Nadia Kali, Barney Flats, and Spencer IPA 3/2/2017

One thing that frustrates me about the month of February is that I have fewer days in the month to meet the arbitrary deadlines that I set for myself.  Nevertheless, the flight panel is back for the month of February with three new participants!  With this particular panel, I decided to branch out a little and select a couple of beers that don’t conform perfectly with their identified style (with the exception of Barney Flats).  We all had fun, great beer conversation and, as usual, some colorful tasting notes.

Remember, none of the participants know what beer is being given to them (myself excluded)- this is a blind taste test and I only inform them of what style of beer they are drinking.  Not every person on every panel is an expert at reviewing beer and nobody’s palate is ever wrong- taste is purely subjective.

Panelist Profiles

Name: Steve Name: Matt Name: Teresa
Age: 32 Age: 34 Age: 55
Occupation: Graduate Student Occupation: Federal Employee Occupation: Cook
Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 3 Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5):  5 Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 5
Favorite Beer/Beer Style: Dislikes IPAs Favorite Beer/Beer Style: IPA Favorite Beer/Beer Style: Anything aged in bourbon barrels, IPA, gueze.
Additional Qualifications/Info: Additional Qualifications/Info: Additional Qualifications/Info:

 

Great Divide: Nadia Kali

Beer Name: Nadia Kali

Brewery: Great Divide Brewing Co

Brewery Location: Denver, CO

Beer Style: Saison

ABV: 6.3%

IBU: N/A

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Usually when I pick a beer for one of these panels, I have generally avoided beers that have too many added flavors or unusual twists to them.  This is because I only tell them the style of beer they are drinking, and they tell me the flavors they pick up (I don’t want the power of suggestion to influence them too much).  However, this time around I decided to experiment with the taste buds of my panelists by introducing them to Nadia Kali: a hibiscus saison brewed with ginger and lemon.  I wanted to see if they could pick up and identify the added flavors without being told they were in there.  Here’s what the group said:

Nadia Kali poured a hazy amber color with a light white head- most of the group said it doesn’t look like a typical saison.  The entire group said that the beer smelled pretty fruity, while Matt and Teresa thought the beer smelled sour to some degree.  In addition, Matt detected some spicy notes on the nose, Steve picked up on notes of sourdough bread, and I thought it seemed lightly flowery and citrusy.

In terms of the dominant flavors present, there were some similarities between the tasters’ notes.  Every participant mentioned some sort of fruit in their notes- Steve thought he tasted raspberry (or some other berry), Matt tasted some citrus (maybe blood orange), while Teresa and I thought it tasted lemony in varying degrees.  The entire group also detected notes of spice- Matt and Steve thought that there was likely some sort of spice blend involved, while Teresa and I detected notes of black pepper.  The entire group admitted they could detect the ginger, however they could only do so after the beer was revealed (the power of suggestion is a major factor that I take very seriously).

The group varied in terms of how much they enjoyed this beer.  I enjoyed this beer for what it was- my opinion was that this tasted like the lovechild of a saison and a shandy.  Matt liked the beer as well, however he felt that the beer finished a little bit bland (the initial sip was excellent, however).  Teresa liked the beer, though it admittedly was not her favorite saison.  Steve was not a fan of this beer.  To him, the beer’s spicy character started off pleasant, but the beer got more bitter and metallic tasting as time went on- he likes saisons, but not this particular saison.

 

Anderson Valley: Barney Flats

Beer Name: Barney Flats

Brewery: Anderson Valley Brewing Company

Brewery Location: Boonville, CA

Beer Style: Oatmeal Stout

ABV: 5.8%

IBU: 15

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The brewery that brews the next beer for today’s flight panel features on their bottles my favorite animal in the world: a Beer (a bear/deer hybrid).  We truly live in wonderful times that I can witness the creation of this animal….anyways! Barney Flats is their oatmeal stout that is available year-round, and I’m a particular fan of the style.  Here’s what the group thought:

Barney Flats pours a dark-brown to black color with a creamy tan head that lingers as you drink it.  The group more or less agreed that the aroma of this beer was fairly tame, but individually we picked up notes of coffee, chocolate (I got milk chocolate), oatmeal, and white bread.  Interestingly enough, everybody except for myself picked up on a sort of spice note from the flavor of the beer- Teresa identified it as peppery, while Matt and Steve thought it was more of an indiscriminate spice flavor.  The entire group detected varying notes of coffee in the flavor accompanied by a slightly bitter aftertaste (possibly from roast).  Matt picked up on hints of oatmeal and caramel in the back of his throat, while Steve and I picked up on a definite chocolate flavor.  In terms of the overall impression of this beer, the group marched to the beat of the same drum, more or less.  We thought it was a good, run-of-the-mill stout, however it was not terribly exciting to any of us.  For myself, the beer seemed a little bit two-dimensional, and I agreed with Steve who said he would likely buy any number of 10-20 stouts before he would settle on this one.  Overall, the beer is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but we weren’t going crazy for this one either.

 

Spencer: India Pale Ale

Beer Name: India Pale Ale

Brewery: Spencer Brewery

Brewery Location: Spencer, MA

Beer Style: IPA

ABV: 7.2%

IBU: 75

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Admittedly I picked up this last beer out of sheer curiosity- for years I had only really known about/had Spencer’s flagship Trappist ale, but I’ve been seeing their IPA pop up more recently.  I wasn’t sure from the onset if this was going to be a straight forward IPA, or an IPA that incorporates Spencer’s Belgian-style of yeast (which would make this a Belgian-style IPA).  Similar to Nadia Kali, I decided to not warn the participants about this beer potentially being a Belgian-style IPA (partly because I wasn’t sure going into it, myself).  Here’s our notes:

Spencer IPA pours a hazy orangey-golden color with a thin white head.  The group picked up on varying degrees of fruit and spice.  Steve detected hops (of course) along with notes of indiscriminate fruit and vanilla.  Matt thought it smelled citrusy and spicy, while I detected notes of orange, grapefruit, and a sort of earthy/woodsy character.  Overall, the aroma was enticing to most of the group.

