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Beer Review #250 Wooly ESB

I have reached the 250 beer review mark. I consider myself accomplished, my wife and parents think that I drink too much. Today’s beer review is the second of three beers that Magic Hat Brewing Company sent me. The bottle says that this beer is an ESB, or Extra Special Bitter, with spruce. I’m not generally a fan of spruce flavored things as it makes me think about tree sap a bit too much. Extra Special Bitter is a bit of a misnomer for many newcomers to craft beer. They are expecting something really hoppy, and an ESB just isn’t that. ESB is an English beer style that, while significantly more bitter than an English Mild, is not all that bitter in the grand scheme of things.

Wooley pours a wonderful clear orange color. It has a thin white head that clings to the side of the glass. The nose is nice and malty. It’s an interesting mike of sweet and dry that you often find in English style beers. There are also some dried fruit odors that are probably the result of the yeast strain used to make this beer. There is a slightly spicy hop smell that lingers in the background along with a slight hint of spruce. Since the spruce was so light in the nose, it gave me hope that it wasn’t going to overwhelm the beer/my taste buds.

There is a nice dose of malt and biscuit on the front end of this beer. It is followed with the fruity esters found in the nose, mainly small bits of plum and cherry. The hops come in on the second half and do a nice job of replacing the other flavors in a balanced way. The hops are slightly spicy and the spruce gives a nice resin taste that adds to the bitterness. Everything mixes nicely to give this beer an earthy quality that I always enjoy.

As I said at the beginning of this review, I’m usually not a fan of spruce flavored anything,but this beer does a good job of keeping that flavor in check. I really enjoyed sipping on this one while getting caught up on episodes of American Horror Story. This beer comes in at 4.5% and I can imagine downing one of these after shoveling some snow when you don’t want something heavy but you also want something with some balls. It’s refreshing and crisp, while delivering plenty of flavor.  (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 #99 Midwinter Warmer

Happy first day of spring. While spring has finally come, I have one last winter beer to share with you. This beer comes all the way from Fort Collins, Colorado by way of Equinox Brewing Company. Equinox started as a homebrew store and has grown into a full fledged brewery. My buddy Pete sent me this beer a month or so ago to sample. This is a special ale because of how it is made,

A bold, rich aroma and layers of complex flavors entice the senses. Deep, smooth malt character rounds out a warming finish. Aged for 3 1/2 months in a bourbon cask, a cabarnet cask and stainless steel before blending. The flavors and overall complexity increases as the beer warms

Midwinter Warmer is a barleywine style ale that rocks in at 10% ABV. It pours a nice brown color, with a thin, off-white head. No light makes it though this beer as it is quite cloudy. The nose is very sweet with caramel notes a plenty. There is some dried fruit in there along with some of that 10% ABV.

The first taste gives a strong hop back-end that was hidden in the nose. The sweetness is strong and the caramel mixes very nicely with the dried fruity esters produced by the yeast. The heat is there throughout the drink, but it isn’t harsh, rather warming. This is a thick beer, bold in every way. This was bottled in a a bottle that was around 16 oz or so. I didn’t write down the exact size of the bottle when I was reviewing this beer. I wish it came ins 12 oz bottles just because it is so thick and high in alcohol. My only real complaint is that the bottled version of this beer was a bit under carbonated but I have heard that kegged version are more up to par as far as CO2 goes. Finally a winter beer that deserves the name. (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…)

Beer Review #42 Winter Lager

When I first got into craft beer, Sam Adams was one of the breweries that helped bridge the gap. Sam Adams a.k.a. Boston Beer Company does a great job at making flavorful beer that is acceptable the the majority of beer drinkers out there. They may not make everything that a seasoned craft beer drinker would like, but they do a great job of opening people up to new styles and flavors.

Winter Lager was always one of my favorites so when I saw it in the store I grabbed it. It pours a nice amber, ruby color and it is perfectly clear. There is also a fluffy off-white head. The nose on the beer is toasty, malty, and some slightly fruity esters in there. The fruity part is slightly surprising being that it is a lager and generally, lagers are cleaner tasting than ales and they generally do not produce a lot of esters either.

The taste is nice an malty. The malt sweetness is upfront with toasty and bready flavors throughout. There is a slight hop on the back-end but it is not overwhelming in the slightest. Sam Adams Winter Lager comes in at 5.80% ABV as well. This is a super drinkable beer that I think most would enjoy. It is light-medium in body and has a great aftertaste. I think this is a decent introduction to seasonal beers and fits well into the winter seasonal “style.” I still want something darker and richer for winter time, but, being that this is a mass produced beer on a much larger scale than I usually talk about, I will let it slide. (more…)