Tag Archives: Awesome

White Birch Hooksett Ale

White Birch Brewing
Hooksett, NH
Hooksett Ale

This review is a few months old, but WordPress has been jamming me by not allowing me to upload photos, but it looks like we’re back. That said, I had to put the image at the bottom of the review and not in it’s customary left-or-right-of-the-color-description spot. It’s summer and I plan on drinking a lot of beer, so reviews should reappear with some regularity. Thanks for visiting, come back soon.

White Birch takes some chances, making small-batch brews with a wide variety of additional ingredients. They also take great pains to make sure you know exactly what you’re drinking, indicating, month and year of inception, and batch number of your beer. Once again, my beer hoarding has gotten the better of me as this beer was brewed March 2011 and, according to the bottle, “is not intended for cellaring”. As I recall, I bought this in August, so a few months shouldn’t be a huge deal.

Right from the get-go, you can tell there’s nothing decrepit about this beer. The carbonation is lively and crisp as an egg-shell white head rises up and crackles over crystal clear clarity. Very fine bubbles travel languidly up the glass, as though they’re stopping to enjoy the sunset-orange color of the ale.

The aroma is an interesting mix – the strong citrus aromas from the Cascade and Centennial hops take on a slight funk from the Belgian yeast, mixing to make an aroma that wavers between wet horse and cooked wild rice.

The mouthfeel is full, starting tart but slowing down a bit. Initially, the lemon, grapefruit, and pine bark flavors from the West Coast hops kick in on the sides of the tongue, traveling backwards with a small dose of whole grain bread bittiness which is really nice. Just when you think it’s a miniature hop-bomb, those grains flavors emerge at the back of the swallow as rye and caraway seed.

Almost no heat from the relatively high (6.5%) ABV, but this particular bottle probably calmed down a bit over the last year. I’ll have to give some fresh White Birch another try, but the addition of the cooked grain bitterness on top of the hops is awesome.

Advertisements

Widmer Drifter Pale Ale

Widmer Brothers Brewing
Portland, OR
Drifter Pale Ale

I’ve only ever tried this brew in bars on the West Coast, so seeing it at the bottle shop, I instantly picked up a few bottles with the intention of reviewing at least one before drinking them all casually. I just barely made it.

A thin, off-white head makes a brief appearance before fanning itself out across the surface and all but disappearing.

The color is polished oak and copper. Fine, slow carbonation shows through the excellent clarity of the amber. The nose is all hops, but more sweet than tangy or bitter. Powdery orange and tangerine emerge like the spray from freshly peeled fruit.

The mouthfeel is full, but even. Soft citrus candy flows across the palate, turning tart with some lemon and water cracker malt snap. Green apple skin crackles toward the end – light with a slight tingle of carbonation. The finish is creamy and smooth and, with that effervescence, sort of like an egg cream. A true pale ale with the Widmer’s signature West Coast bent.

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Chico, CA
Ruthless Rye IPA

Much-maligned rye has made a serious comeback and I am a huge proponent of its revival. It’s most commonly added to IPAs to impart some peppery spice to the bitterness already present. So, in the hands of Sierra, this is an exciting addition to an already strong seasonal line.

Pour carefully: a billowing, crackling, faintly tan head explodes over the top of the beer. As it descends slowly, it sticks to the inside of the glass. Extremely fine carbonation can just be seen – the clarity is excellent, but the beer is dark. The color is a clear toffee brown, like burnished oak.

The aroma is initially a bit like wet socks. There is pine sap, faint lemon, and the contradictory aromas of damp wood and burnt pumpkin seeds. The mouthfeel is very good, starting off with a creaminess that coats the mouth, but which is instantly stripped away by an intense woody bitterness, like a dortmunder. That drifts backwards with the swallow, giving way to a combination of intense citrus bite and the nuttiness of those toasted pepitas from the aroma.

This is a fascinating beer – it is neither pure hop bomb, nor just a peppery rye ale. It has the lager-like qualities of a German pilsner, but the piney tartness of an IPA. Certainly, it’s one of the most interesting beers I’ve had in a while, and it’ll wreck your palate for anything milder to follow, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t badass. I’m biased: I love Sierra, but this really is a sick brew.

Stegmaier IPA

Stegmaier Brewing Co.
Wilkes-Barre, PA
IPA

A slightly tawny head gurgles up above the brew, but quickly settles down as sediment swirls below. The beer is hazy but lets a little light through. The color is butterscotch with touches of burnt copper. The nose is more English style pale than true IPA. A sweet caramel malt aroma frames a floral hop aroma of lavender and paperwhites.

The mouthfeel is very good; the malt emerges fully without producing a cloying coating effect. Some mild, fine carbonation thins out the malt and allows citrus and green wood flavors of the hops to come about. The finish is dry and bitter, without being anywhere near sere. Despite being nearly 7%, there is virtually no heat from the alcohol. This is an awesome East Coast IPA. So awesome, it gets an Awesome tag. Nice work, Steg.