However, the appreciation for this beer ended with the aroma for most of the group.  Steve and I picked up on notes of fruit (I tasted oranges primarily), while Matt and Teresa were overwhelmed by the plethora of flavors that this beer had to offer.  They struggled to elaborate when pressed for details because after the first couple of sips of this beer, you were hit over the head with an aggressive bitterness that lingered long after you drank it (hop bitterness will often ruin your palate, which is why I rarely like to drink more than 1-2 hoppy beers in a single sitting).

The intense bitterness of this beer seemed to be a deal breaker for the entire group- it lingered a lot and was not very pleasant.  Even once I revealed that this beer was (likely) a Belgian-style IPA, the opinion of the beer did not change much.  Teresa said she could detect (and appreciate) the fruity esters once the beer was revealed, but overall the bitterness proved to be too overwhelming and unpleasant.  Matt thought that there was too much going on with the initial flavor, and then you are nailed by the aggressive bitterness.  Lastly, Steve liked this beer…until the bitterness set in.  Enough said.  Overall, nobody was terribly fond of this beer.

 

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A Little Crazy, Santilli, Black Tulip 1/31/2017

Hey everyone!  I’m back again with another panel!  In my ongoing quest to sample new and interesting beers, this week I decided to throw two styles into the blind panel that I have not reviewed on my blog yet: a Belgian pale ale and a Belgian-style tripel.  Furthermore, I thought it would be fun to throw breweries into the mix who are noted for their exceptional hoppy beers.   I want to give my thanks to the Malted Barley in Providence for being the new host to these panels (our previous home was abruptly closed).  Lastly, I want to thanks Dr. Alex for stepping in at the last minute to participate on this panel when one of my participants could not make it.  Anyway, I hope you all enjoy what I have to offer!

Remember, none of the participants know what beer is being given to them (myself excluded)- this is a blind taste test, and I only inform them of what style of beer they are drinking.  Not every person on every panel is an expert at reviewing beer, and nobody’s palate is ever wrong- taste is purely subjective.

Panelist Profiles

Name: Dr. Alex Name: Colin Name: Brad
Age: 29 Age: 28 Age: 31
Occupation: Chemist Occupation: Investment Management Occupation: Realtor
Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 5 Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5):  4 Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 5
Favorite Beer/Beer Style: IPA, Pale Ale, German Lagers, Barrel Aged Stouts, Sours Favorite Beer/Beer Style: Good beer! Favorite Beer/Beer Style: Pale Ale, IPA, DIPA
Additional Qualifications/Info: BJCP Rank pending/National Judge Additional Qualifications/Info: Is half Irish (definite bump to his qualifications).  Usually not a fan of fruit beer (with some exceptions) Additional Qualifications/Info: General beer enthusiast.


Revolution Brewing Company: A Little Crazy

Beer Name: A Little Crazy

Brewery: Revolution Brewing Company

Brewery Location: Chicago, IL

Beer Style: Belgian Pale Ale

ABV: 6.7%

IBU: 35

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Belgian pale ales are always interesting beers to try because one never knows how the brewer is going to balance the esters from the Belgian yeast with the hops that one might expect from a pale ale.  Stylistically speaking, a Belgian pale ale tends to be less hop focused like their American cousins, and seeks more balance between the hops, malt, and yeast flavors.  That said there’s nothing stopping a brewery from making a hop forward American style pale ale and fermenting it with Belgian yeast (that type of freedom is half the fun of craft beer).  Let’s see what we got here:

A Little Crazy poured a light golden color, with a slight haze, and thin white lacing that dissipates slowly over time.  The entire group picked up on notes of fruit on the nose, however there were a wide variety of descriptors.  Alex and I picked up on notes of orange and lemon in the aroma.  Alex, in his propensity for epic amounts of detail, went on to note hints of grape and grapefruit.  Brad detected bananas and strawberry, while Colin detected apples or pear accompanied by a hint of vanilla.

There was also a fair amount of variability in terms of the individual tasting notes.  The group noted that the beer was pretty bitter upfront with some lingering bitterness on the finish (which some could find more tolerable than others).  Alex, Colin, and I noted that the beer had a sort of spicy characteristic  (Colin was thinking something related to nutmeg, while I was thinking something more like black pepper).  Alex and I thought that there was definitely an orange-like flavor present (to me it seemed kind of like orange seltzer without the spritzy carbonation).  Brad and Colin thought that the beer had a sort of metallic aftertaste, which was a turnoff for Brad, but it did not bother Colin.

The overall opinions of this beer seemed to vary as well.  Alex and Brad both strongly disliked the beer.  Alex thought the beer was way too out of balance (too hop forward) for a Belgian pale ale (and he was not a fan of the lingering bitterness that the beer offered).  Colin enjoyed the beer and thought it would be a good “door-opener” for people who typically don’t flock to IPAs.  I agreed with Brad and Alex that the bitterness could have been dialed back, but I actually did enjoy this beer.  It was an interesting mix of American hops and Belgian yeast.

Night Shift Brewing: Santilli

Beer Name: Santilli

Brewery: Night Shift Brewing

Brewery Location: Everett, MA

Beer Style: IPA

ABV: 6%

IBU: N/A

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The next beer on the docket was Night Shift’s: Santilli IPA- Bronze Medal Winner at the 2016 World Beer Cup.  Night Shift Brewery (and their beers) currently have a lot of hype behind them, so I thought it would be interesting to get my panel’s opinions without any hype swaying their tasting notes.  All of us have had Night Shift beer before (and some of us had even had this beer prior to the tasting), so this was the perfect opportunity to give a completely unbiased opinion!

