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Beer Review #177 Schlafly Christmas Ale

This will be my last “post-Christmas beer” until November or December. Schlafly Christmas Ale is brewed by the Saint Louis Brewery of St. Louis, Missouri. I find it interesting that Schlafly is the brand name of the beers made by the brewery. I don’t know if they have plans in the future to produce other lines of beer, but they are currently only producing the Schlafly brand of beers. Their Christmas Ale means business and comes in at 8.0% ABV. According to the bottle it is “brewed with orange peel and cloves.”

With the wording on the bottle, I was expecting a Belgian-like ale as those two ingredients are often used in Belgian-style beers. Upon further investigation, I found that this beer has a few other ingredients in it that would knock it out of Belgian contention. In addition to the ingredients listed above it also has juniper berries, ginger root, and cardamom as adjuncts into the beer. Needless to say, I was looking forward to tasting this one as it sounds like there is a lot going on.

The nose is very herbal, with cloves dominating most of the smells. There is some slight caramel and toffee peeking though along with some slight bitter orange odors. After my first taste I was surprised by how light the malt flavor was in this ale. The orange peel is in there towards the end of the malt flavors but the clove is really the strongest component to this beer. There is a lot happening before the cloves come in, but I honestly couldn’t place my finger on what all was happening.

I thought this beer had a nice mix of flavors, even if I couldn’t identify them all. The cloves are strong, but they really do a nice job of substituting for any hop flavor that would normally be in the beer. I liked, but not loved this one. If you dig cloves in your beer, this one is for you. (more…)

Beer Review #171 Prelude Special Ale

My then girlfriend (now wife) and I visited the Shipyard Brewing Company in Portland, Maine a few years ago during a road trip through the northeast. I remember being surprised at how small the building seemed to be for the amount of beer they produce. I generally like their beers but there are a few that have been disappointing me recently (namely their pumpkin beer).

Prelude Special Ale is Shipyard’s winter beer and one of their better beers. The beer pours a nice caramel color with a slightly off-white head. The nose is full of caramel and toffee. There is some slight biscuit sweetness in there as well, but no hops of any kind.

On the first taste the caramel makes an appearance right away. It isn’t an overwhelming caramel flavor, but provides a solid malt base. A nice biscuit flavor then mixes in along with some slight toffee. Hops make their appearance on the backside of this beer and they linger on your tongue for awhile. They are not overly bitter but they do add a nice punch of flavor. This beer also drys out very nicely.

I really liked this beer. This beer is classified as a Winter Warmer but that particular category is pretty open in terms of flavor and alcohol. Prelude Special Ale seems to fit more into the English style of Winter Warm according to my taste buds. I found it very drinkable and it really fits nicely with the winter season. I would be happy to try this beer again. (more…)

Beer Review #157 Sam Adams Holiday Porter

Another day, another beer from Boston Beer Company. I recently purchased Sam Adam’s Winter Seasonal pack and in addition to the normal Boston Lager and Winter Lager they had a few other fun seasonal beers. I reviewed their Old Fezziweg early last year, but I haven’t had a chance to partake in their other winter beers. I will spend the remainder of the week taking a look at the other three beers in the variety pack.

Today’s beer is Boston Beer’s Holiday Porter. A porter is a perfect beer for this time of year. They generally are not heavy, but provide some solid malt and roasty character that can warm you up on a cold night. The beer pours a deep ruby color and has a light tan head. The nose is packed with smell. I found lots of caramel and toffee, which was then followed by some coffee notes. There are some slight noble hops in there as well. Finally I found some slight chocolate notes that were really nice.

Just as the nose promised, this beer is complex and deep. There is a lot of rich caramel with some solid chocolate. There is a nice interaction between the hops and malt where the malt leads in, is cut a bit by the hops, but still is a big player. As soon as you think that this beer isn’t going to have a hop kick to balance it out, the dry finish comes in and takes care of any sweetness.

I really liked this one. I am generally not super impressed with porters, but I enjoyed this one greatly. I would love to have this on a blustery November night while sitting with a good book. For such a complex beer, this one also comes off as being simple. It really opens up on each sip. (more…)

Beer Review #156 Bonfire Rauchbier

I’ve never really been a big fan of smoked beers. I had one in college from a local unnamed brewery and it tasted like I licked the ashes of a fire pit. My friend who was with me at the time remarked that it tasted like band aids. Since that time I have had a few good smoked beers that fall into the smoked porter world. Boston Beer Company a.k.a Sam Adams released a Rauchbier with their fall pack this year. If you don’t know a Rauchbier is a German style beer where some of the malt has been dried by flame instead of normal heat. The flame imparts a smokey flavor to the grain, which in turn gives a smokey flavor to the beer.

Bonfire Rauchbier pours a nice amber color and is accompanied by a white head. Certainly not what you would expect from something that promises smokey flavors, but that is what a Rauchbier normally looks like. The nose is what I will describe as a “meaty” smoke. There was some real body and depth to the smoke, like it had been put into a butchers smokehouse.

On the first taste I got (you guessed it) some smokey flavor. Behind the smoke was some really nice caramel and toffee notes that added a nice layer of complexity to the beer. Just like a lot of Sam Adams beers I find this one to be an approachable version of the style. There are more aggressively smoked beers out there, but this one is nice. It wasn’t too heavy on the smoke and allowed some other flavors to come through. I enjoyed it and my taste buds are warming up to the idea of exploring more smoked beers.

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…)