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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 #166 Fuller’s London Porter

The end of fall is usually my favorite time of year to drink porters. The “warm” days (compared to winter) and the cold nights make the humble porter the perfect style of beer for this time of year. Today’s beer comes all the way from Chiswick, London, brewed by the Griffin Brewery. I’m generally cautious of imports as they generally are not cared for properly during their transport, thus resulting in poor beer.

Fullers London Porter pours a nice brown to deep ruby color. There is a medium off-white head that goes along with it. The nose is what I expected from a porter; chocolate, roasty, malty, and hints of coffee. I didn’t get the slightest hint of hops on the nose.

On my first taste I was struck by the amazing balance of this beer. The chocolate, roasty, and bits of coffee that come through on the flavor just blend wonderfully. I really am impressed at the balance the three of these flavors represents. There isn’t one that outshines the others, but each is distinct. The mouthfeel of this beer is creamy, which helps it go down all the better.

This porter comes in at 5.4% so you aren’t going to kill yourself drinking a few of these. I really liked this one and I am already looking forward to my next trip to the beer store to buy more, a rarity for me. This is a pretty common beer so it shouldn’t be too big of a hassle to get. If you haven’t had this one yet, go get it. (more…)

Beer Review #165 George Washington’s Tavern Porter

Being a native Philadelphian, now living in Delaware, I try to support the local breweries. Yards Brewing Company of Philadelphia is one of the breweries that I try to buy from on a more regular basis. They are quickly becoming “Philadelphia’s brewery,” and for good reason. This is my first review of Yards on this site, but I have had their beers on a number of occasions and I have found them to be pretty enjoyable.

My first experience with Yards was in college when I purchased a variety pack from them. Something was wonder with their bottling line as all of my beers were over-carbonated and gushed out of the bottle. Soon after this happened I tried a six pack from them and everything was as it should have been. It wasn’t a great first impression, but even with the problems, the beer tasted good.

My father-in-law gave me a bottle of George Washington’s Tavern Porter not too long ago and told me to give t a try. This beer is part of their “Ales of the Revolution” series. Great name. This porter is modeled after a recipe that was supposed to be George Washington’s own.

The porter pours a dark brown and has a nice light head as well. The nose is tick and malty. There is some slight roast in there along with lots of chocolate. On my first taste I was happy to find that my nose didn’t lie about the flavors in the beer.

Chocolate was found in excess, along with some slight roast on the back-end of the beer. There was some hop character to this beer, which I believe was Fuggles. The hops gave a slight, but nice hop kick at the end. This is a “chewy” feeling beer without being chewy. The creaminess that is found in the mouthfeel really works with all of the flavors.

I really dig this beer and I’m looking forward to the next time that I get to try it. It is a wonderfully drinkable beer that is rich in flavor, but not filling, like a stout might be. I really want to have this on a cold winter night. (more…)

Beer Review #164 Lips of Faith Clutch

In addition to Kick and Super Cru my local beer store had one other Lips of Faith series beer, Clutch. The label proclaimed a “dark sour ale.” Maybe, finally, had I found a sour ale that took me back to Belgium? With a name like New Belgium Brewing Company I sure hoped so. Like the other Lips of Faith beers that I tasted, Clutch is pretty high in the ABV department, racking up an impressive 9%.

Clutch stuck to its promises in terms of appearance, pours a deep, dark brown with a coating of a tan head. The nose has some sour odors, but it was mainly consumed by lots of roasty flavors. I found a good helping of chocolate and coffee in the nose.

On my first taste I picked up the roasty notes from the smell. The chocolate and coffee were present, but I would describe the main flavor components as “super roasty.” I got some slight sour notes at the end, but nothing like what I was hoping for. This beer could have very well been to style as I have never had an “official” dark sour ale before. Overall I would really give this beer a stout-like quality.

Even though this beer wasn’t was sour as I was hoping for doesn’t mean that it was bad. I found it wonderfully full of  flavor and complexity. It was rich in flavor but also nicely balanced. This beer would be enjoyable to a large amount of craft beer drinkers as I think it appeals to an number of different sub-sets of the community.

Beer Review #162 Snow Day Winter Ale

Almost a year ago I reviewed New Belgium Brewing Company’s 2 Below Ale. I remember liking it but I didn’t think it fit the winter beer idea very well. I was excited to hear that they had a new winter ale this year that was on the “darker and richer” side of the flavor spectrum.The story of this beer comes from a snowstorm a few years ago that shut down Fort Colins, Colorado for several days. And really, who doesn’t love a snowday? I think I appreciate them more now as an adult than I did when I was a kid.

On my first pour of the glass I got a beer that looked exactly like what I had imagined. It was a deep dark brown with a slightly off-white head. I  have no idea if it was clear or not because of the darkness. The nose was pretty hoppy, considering I was expecting on the richer end. I really didn’t get a lot of malt but rather lots of grapefruit hops.

The taste was a mix of rich malt and cutting hops. I found the malt to have a good amount of caramel that also featured some tones of chocolate. Most of the sweetness was then cut by the hops. The hops gave a crisp and spicy feel to the beer that I rather enjoyed.

This beer was a nice balance of malt and hops. I would of liked for it to be a bit more malt forward, but what can you do. This is more in line what I was thinking for a winter beer than their previous winter seasonal. I know there were some who were big fans of 2 Below, but New Belgium offers a number of beers that are pretty close to 2 Below, so it isn’t really necessary. This beer isn’t on the “go out and buy now” list for me, but I would pick it up again if I was out and saw it. (more…)