Santilli poured a hazy golden color with a persistent white head.  Everybody’s notes on the aroma were both different yet similar (stay with me here).  The entire group picked up on some variation or another of fruit/citrus (individuals’ descriptors included orange, lemon, watermelon, grapefruit, and pineapple).  Alex picked up on aromatic notes of pine, Colin thought there was a definite juniper-like quality present, and Brad detected a raisin-like quality.  One area of overlap that did occur on the aroma (independently in the individual tasting notes) was that both Alex and I both picked up on a slight cheesy aroma (akin to parmesan).  This quality can present itself when a brewer has a bad or an old batch of hops that ends up being used in the beer.  This type of aroma can be more acceptable in a lambic (brewers traditionally used aged hops in that style of beer), but not in an IPA.

The group pretty much agreed that the flavor of the beer more or less matched the aromas they perceived.  The cheesy quality that I picked up in the aroma didn’t really show up in the flavor of the beer for me, but Alex still noticed it.  The beer was citrusy, piney, and grassy with a huge bitter backbone to it.  The bitterness was actually a turnoff for the entire group because it was somewhat astringent, lingering, and unpleasant.  Colin thought that the aftertaste was borderline chalky, and Brad felt that the beer was too imbalanced towards the overly-bitter side of the IPA spectrum.  Overall, nobody in the group was particularly fond of this beer, and everyone was surprised when I revealed what they were drinking.  Those who had drank this beer previously were especially shocked, and we all seemed to conclude that this was just a subpar batch of this particular beer.  But keep in mind that observations like the ones we made are why I keep the participants blind to what they are tasting in the first place.  It is possible that the reviews may have been more positive had they known what beer they were drinking from the start- simply because we are all fans of Night Shift Brewing.

New Holland: Black Tulip

Beer Name: Black Tulip

Brewery: New Holland Brewing Company

Brewery Location: Holland, MI

Beer Style: Belgian Tripel

ABV: 8.8%

IBU: 21

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For the last beer on this tasting panel, I wanted to steer the group away from hops, and more towards a style that is more malt and yeast driven.  I’ll admit that I’m more partial towards Belgian-style beers, but if my memory serves me correctly, I do not think that I nor any of my panels have reviewed a Belgian-style Tripel yet.  With that in mind, I settled on New Holland’s Black Tulip.  I think it made for a good change of pace.  Check it out:

Black Tulip poured a slightly hazy light golden color with a very light white head that dissipated very quickly (presumably due to the high alcohol content).  The entire group picked up on a banana-like aroma to some degree (some more than others).  Alex also detected some heavy bubblegum-like notes, Brad detected cherries, Colin thought it smelled oaky, and I picked up on some pear-like qualities.  Furthermore, the entire group could tell that they were about to have a strong beer based on the way the alcohol stung their nostrils.

Similar to the aroma, the banana flavors were pretty apparent.  Colin said that the beer reminded him of Portuguese “S” cookies (sort of like a biscotti) with a vanilla aftertaste.  He described the beer as a sort of “banana milkshake” only much thinner.  Alex picked up on similar qualities in terms of the malt character (calling it biscuity), and later agreed with Colin’s observations on the vanilla qualities when we went back and compared notes.  To me, the beer’s malty characteristics were sort of similar to a sourdough bread flavor with elements of pear shining through as well.  Alex also picked up on the pear-like qualities as the beer warmed up.  The most surprising thing for Brad (and the rest of us, for that matter) was how subtle the alcohol was in this beer.  We all smelled the alcohol immediately from the aroma, but it was not very perceptible in the actual flavor of the beer, which made this beer dangerously smooth.  Overall, Alex thought this beer was well executed and would order several more pints.  I thought the beer was pretty solid, but was a bit two-dimensional and could have used a bit of something more to put it over the top (I couldn’t tell you what exactly).  Colin thought that the beer was solid but not his style because it was a bit too sweet and fruity for his tastes.  Brad actually liked the beer a lot, which surprised him because he throws himself heavily into the hoppy beers corner- he would order another pint.

Christmas With The In-Laws: Snow Blind, Secret Stairs, Quad 12/30/2016

Welcome back everyone!  I hope you are all having a restful holiday season with lots of great beer!  I know I did.  This past week I went down to the Lehigh Valley in Eastern Pennsylvania to visit my in-laws for Christmas.  For some people, this might mean awkward dinner time conversations about politics and religion, but for me this meant a captive audience to put on a tasting panel (and later play drunk Mario Kart).  I was very excited for this panel because there was a lot of variation in my participants in terms of beer knowledge, appreciation, and preferences; and it helped reinforce why I wanted to start this blog in the first place.  I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!

Remember, none of the participants know what beer is being given to them (myself excluded)- this is a blind taste test and I only inform them of what style of beer they are drinking.  Not every person on every panel is an expert at reviewing beer and nobody’s palate is ever wrong- taste is purely subjective.

12-30-2016-tasting

Panelist Profiles

Name: Rae Name: Ben Name: Lori
Age: 30 Age: 30 Age: 59
Occupation: Music Teacher Occupation: Sales Manager Occupation: Insurance New Business Coordinator
Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 5 Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5):  5 Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 3 (Wine is better)
Favorite Beer/Beer Style:

Wheat Beers, Lagers, Ales

Favorite Beer/Beer Style: Originally a Budweiser guy, but is now also a fan of IPAs.  Still enjoys Bud. Favorite Beer/Beer Style: Porters and Stouts

Dislikes macro lagers

Additional Qualifications/Info: Rich’s sister-in-law.  Married to Ben. Additional Qualifications/Info: Rich’s brother-in-law.  Married to Rae.

 

Additional Qualifications/Info: Rich’s mother-in-law.  Rae’s mother.


Starr Hill: Snow Blind

Beer Name: Snow Blind

Brewery: Starr Hill Brewery

Brewery Location: Crozet, VA

Beer Style: Doppelbock

ABV: 7.7%

IBU: 13

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When I was deciding what beers to pick for this particular panel, I wanted to include a beer that I can’t find or buy in my home state of Rhode Island, a beer that my in-laws couldn’t find or buy in Pennsylvania, and a beer that was right in their own backyard.  So I decided to start the tasting off with Snow Blind Doppelbock from Starr Hill Brewery (slightly ironic considering Christmas Day was 45 degrees and sunny).  Snow Blind poured a dark red-brown color with a little bit of head that slowly dissipated.  The entire group picked up on hints of sweet caramel/toffee in the aroma, while Ben and I also detected some fruity notes (which reminded me of maraschino cherries).

