa feel. There are some distant hops hiding behind everything, but the malt is the real start here.

This beer starts with a gentle malt upfront that is fairly thin feeling, but then it gives way to a really nice roast chocolate combination. Unlike a lot of dark beers where the roast is the main player, the chocolate malt really thrives in this ale. About halfway through the beer the hops finally kick in. The bitterness is mildly strong for an IPA but it meshes perfectly with the malt. Unlike a lot of IPAs the malt is the real star of this beer and, from my experience, style.

This beer is damn smooth. It has a great balance of flavors and really just strikes a cord with me. The only problem that I found is that this beer is a sneaky SOB. It comes in at a shocking 8.2% ABV, but it doesn’t have even the slightest hint of heat. My wife really liked this one, and she is not a fan of hops (but she does know craft beer well). I will be picking up more of this beer shortly.  (more…)

Beer Review #216 Urkontinent

Today I have a new limited release beer from Dogfish Head called Urkontinent. To make this beer DFH asked people what ingredients they would like to see used in a beer. They then narrowed down the choices to five. The bottle has this to say about the beer, “ale brewed with wattle seed, amaranth, rooibos, myrica gale, and honey.” I have no idea what any of those things taste like except for honey so this review is going to be fun. O yeah, I forgot to mention that this beer comes in at 8% ABV.

Urkontinent pours a nice brownish color with hints of ruby near the light. It has a medium tan head that quickly collapses on itself leaving just a hit of what was there. The nose is very malty with a lot going on. To be honest, I couldn’t identify all of the smells, but a nice malt sweetness was the big winner with some nice deep dark chocolates in the background. I love trying new and different beers but I hate when I hit a roadblock on describing flavors and smells. DFH does a good job of confusing my tastebuds.

On the first taste I thought this one was a little strange. There is a slight fruitness to the beer along with some heat. The chocolates from the nose are well mixed into the background. There was a slight “Belgian grape” flavor that ran throughout this beer. One thing that kind of threw me off about this beer was how thin it was compared to the ABV. I was expecting something thicker, but this one was water thin. I wish it had a bit more chew to it, but I did find it refreshing.

I apologize for not properly describing this beer, but I just don’t know how to react to it. There are a number of subtle flavors that a better tongue could identify, but I just can’t. I do know that I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure if I enjoyed the taste or the experience/challenge more. I guess this is one that you have to try for yourself.

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