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.
|Name: Dr. Alex
||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
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
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
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.