The group was more or less on the same page in terms of the flavors that were being picked up.  The beer started off sweet on the palate, but quickly dried out in the finish with a slightly bitter/astringent aftertaste.  It’s difficult to assess where this bitterness is coming from considering the IBUs of this beer are pretty low (I don’t think we were tasting hop bitterness).  Rae picked up notes of burnt sugar, while Lori detected caramel.  Consistent with his observations from the aroma, Ben said he tasted some slight fruitiness in the aftertaste which reminded him of blueberries.  I thought I tasted slight notes of cherries, which reminded me of cough syrup; and when I shared this observation to the group, Ben and Lori both took another sip and agreed.  I can’t be certain whether this fruity characteristic is a yeast ester or a result of oxidation, but most of the group picked up on this nevertheless.  The consensus among the group was that this beer was good enough, but none of us would order a second pint- except for Lori who said she enjoyed the beer, especially as it warmed up.

 

Trillium: Secret Stairs

Beer Name: Secret Stairs

Brewery: Trillium Brewing Company

Brewery Location: Boston, MA

Beer Style: American Stout

ABV: 6.5%

IBU: N/A

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For the next beer in the tasting panel, I wanted to give them something from my neck of the woods.  Trillium is notable right now for being among the leading breweries setting the standard for the hazy “New England Style” IPA.  Because of that, it seems like many people hold Trillium (and other such breweries) in such high regard that they can do no wrong.  So I wanted to sneak one of their beers onto this panel because they have never even heard of Trillium or its hype (they’re not beer geeks like me, so they’re REALLY unbiased).  I’ll tell you right now that I didn’t do an IPA from Trillium because two out of my three panelists do not like IPAs.

Secret Stairs pours an opaque black color with an off-white/tan head that sticks around as you drink it.  The entire group detected coffee in the aroma.  Ben noted that he also tasted notes of sweet milk chocolate in the aroma, and Rae picked up on black licorice.  To me, there was a sort of burnt quality in the aroma (though not smoky).  The most assertive flavor in this beer was definitely the coffee (that was the first note on everybody’s tasting sheet).  Rae and I said that the beer had a thick mouthfeel, but also finished very dry.  Rae and Ben also picked up on hints of vanilla, and had a slight bitter aftertaste.  Lori said that the coffee notes became more amplified as the beer warmed up over time.  Considering my entire panel consisted of big coffee drinkers, everyone loved this beer and said that they would buy another pint.  I, on the other hand, drink coffee much less frequently and while I did enjoy the coffee flavor, I could only drink one of these at a time.  To me the flavors were a bit too ashy and acrid for me to drink this beer over and over again.  However, it’s still a great tasting beer in my opinion.

 

Weyerbacher: Quad

Beer Name: Quad

Brewery: Weyerbacher Brewing Company

Brewery Location: Easton, PA

Beer Style: Belgian-style Quad

ABV: 11.9%

IBU: 39

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For the last beer in this panel, I decided that I wanted to sneak something from my in-laws’ backyard (almost literally).  I absolutely love Belgian-style Quadrupels (Quads)- when done right, they’re a boozy marriage of dark fruit and spice flavors that I absolutely love.  That said, I forgot that both Rae and Ben are not fans of high alcohol Belgian-style beers (whoops), so they had some *ahem* colorful observations for this beer.  So just a heads up- you’re going to get the good, the bad, and the ugly in terms of tasting notes for this beer.

Weyerbacher Quad pours a hazy amber color with very minimal lacing that disappears almost instantaneously (likely from the high alcohol content).  Lori and I both picked up on a fig characteristic that reminded Lori of a Fig Newton.  Additionally I detected notes of raisins, plum, black cherry, and a heavy alcohol aroma (reminiscent of paint thinner).  Ben said that the beer smelled first like turpentine, then like the glue he uses to make model trains (and he also agreed with my paint thinner analogy).  After smelling for several minutes, the glue smell gave way to some fruit and spice aromas for him (though he struggled to identify specific fruits/spices).  Rae said that the beer smelled like the inside of a shoe (I told you this would get ugly).  I was unsatisfied with such a general answer (was it a running shoe? Work boots?  Ballerina slippers?), so Rae said it smelled like the inside of a leather sandal after I pushed her for details.  The tasting session paused for several minutes of laughter.  Just remember- taste is purely subjective (that was my mantra in that moment).

In terms of flavor, Lori and I both picked up on the dark fruit qualities of the beer (black cherry, dates, and especially fig).  Lori picked up on a note that made the beer almost seem lightly sour (tart).  Similarly, both Lori and Ben thought the beer had a cidery feel to it (it didn’t taste like cider, but there were qualities to it that reminded them of cider).  The entire group agreed that the alcohol did not hide in this beer, which was fine for Lori and myself, but not so much for Rae and Ben (Rae described this beer as borderline liquor).  The beer definitely had a burn to it as it went down your throat.  When asked if they would buy a second pint of this, there was a resounding no from Rae and Ben, while Lori said she would buy this beer again.  I also liked this beer, though if I am going to be nitpicky, I would prefer that this beer be somewhere closer to 9% (the alcohol in this was quite intense at nearly 12%).  That said, I found it quite tasty!

