Shiner Wicked Ram IPA
Here are some things I like: Shiner. IPAs.
Shiner has been marketing their new IPA and it’s about time, too. MOST of what Shiner (Spoetzl) does is great. I’m still not sold on Cheer…
This one pours livelier than most Shiners do; with some help, I kicked up a clean white head with fine lace. The color is red oak and copper straw, with excellent clarity (another Shiner staple) and a steady column of medium bubbles holding the head.
The nose is hop forward – wet grass and leaves, with a squeeze of lemon.
The mouthful is not huge but it’s even, using the effervescence well to coat your mouth. There’s a bit of an odd phenol tang, but that ignites slowly into a crisp grapefruit snap that is woodier than you might expect from an IPA. The finish sits for a moment to let you consider it, before disappearing in a haze of citric cream and just the mellow eat ember of alcohol.
At 6.0, it’s not a palate-wrecker, which I’m always game for. As always, Shiner makes a good, workingman beer. It’s pretty straight-forward, and it’s not changing any definitions of the style, but it’s good and it’s interesting and cheap enough to be worth it.
Michigan Brewing Co.
The pour is a shower of effervescence – carbonation streams up the glass, helping to inflate a delicate but full inch of cloud-white head. Those fine bubbles stay busy keeping the head settled at a half inch.
The clarity is good though the color is surprisingly light. (N.B. I didn’t pour the full bottle so any sediment in the bottle is still in there). It is a very fine straw gold, even champagne colored brew.
The nose is pleasantly surprising. Despite what seems to be a thin-looking brew, the aroma is much more interesting. Powdery bubble gum, along with lemon zest and coriander mix with slightly under-ripe banana flambé (which comes through as a sweet caramelized odor).
The mouthfeel is very good, if a bit on the thin side. However, spice gives way to more sweetness that couples nicely with the lemon zest. As the beer gets a bit warmer, the bubble gum and coriander emerges a bit more.
If I’m going to have a white or wheat beer, this is the way I like it.
Michigan Brewing Co.
Mackinac Pale Ale
The Mackinac pours with a dense and frothy white head that puffs up to a good inch or so. It sits atop golden-copper body with wonderful clarity and swift, fine carbonation that keeps that head inflated. Touches of marmalade orange color sit at the edges of the glass.
The aroma is full of orange zest and cinnamon toast, providing a nice complement of bittersweet smells.
The mouthfeel is very good but not great. It is smooth at first as that froth washes down, but quickly turns into a peppery tart hop character. Certainly, orange zest is present, and it gives a nice synergy with the orange marmalade color. The brew finishes a bit weakly, but, all in all, is a very refreshing English-style pale ale.
Samuel Smith Old Brewery
Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
Sam Smith has done very little that hasn’t been delicious. It’s also always nice to try a sample of a style from the country that created it.
As any good stout does, this one inflates with two or three fingers of beechwood colored foam. It starts to collapse around the outside, but sticks to the side of the glass. The color is jet black with just the faintest muddy brown at the bottom edge of the glass when held to the light.
The nose is all toasted oats and barley– dark chocolate, burnt brown sugar, and a rich nuttiness. There is no clarity to speak of, this thing is opaque, but the fineness of the carbonation on the head (not to mention the head itself) indicates that there is a lot of effervescence.
The mouthfeel is nothing short of outstanding – exceptionally smooth, with all the roasted notes flowing evenly through a creamy consistency that is full but refreshing. The chocolate and roasted coffee bean flavors are as subtle but effective as an English butler. The carbonation is barely noticeable until the end of the swallow when the bubbles dance across the tongue in perfect synchrony with just the faintest hit of bittersweet hops.
This stout is the real deal.
Boston Beer Co.
Samuel Adams Black Lager
Part of Sam’s Brewmaster’s Collection of specialty beers, specifically “classic” styles according to the site, the Black Lager is an example of a German-style lager that combines lager (bottom-fermenting) yeast and roasted malts. Usually these have a lighter body than your typical roasted malt beer like porter or stout, but have a nice addition of toasted flavors. Anyway, I think that Sam is a good brewery and I like what they’ve been doing with their BC.
Sam Adams Black Lager
The color is a surprisingly opaque espresso black with faint chestnut brown accents around the edges. A khaki head caps the brew nicely, settling down in this stout little glass with a frothy oculus around the inside of the rim.
Taking a deep breath, there is an instantly recognizable roasted char aroma. It is pleasant and not acrid, sitting beneath dank and resinous pine odors as well as a bit of damp tobacco leaves and a little bit of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.
The mouthfeel is wonderfully complex, combining some fine effervescence with a smooth and slightly creamy texture that coaxes out the soft milk chocolate character of the malt. A brief murmur of peppery hops comes around right at the very end of the swallow just to make sure you know you are drinking a lager.
This is an eminently drinkable brew and a fine addition to the landscape of American beer. This would be awesome with a really nice char-grilled burger and some sweet potato fries.
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Another fine guest review courtesy of Max, IPA-lover but skeptical hophead.
Back from a couple of weeks of high island living and busy days ahead I thought I’d go back to what I am good at (drinking IPAs) and give yet another guest review.
The first impressions of Petulama, CA, Lagunitas IPA is that of another in a plethora of trendy-named West Coast pale ales – underwhelming and over hyped!
But alas, after the weakish head, the tart citrus aroma and a color that is ho-hum at best, Lagunitas gets down to what the Sierra Nevadas and Harpoon IPAs of the world are all about: a magnificently well-balanced and constantly improving-as-you-drink-it personality. Lagunitas is the real deal, its shortcomings out of the bottle are blown away by the explosion of orange, lime, and even mocha flavor that dart up and down each pull.
Lagunitas IPA is easily a top tier example of the style, it is unpretentious yet uncompromising. Its simplicity is solely in its appearance. After that, watch out!
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a good lesson to learn, and one that most of us learn early in life. However, in the ever-expanding universe that is the beer market, it can be difficult for some brands to stick out amongst the many competitors and behemoth marketing budgets. So, here’s a cool little post about beer branding from our New York-area amigos over in Hoboken, NJ: Digital Tchotchke.