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.
|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
|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
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
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
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.