 

Brewers Round Table #1: Gose Gone Wild, Harvest Ale, Henry’s Farm 11/19/2016

Welcome back to the flight panel!  With Thanksgiving less than a week away, I’m beginning to think about what I am thankful for (corny as hell, I know).  This week I’m thankful that I had the awesome opportunity to sit down with three local professional brewers from Rhode Island for this panel.  At first I thought it would be both hilarious (and cruel) to give them all local beers to sample so that they could give a completely unbiased  opinion on their peers’ work (I have a dark sense of humor), but I decided to be nice and selected out-of-state beers instead (though the results would have been very interesting).  But in all seriousness, it was really interesting conducting a tasting with these industry professionals who have dedicated their lives to beer (something I also aspire to do).  Thank you Justin for helping me set this up, and thank you to Dave from What Cheer Tavern for being host to another panel!

Remember, none of the participants know what beer is being given to them (myself excluded)- this is a blind taste test and I only inform them of what style of beer they are drinking.  Not every person on every panel is an expert at reviewing beer and nobody’s palate is ever wrong- taste is purely subjective.

11-19-16-panel-extra

Panelist Profiles

Name: Justin Name: Tony Name: Morgan
Age: 30 Age: 37 Age: 27
Occupation: Brewer at Foolproof Brewing Company/Building a Brewery Occupation: Brewer/Cellerman at Foolproof Brewing Company Occupation: Head Brewer at Buttonwoods Brewery
Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 5 Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5):  5 Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 5
Favorite Beer/Beer Style:

Depends on the moment

Favorite Beer/Beer Style: Sours Favorite Beer/Beer Style: Saison

Saison Dupont

Additional Qualifications/Info: Homebrewer and has worked and brewed in several commercial breweries. Additional Qualifications/Info: Homebrewer and professional brewer.

 

Additional Qualifications/Info: Homebrewer, professional brewer, and Cicerone

Stillwater: Gose Gone Wild

Beer Name: Gose Gone Wild

Brewery: Stillwater Artisanal Ales

Brewery Location: Baltimore, MD

Beer Style: Gose

ABV: 4.3%

IBU: N/A

gose-gone-wild

In recent years, the beer industry has seen an increase in the number of commercially available sour beers.  Traditionally speaking, a gose is a low alcohol and tart wheat beer, with a restrained level of sea salt and coriander.  These beers tend to be among the best warm weather beers (yes, I realize that it’s November).  This beer poured a hazy, pale straw color with very light lacing around the edge of the glass (reminiscent of lemonade to Morgan).  There were a wide range of comments on the beer’s aroma- it was very complex.  The entire group picked up on a pineapple-like fruit aroma, and thought that the beer was possibly fermented with Brettanomyces (wild yeast- Brett for short).  We speak in hypotheticals because we don’t know how this beer was brewed with absolute certainty, but certain Brett strains do tend to exhibit pineapple flavors.  Morgan picked up on a nutty aroma that reminded him of rotten parmesan cheese (which sounds unpleasant, but is a common characteristic in Brett beers).  I picked up on a grassy/earthy aroma that is often indicative of a Brett beer, and Justin picked up on a slight sourdough bread aroma (likely from the wheat).  Just a quick disclaimer- a lot of the descriptors that one might use to describe the aroma and flavor of Brett beers sound unpleasant, but they are just individual elements that are present in what are often very complex beers.  I find that the flavors in Brett beers are often an acquired taste.

The group agreed that this beer had a nice lactic tartness, but not overbearingly sour- think of the difference between lemon juice and vinegar.  Acetic acid is the type of acid that makes vinegar sour, and can be very mouth puckering.  This beer was more tart in a lemon juice type of way.  The group picked up on hints of citrus (Morgan described it like a lemon drop) with a modest lingering saltiness.  Tony and I both agreed that there was a Brett-like earthiness in the taste, to which Morgan added that there were hints of cheese.  There was a mild bitterness that Justin and Morgan said reminded them of the pith of citrus (namely when you zest a citrus fruit too much and you get some of the white pith underneath the skin).  Tony said that the beer was a little bit one-dimensional, but he liked it a lot because it was easy to drink.  In fact, the entire group loved this beer and thought it was a very well done gose.  The entire group would order a second pint of this beer at a bar.

 

Founders: Harvest Ale (2016)

Beer Name: Harvest Ale

Brewery: Founders Brewing Co

Brewery Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Beer Style: IPA

ABV: 7.6%

IBU: 70

founders-harvest

I won’t lie to you folks, whenever I am shopping for beers to taste for any of my reviews, I am always very picky when it comes to picking IPAs- not because I think any particular brand will be better or worse than any other, but because of freshness.  All too often when I am at my local bottle shop, I will see IPAs on the shelf that are more than six months old- I refuse to touch them.  As a general rule, I try to avoid IPAs that are more than two-three months old (many are still fine after that, but fresher is always better).  With all beers, hop flavor and aroma fade over time.  So because hops are the central focus of IPAs, you want to drink it as fresh as possible.  I selected Founders Harvest Ale because it was only a little bit more than a month old, and it was a wet-hopped beer (wet hopped beers are beers that have hops added to them fresh off the bines (different from vines)).  Here’s what the group thought:

Harvest Ale pours a clear gold-light amber color with thin white lacing.  Once again there were a wide variety of descriptions of what was perceived in the aroma.  Justin perceived some mild oxidation in the beer (to which the group agreed).  Hopefully I’m not oversimplifying this too much, but in short, when a beer is oxidized (exposed to oxygen), it can come off as cardboardy in lighter beers, and almost sherry-wine like in darker beers.  Everybody agreed that there was a fair amount of caramel on the nose, along with some pine and fruity notes as well.  The most interesting (and surprising) note came from Tony who said that he perceived slight coffee on the nose.

The first sip of the beer reinforced everyone’s convictions that this beer had been oxidized.  Tony’s words were “its like when you walk into an old cabin and breathe in straight dust.”  Morgan remarked that the oxidation got worse as the beer warmed up.  But beyond this criticism, the beer reminded everyone of an old school IPA from the mid 90’s to the 00’s- Justin thought that this beer reminded him of Sierra Nevada.  There was a soft bitterness, some mild grapefruit, and pine notes from the hops with a caramel backbone to balance this beer out.  And at 7.6%, there was some noticeable alcohol burn to it.  Despite our criticisms of the beer, we all agreed that the beer was well balanced and was decent- that said nobody said they would order a second pint.

