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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…)

San Antonio Breweries: Blue Star Brewery

This is my first full day back from my trip to San Antonio. I really enjoyed the city, did not enjoy the heat or the humidity. As with any new place I go, I look to see what breweries are around so that I can visit them and taste what they have to offer. The first stop on San Antonio’s brewery list (of 2) was Blue Star Brewery. The brewery opened in 1996 and is located in the Blue Star Arts complex, which is essentially converted factories.

The general vibe of the place is pretty simple. There is a simple menu, none of the decorations are super complex, and the staff’s attire isn’t fancy. It is the kind of place I dig. My wife and I walked there as it was only 3/4 of a mile away from our hotel but my wife swears it was over a mile. All I have to say is that the GPS doesn’t lie. Win! When you walk into the place you are greeted by a line of stainless steel tanks and a seating area to the right. Behind a glass wall at the back of the building is the actual kettle and all of the “hot” parts of the brewery. The bar is backed with the stainless steel tanks.

The had eight different beers on tap when we were there, including one on cask. They had everything from a pilsner to a stout to an English IPA (cask and keg versions). Each sample glass we had came in at about $1.25 with a few of the higher ABV beers costing up to $1.99. Pretty standard prices from my experience.

The pilsner was solid with a nice light but flavorful body and a slight hop crispness at the end. The pale ale was on the more pine side of the hop flavors but it was solid. It also leaned a bit more towards the hop end of the balance. The amber was my wife’s favorite beer and was a solid amber with a nice malt component an a bready aftertaste. The stout was a real treat, very straightforward but balanced and a great, smooth roast flavor on the backend. The English IPA was more hoppy than what I was expecting. If was an American IPA it would of fit in better, but it did have a wonderful malt backbone that fully supported the hops. They also had a cask version of the beer which was excellent and really toned down the hops and brought out a nice malt complexity. The final beer was the King William Barley Wine which rocked in at 11% ABV. It was good, but I think there was too much heat in there to make it a smooth drinking barelywine.

Overall I really enjoyed the Blue Star Brewery. Since I have lived in Texas I have noticed that service at restaurants has been lackluster to say the least. The Blue Star staff was wonderful (our server was Allen) and always made sure that we had what we needed. My only real complaint was that their menu is very limited. We did commit one crime in ordering according to The Naked Pint, and that was that we ordered a pitcher of their amber. According to the book you should never order a pitcher. I don’t think it really matters and that’s why we did so. The beers were solid, the food was pretty good, and the service was outstanding.

Me a beer judge!?!

I had my first chance to do a beer judging last weekend and boy was that a trip. My local homebrew club sponsor a competition every year for the past 11 years now. I believe the entries were limited to IPAs and Pale Ales this year becasue our club is just not big enough to have hundreds of beers to sample. In fact one year they had over 300 entries, with five people judging, which prompted the limiting of categories.

My tasting table was in charge of the IPA style number 14 A-C. Being my first judging I was a little nervous about making sure I did a good job and that my taste buds agreed with the style guidelines. It is amazing to see what people submit to the contest. We had one guy who sent in three bottles that said save for final round on them. Some balls.

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Picture not from our judging, just there to give an example

I used to be a much bigger fan of IPAs than what I current am. I am just hopped out, but I do have a good background in IPAs because I used to drink them like crazy. My table was made up of 3 people, one of which was extremely skilled in brewing and judging. Surprisingly all three of us came out around the same scores consistently. It is funny how you can pick out the things that take a beer down a few points. Half of the beers I tasted I would of been happy with if I brewed them, but according to the style guidelines they didn’t quite fit.

Being judge is easier than being a brewer. So is running a beer review website. A few things I noticed with almost all of the IPAs we tried. The first was that people often gave too much malt backbone, particularly in 14C the Imperial IPA. The malt should support the hops, but no be equal. The second thing I noticed is how tough it is to properly hop a IPA. Most of them were very harsh and just smashed down on your tongue and left a lingering harsh flavor. Some people like this, I do not, and neither do the style guidelines. The final thing is that you can see the knowledge of the brewer when tasting. We had one contaminated beer so it couldn’t be fairly judged but the differences in the beer came down to slight variations that had huge impacts.

It might be unfair to judge the brewer on the beer they make as I’ve made plenty of great and terrible beers. It just seems like a beer that is more technically correct shows a better skill level by the brewer than his competitors. That skill might not translate into a winning beer but, as a homebrewer, I appreciate it.