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Beer Review #80 Old Fezziweg

Samuel Adam’s is probably the largest brewery in the World who puts out seasonal beers. They don’t only put out one seasonal beer, but generally several. Winter time usually brings out their Winter Lager, but Old Fezziweg is another seasonal favorite from Boston Beer Company. This beer is a traditional winter warmer and comes in at 5.9% ABV. It is also brewed with several spices including ginger, cinnamon, and orange peel. Those spices and ingredients are typical of a winter warmer style beer, particularly an English version of the beer.

Old Fezziweg pours a dark ruby color with a thin tan head. It is clear, but dark enough to not alert you to the brewer’s skill. The nose is a bit flat, but there is some ginger in there. I also picked up a bit of heat, but it could of been from the spices. Overall there isn’t a lot going on upon first inspection. The taste is malty with some slight roast. The ginger again presents itself but I was unable to really find the other spices. There was a bit of a bite on the end, but I attributed it more to hops than spice.

This ale is pretty drinkable but it isn’t packed with flavor. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t really suit my palette. I think this beer is nice for newcomers to craft beer because it is very reserved in terms of flavor. As a “seasoned” craft beer drinker I thought this one was a bit too “mass produced” feeling. It is a good beer, but I wanted more of everything (flavor, aroma, aftertaste, etc..) from it. Pick it up and try for yourself. It is a good starting point for beers of the style but there are other examples out there. (more…)

Beer Review #79 First Snow Ale

I am way behind on beer reviews, in fact, I had to save some of the fall beers for next year since it seems a bit silly to be posting pumpkin beers at this point in the year. I am committed to knocking out all of the winter beers before the winter actaully ends this year. On my last trip to State Line Liquors I picked up a hoard of winter beers. In fact I grabbed every winter beer I could find with the exception of some pricey 750 ml Belgian bottles.  First Snow Ale by RJ Rockers Brewing Company was one of the last beers I saw.

This beer is brewed in Spartanburg, South Carolina and I’ve never heard of the brewery before so I was eager/leery of trying it. It seems fitting to post this tonight as snow is falling outside of my window. This winter offering pours a nice amber color and is accompanied by a fluffy, off-white head.  It is crystal clear as I would of expected. The label says that honey and spices are used in the brewing of this beer. I noticed some honey sweetness on the nose, but no spices. I did get some slight grapefruit from the hops.

On the first taste I was surprised by the complexity of the beer. The spices tingle the tongue and the flavor is not nearly as hoppy as the nose suggests. There was also some nice bread notes to accompany the overall flavor. I was very happy with this purchase. First Snow Ale comes in at 6% ABV so it doesn’t rock your socks off, but it is a solid beer. I could see myself drinking this year round. It was refreshing and well balanced. I would recommend this beer to you if you see it. (more…)

Beer Review #77 Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale

How can you not grab a beer named Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale? Perhaps that was the same thought that River Horse Brewing Company out of Lambertville, NJ had as well. To make it better, they made a hippopotamus out of pumpkins for the logo. I love it, creativity at its best. I’ve enjoyed a fair number of other River Horse beers with my favorite being their Tripel Horse.

This pumpkin ale pours a cloudy amber color with a thin, off-white head. I should mention that this beer is part of their brewers reserve and is batch 006 to be exact. On the nose I found a lot of pumpkin pie notes. There was a bit of brown sugar and heat in there as well. For a beer that comes in at 9% ABV, the heat wasn’t overwhelming. Again, I think it gets broken up by the spices a bit. The label says that it is “brewed with pumpkin puree and spices.”

On the first taste of Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale I noticed the heat, and a lot of it. The malt isn’t very prevalent and the spices are there in force.  Think of a normal pumpkin beer and double the spices and you get this beer. They are really out of balance with the rest of the beer. It does have a surprisingly nice aftertaste. This beer is also thick, chewy even.

I found this beer wanting to be really good, but it isn’t there yet. It isn’t balanced enough and the spices and heat come out a bit too much for my liking. I am wondering if I would of waited a few months for the heat to dissipate and the spices to lose their strength if this would of been better. I think the brewers are onto a good recipe, it just needs some tweaking. Maybe lowering the ABV down a bit and thinning the mash out would help, along with backing off of the spices. It has some good reviews on the major beer review sites but it wasn’t for me. Maybe you would like it better. (more…)

Beer Review #69 Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale

I recently was in the beer store (OK so I go every week) but I saw Sam Adam’s fall seasonal beer pack. I love variety cases and I saw a new beer in there that I have never had before; Harvest Pumpkin Ale. I had no idea that Sam, a.k.a. Boston Beer Company produced a pumpkin beer. I know pumpkin beers are hot right now, but Sam making one kind of shows how far they have come in such a short time.

Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale pours an amber color with a slightly off white head. It is crystal clear if that matters to you. The nose is slightly sweet with some grassy malt in there. The typical pumpkin pie spices can also be sampled. What I really found interesting about the nose was that there were some roasty notes. Generally pumpkin beers get dominated by a sweet malt and spice smell. It was a nice change to have some roasted malt in there. It reminded me of the smell of the pumpkin that I roasted last year.

You almost should know what to expect with an amber/orange pumpkin beer and Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale delivers on those promises. You have the malty upfront with the spicy finish. A wonderful aftertaste is quick to follow. The roast in the nose also followed through the beer and into the aftertaste. It was a nice addition to the normal flavors and helped balance out the spices.

I think this is a pretty solid pumpkin beer. The spices are not heavy handed like some pumpkin beers out there so I think this beer is much more approachable than other. Sam Adams is great at taking a style of beer and making it appealing to a mass market. This beer comes in at a solid 5.7% ABV and they use real pumpkins in the brewing process. The pumpkin is used in the mashing process and the spices are actually added in the keg or just before the bottling line depending on your serving type. It is a nice fresh tasting beer that I think is a real winner. There are more aggressive pumpkin beers out there and some with a lot more flavor, but Harvest Pumpkin Ale does a good job of balancing delicate flavors. (more…)

Simple way to add complexity to homebrew

Hello long lost beer website. It has been a busy time around here. We are going to be moving back to the east coast, Delaware to be exact, and I was recently back home (PA) to attend my sisters graduation from college. All in all a lot of good things are happening right now. During the hours I spend on the plane I spent a lot of time catching up on some books. Homebrew books to be exact.

One of the book (I really don’t remember which one) was talking about ways to make your beer more complex. It can be done in a number of ways; specialty malts, different base malts, etc. All of these are well and good, but I finally got around to trying something that I have wanted to do for awhile now. Mix homebrew.

For some reason it never really occurred to me to mix and match and come up with something that should taste good. I had a pale ale that I had made, which came out a bit too caramely and my Winter Warmer which is super dark and tasty. My Winter Warmer really ended up being more of a strong stout, mainly becasue I didn’t add any spices like I was originally thinking of doing. I was have a beer on the couch watching the Flyers and decided to make a half and half with my two homebrews.

I have to say, I liked what I tasted. The hops from the pale ale gave the stout some more kick and the caramel helped round out the body of the stout a bit more. The stout helped mask all of the caramel and gave a wonderful richness to the beer. In all the sum was better than the parts. I might start trying to do this more (once I brew again that is) with styles that should compliment each other or maybe even something that doesn’t. Who knows. Homebrew is all about making something that you enjoy drinking and can be proud to call your own.