 

Two Roads: Henry’s Farm

Beer Name: Henry’s Farm

Brewery: Two Roads Brewing Company

Brewery Location: Stratford, CT

Beer Style: Doppelbock

ABV: 7.8%

IBU: N/A

henrys-farm

I tend to think that there are not enough commercial examples of a good doppelbock here in America (note that I have not had even close to the majority of beers in America, so this is just my opinion).  Still, when I find a good one that matches up in both quality and flavor to the German examples that I’ve had, I am very happy.  Here’s what the group thought of Two Roads: Henry’s Farm:

Henry’s Farm pours a clear amber color (Mahogany if you’re Morgan) with a nice white head on top.  A rich, almost candy-like caramel malt dominated the aromas, accompanied by a number of dark fruits noted by the group.  I perceived some definite raisin/plum-like characteristics shining through the aroma, Tony and Morgan picked up stone fruit, cherries and fig; and Justin said the aroma reminded him almost of a port or sherry dessert wine.  Overall the beer was very inviting.  The flavors of the beer seemed to line up exactly with the aromas that were perceived.  The beer was rich and caramelly with some dark fruit flavors detected.  Tony said that the beer, in an abstract sort of way, was reminiscent of marzipan (very nutty and sweet).  The only criticism (and it was very, very minor) came from Morgan who said that the body of the beer was a touch thinner than he would like, but it was otherwise very good.  Personally, I thought it was scary how smooth and approachable this beer was.  This one definitely holds a candle to the German examples that I’ve had.  This beer was the clear favorite of the evening, and everybody said that they would order a second pint of this.

 

Moonglow, Unearthed, and Space Cake 10/24/2016

Hey folks!  Welcome to the second panel edition of the flight panel!  First, a quick shout out- I want to thank Dave Crockenberg at What Cheer Tavern in Providence, Rhode Island for allowing me to use his space to conduct this (and hopefully future) flight panels!  This week, my volunteers and I tackled three more beers: a weizenbock, a stout, and a double IPA.  With the weather starting to get cooler and everyone starting to look forward to winter, I decided to bump up the gravity this week.  Remember, none of the participants know what beers are being given to them (myself excluded)- this is a blind taste test, and I only inform them of what style of beer they are drinking.  Not every person on every panel is an expert at reviewing beer, and nobody’s palate is ever wrong- taste is purely subjective.

10-24-2016-panel

Panelist Profiles

Name: Steve Name: Claudia Name: Jake
Age: 47 Age: 56 Age: 58
Occupation: Marketing Occupation: Occupation: Machinist
Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 5 Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5):  5 Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 5
Favorite Beer/Beer Style:

IPA

Bissell Brothers: Swish

Tree House: Julius

Favorite Beer/Beer Style: IPA

Tilted Barn

Favorite Beer/Beer Style: IPA

Titled Barn

Additional Qualifications/Info: Is a homebrewer and IPA lover Additional Qualifications/Info: Married to Jake. Branded herself as a lover of all things IPA, but was open to trying new things.

 

Additional Qualifications/Info: Married to Claudia. Is open to trying anything new.

Victory: Moonglow

Beer Name: Moonglow

Brewery: Victory Brewing Company

Brewery Location: Downingtown, PA

Beer Style: Weizenbock

ABV: 8.7%

IBU: N/A

moon-glow

Coming into this next tasting, I knew that I had a room full of raging “hop-headed” IPA fanatics; but as much as I also love hoppy goodness, I feel that I have an obligation to bring a little diversity in terms of beer style to the table.  So that’s one of the reasons I brought Victory Brewing Company’s “Moonglow”-  who doesn’t love a good Weizenbock? *chirping crickets*  …Ok Weizenbock is a very underdone style at the commercial level.  So just for a frame of reference, think of a German-style hefeweizen on steroids in terms of ABV (Weihenstephaner’s Vitus is one of my favorite examples of the style).  Many examples of the style will have some of the same fruitiness (often times banana-like) that one would find in a hefeweizen; but one might also find some deeper nuttier, caramelly notes similar to what one might find in a doppelbock.  Here’s what the group got from this beer:

The group basically agreed that the beer was a sort of amber-maroon color (Jake used the term “rust”; Claudia’s was dark caramel) with a persistent white lacing on the side of the glass.  Notes on the aroma were pretty widely variable: ranging from sweet and caramelly (reminiscent of burnt Caramel for Claudia; candy sugar to Steve), to a sort of bourbon-like quality for Jake.  To me, I smelled some definite caramel/toffee notes, but the alcohol was extremely apparent- the alcohol stung my nostrils and was almost like paint thinner.

Most of the group spoke in unison about many of the flavors this beer exhibited: a smooth caramel flavor with a sweet aftertaste.  Claudia said the beer was pleasant, and again said she detected a burnt caramel flavor in the beer (not to mention it paired very well with tacos- as we had ordered food).  Jake and Steve picked up on a sort of caramel and vanilla taste/aftertaste with the beer, which is consistent with the sort of “bourbony” qualities that Jake detected earlier.  This beer is not barrel aged, but it’s a very interesting note that the two of them noticed.  The star of this beer was definitely the caramel flavor, though I also picked up on some supporting banana/clove notes (the rest of the group did not).  In a surprising turn (spoiler alert) this beer was the favorite of the night for the entire group.  Everyone said that they would buy a pint of this beer, and maybe even a second one- acknowledging that the beer’s high alcohol makes it a “sipper” (in Steve’s words).  Overall, it was a very enjoyable beer and a step outside everyone’s comfort zone!

Long Trail: Unearthed

Beer Name: Unearthed

Brewery: Long Trail Brewing Company

Brewery Location: Bridgewater Corners, VT

Beer Style: American Stout

ABV: 7.9%

IBU: 58

unearthed

The second beer of the evening was Long Trail’s Unearthed stout.  Much to my surprise, the bar had just put this beer on tap, so I had to put on my best poker face (and also hope that nobody pre-gamed my tasting with that specific beer).  Fortunately for me, nobody did, so I maintained the element of surprise for the group.  Here is what we got from this beer:

Unearthed stout poured a deep, black color (coffee-colored to Jake) with very minimal lacing on the side of the glass.  The dominant aromas of this beer were chocolate and coffee.  Personally, I thought it was reminiscent of dark chocolate, toffee, with a definite burnt-ashy quality present in the aroma.  Claudia mentioned that there was a hint of vanilla and maybe a burnt caramel aroma to the beer, however there was some quality to the aroma that she couldn’t quite place.  For her, the coffee aroma was intense while the beer was cold, and got milder as it warmed up.

The first thing that everyone in the group tasted was a strong bitter coffee taste, which mellowed out as the beer warmed up.  Both Steve and Jake noted a sort of toasted nut flavor in the beer, which was akin to Brazil nuts for Jake.  As the beer warmed up, the aggressive coffee flavors gave way to some mellower caramel and vanilla flavors.  I also picked up a very light cherry-like flavor in the beer as it warmed up.  When asked if they would buy one or multiple pints of this beer, the married couple said that they were not fans of the beer and likely would not order a pint.  Steve enjoyed the beer and would order one or two of them.  Personally, I think the beer is well crafted, however the beer had a lot of burnt-ashy flavors present- which became a bit too much for my taste.  I would order one unless other more appealing options were available to me.

Clown Shoes: Space Cake

Beer Name: Space Cake

Brewery: Clown Shoes

Brewery Location: Ipswich, MA

Beer Style: Double IPA

ABV: 9%

IBU: 90

space-cake

Now considering the group of panelists I had assembled for today’s tasting, I think I would have gotten in trouble if I did not include as least one IPA in the mix.  So I decided to stick to a beer from the Southern New England region with Clown Shoes’ Space Cake Double IPA.  Here’s what the group had to say:

The beer pours a golden (approaching orange) color with a slight haze, which reminded Jake of cider, and had nice lacing on the side of the glass.  There were a lot of different perceptions of the aroma on this beer.  Steve picked up some slight fruity notes in the aroma that he couldn’t readily identify, and I agreed (I thought maybe grapefruit, however the notes were faint, and I couldn’t be certain).  Claudia thought the beer smelled yeasty and slightly skunky (I thought that there was a slight “dank” marijuana smell in there, though she did not agree), and Jake got a tin can smell.  My full notes on the aroma included light caramel, alcohol that tingles the nose, light grapefruit, piney (like pine needles), and an extremely light “dank smell”.  Overall, when I combined all of those notes together, the beer had an aroma that reminded me of house cleaner.

The group seemed to agree that the beer had a good bitter backbone.  Steve and I both agreed that the beer was balanced between the malt and hops (compared to other IPAs that can often be much more hop-forward).  The sweet malt flavor popped more as the beer warmed up.  The group also agreed that the alcohol was not hidden in this beer.  For Claudia, the beer was too strong, and it reminded her more of a spirit than a beer.  For Steve, the bitterness was not overbearing, the alcohol was very apparent, but the beer was otherwise a bit two-dimensional.  When asked if they would buy a pint of this beer, neither Steve nor Claudia said they particularly enjoyed the beer very much and would not buy a second pint.  Jake, on the other hand, liked the beer.  He said it had a good bitterness, and he would buy a second pint.   I thought the beer was pretty good, but it is definitely not among my favorite IPA’s.

Oktoberfest, Dock Time, Stoopid Wit 10/6/2016

Hey Folks!  This is the first of what will hopefully be many flight panels.  Just so you, the reader, know what’s going on- I presented a panel of three individuals a blind tasting of three different beers.  When I present them each beer, they are told what style of beer it is, but that is it.  They have no idea what brewery produces the beer.  The reason I want to host these flight panels is because I believe that beer drinkers carry preconceived notions of how good or bad a beer will be based solely on who makes it.  With these panels, I am seeking to eliminate that factor entirely.  The panelists are presented with three beers. They judge them solely on their merits in a blind taste test.  They describe what they taste, and I ask whether or not they would order a second pint.  It is only after they review the beer that I reveal what beer they drank.  Before each tasting, I ask a few basic questions about each panelist so that you, the reader, can get to know who is reviewing the beer.  Remember, not every person on every panel is an expert at reviewing beer, and nobody’s palate is ever wrong- taste is purely subjective.

notes

Panelist Profiles

Name: Dr. Alex Name: Emily Name: Becky
Age: 28 Age: 30 Age: 31
Occupation: Chemist Occupation: Historian Occupation: Physician Assistant
Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 5 Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5):  5 Level of Beer Appreciation (1-5): 4
Favorite Beer/Beer Style: IPA, Pale Ale, German Lagers, Barrel Aged Stouts, Sours Favorite Beer/Beer Style: Saison Favorite Beer/Beer Style: Pale Ale, IPA
Additional Qualifications/Info: BJCP Recognized Judge Additional Qualifications/Info: Dislikes strong hoppy flavors and bitter beers, as well as beers with a lot of brettanomyces flavor.

Taster notes she has a cold

Additional Qualifications/Info: Dislikes porters and stouts because of the coffee taste.

Newport Storm: Oktoberfest

Beer Name: Oktoberfest

Brewery: Newport Storm Brewery

Brewery Location: Newport, RI

Beer Style: Märzen

ABV: 5.6%

IBU: 14

newport-storm-oktoberfest

What better way to kick off the fall season (and a beer blog) than with a good old fashioned Oktoberfest beer? (Cue accordion music)  In terms of appearance, the group collectively described it as mostly clear with a good copper-amber-like color to it.  Most of the participants noted a noticeable caramel aroma up front, except for Emily who had a cold (her the beer didn’t have much of an aroma… c’est la vie).  But otherwise, the aroma was pretty light and neutral.  Dr. Alex, the homebrew judge-in-training among the group, detected a slight earthy aroma (potentially from the hops), as well as granny smith apple (an off-flavor commonly derived from fermentation).  None of the other participants, myself included, picked up on the granny smith aroma.

In terms of flavor, the entire group picked up on the readily apparent caramel notes that were noted in the aroma.  In addition, myself and Becky both suggested that the malt flavor was almost graham cracker-like in addition to being caramelly, to which the other two agreed.  Everyone in the group noticed that the beer had a lingering bitterness, but the bitterness was not derived from the hops (the beer is definitely not hoppy).  Dr. Alex suggested that the malt character of the beer, in addition to being caramelly, was reminiscent of rye bread (which is consistent with an earthy aroma).  It seems that the sort of “peppery/earthy” finish to the beer was the likely culprit of the bitter aftertaste (which Emily was not a big fan of).  Becky says the beer reminds her of being in a pumpkin patch or at a harvest festival (probably a good thing for an Oktoberfest).

In terms of an overall impression of the beer, the room was pretty much unanimous that the beer was an easy drinker, but none of us would necessarily seek it out or order a second pint of it if presented with a variety of other options.

Stony Creek: Dock Time Amber Lager

Beer Name: Dock Time

Brewery: Stony Creek Brewery

Brewery Location: Branford, CT

Beer Style: Vienna Lager

ABV: 4.8%

IBU: 24

stony-creek-dock-time

I selected Dock Time by Stony Creek because I thought it would be interesting to compare it against the Newport Storm Oktoberfest (the styles are fairly similar).  This beer won a gold medal in the Vienna Lager category in the World Beer Cup this past year (damn!), so it made for a good continuation to the panel discussion.

The group agreed that the beer was a medium-dark amber beer, with a slight haze to it, and had a low head retention (a lace of bubbles at the top of the glass) that faded quickly over time.  The room was quick to acknowledge the light caramel notes of the beer, as well as a toasted bread aroma.  Emily still could not smell anything…0/2.  Becky noted that the beer was dry and did not perceive any hop flavor.  Emily mentioned that the beer had an earthy bitterness that, for her palate, dominated the caramel malt character of the beer over time.  She did not find the beer very complex.  Dr. Alex, on the other hand, was a big fan of the beer.  He noted a grainy bread flavor reminiscent of 9-grain bread with toasted notes, and a mineral-ey aftertaste.  He noted that the beer had a sweet mouthfeel, but was not cloyingly sweet because it finished very dry.

There was a wide range of opinions in the overall impressions of this beer.  Personally, I thought that the beer was brewed well and was an easy drinker, however it was a bit two-dimensional for my tastes and kind of boring.  Emily agreed, and added that she would begrudgingly finish this beer, but would not order a second pint.  Becky, on the other hand, found that the beer was enjoyable, a good stand-alone beer, and would be good for relaxing at a bar for a few hours.  She would order a second pint of it.  Dr. Alex liked the beer the most.  He liked that the beer finished dry, was an excellent example of the style, and would certainly order multiple pints of this beer!

Lagunitas: Stoopid Wit

Beer Name: Stoopid Wit

Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Company

Brewery Location: Petaluma, CA

Beer Style: Belgian Witbier

ABV: 6.3%

IBU: N/A

lagunitas-stoopid-wit

I love a good Belgian-style witbier- it’s one of my favorite styles of beer!  So when I saw Lagunitas Stoopid Wit, I felt like I had to grab a bottle.  Lagunitas is known for putting a hoppy West Coast spin on most of their beers, so I was curious what they would do with my beloved witbier.  When I introduced the beer to the panel, I introduced it as a Belgian style witbier- I did not tell them to expect more hops (which one does not find in a typical witbier).

The beer poured a yellowy-orange color with a haze that one would typically find in witbier with a head retention that did not quit.  Right off the bat, Becky noted that she smelled citrusy hops that reminded her of clementines (or some other citrus).  Dr. Alex said that the beer smelled spicy- specifically he smelled orange, coriander, and lemon zest.  He believed that the hop aroma was indistinguishable from the yeast phenolics.  To me, the beer smelled like lemon and grapefruit zest (though the more I think about it, the grapefruit could likely be derived from the hops). Emily, who still couldn’t smell anything, simply wrote “Sudafed”.  Smartass.

The room seemed to agree that this beer was more heavily hopped than one would expect from a typical witbier.  Becky said the beer was very citrusy, both in terms of actual citrus as well as hop flavor.  For her there was a strong lemony flavor bordering on a lemon pledge-like flavor.  Dr. Alex said the flavor was like chewing on an orange peel.  The room agreed that the beer had a black pepper-like spiciness (likely derived from the wheat and yeast phenolics).  The most interesting description of the beer came from Emily, who said the beer reminds her a bit of Earl Grey tea.  She says that if you like Earl Grey tea, but you don’t really like beer, you should give this beer a try (or any Belgian witbier for that matter).

When asked if they would order a second pint of this beer, Becky said she would not order a second pint because it was a bit too bitter for her.  Witbiers are not Dr. Alex’s favorite style, so he said he would finish his pint, but would not order a second pint.  Surprisingly, Emily, who dislikes hop bitterness and generally dislikes hoppy beers, said that she enjoyed the beer.  Even more surprising, she said she would order a second pint if there was a lack of other options.  Lagunitas is known for adding more hops to beer styles that don’t usually feature hops, so to hear that Emily enjoyed this beer was a pleasant surprise.  I enjoyed this beer more than the rest of the group.  I am the only participant who is not blind to what beer is being reviewed during these panels, so it’s possible that because I knew Lagunitas brewed the beer, I knew to expect hops.  That being said, I loved the intense citrus that the beer had to offer (both from the hops and the citrus that is common to the witbier style), and I would definitely order a second pint.  The hops and citrus blend together very well in my opinion, and I would recommend this beer to a friend.