Avery DuganA

Avery Brewing Co.
Boulder, CO
DuganA IPA

Avery is sort of the definitive hophead Colorado brewery – and DuganA is purportedly their masterpiece. The smell of alcohol wafts out of the bottle with the pop of the cap; the beer pours out with a gradually increasing, dense yellowed white head that rises to a solid inch and stays there. The beer itself is perfectly clear – honey amber with a trace of copper. Small bubbles travel slowly up the glass in perfect strands, stirring up some floating sediment from the bottle.

The nose has a lot of grapefruit, but it’s soft and powdery with a woodsy finish. The mouthfeel is, to say the least, full. The tightly packed head washes over first, barely prepping the tastebuds just in time for what’s to follow. There’s a whisper of malt on the sides of the tongue, and a slightly metallic tang when the hops hit. They are certainly strong, riding a wave of citrus and tobacco, but they are not palate-crushing. Alcohol kicks in, but it’s warmth is gentle and gradual especially considering the 8.5% ABV.

This beer is big, but doesn’t wipe out your sense of taste. This is what balance does in a well-brewed beer.

Lake Placid Ubu Ale

Lake Placid Brewing Co.
Utica, NY
Ubu Ale

As evidenced by the Lake Placid URL, it is clear this is the flagship brew. Advertised as an English-style ale, it seems like it’s going to be a take on those flattish British brews. However, a dense head the color (and size) of toasted marshmallows inflates quickly, and subsides slowly, leaving craggy lacing down the sides.

The color is nearly entirely opaque. It’s not quite black, but really a dense garnet that issues just the slightest cola-brown tints at the edges. The nose is perfectly balanced. Malt comes through as slightly powdery cocoa with a touch of baking bread. The hops are slightly citric along with some faint pine.

The mouthfeel is excellent – very full with fine carbonation. The first part of the sip is perfectly smooth, but roasted flavors come out without adding any char bitterness. That transitions into some resinous pine hop notes that are combined with a touch of grapefruit. There is no metallic unevenness, nor twang of alcohol. This is an awesomely even brew.

Bar Games Olympiad VI

Well, only a year late on this post, but with the Seventh Annual Bar Games Olympiad approaching, I figured it was time.

The Sixth Annual Bar Games Olympics was off to a poor start when day-of bailers once again reared their heads. However, we are professionals – and lucky. Jabe came through once again bringing along his dad, Ed, and Ed’s buddy, Ron. These gents may have been Olympiad newbs, but they were crafty veterans, and first rate trash-talkers. Everyone was instantly intimidated.

And the day can begin

The random draw paired them off together, as well, so they had the chemistry of years of friendship on their side as well. Jabe, meanwhile, got paired off with Tommy. I did not have Bee around to help defend our Two-Time Champions title, and I was nervous until I was put together with Rade. Rado and I were college roommates, teammates, and have even been each other’s date to a wedding, so we also had the advantage of tacit chemistry.

The Ceremonial Eating of the Cheesesteak was as beautiful an opening as any year. In fact, it seems the organizers get better and better at it each year. All it really needs now is a laser light show.

As we trekked over to Bowlmor for the first event, the gentleman outside the establishment told us that their obscenely overpriced pitchers of Bud Light would not be made available to us due to an event that was happening. Mind you, it was around 1pm on a Friday, but I imagine it was an office party. Or maybe a cocaine deal. Maybe both.

Rado dons his glass slippers

We headed over to 300 at Chelsea Piers and commenced. Ed and Ron seemed to be the favorites as Ed mentioned something about a bowling league. Not to mention, his stature matches his son’s, and we all imagined they’d be bowling overhand. Ed had a strong game, though his partner did not match him, unfortunately. Tommy and Jabe rode Jabe’s high score and Tommy’s steady pace to best an even Rade and Charlie.

Scores (followed by event points, then total points):
Jabe & Tom: 144 + 110 = 254 (3,3)
Rade & Charlie: 113 + 110 = 223 (2,2)
Ed & Ron: 139 + 70 = 209 (1,1)

Our small squad headed back east for shufflepuck and pool at the welcoming Plug Uglies. Without Mike this year, shufflepuck was nobody’s strength, though Tommy is known for a finesse game, and Rade had a confident look in his eye.

Cornstarch Lane has claimed many a victim

Rade and I faced off against Ed and Ron first in a game that took its time. Following that game, Ed and Ron stayed on to face Jabe and Tommy. Jabe, no stranger to pucks thanks to his days as an Eph defenseman, bested his old man and faced an increasingly sure-handed Rade. Thanks to some huge numbers from Rade, and two kill-strokes from yours truly, Rade and I claimed the day on the cornstarch.

Ed gets serious.

Scores:
Jabe & Tom: (2,5)
Rade & Charlie (3,5)
Ed & Ron (1,2)

The billiards table was the next up, and the felt is one of my favorite arenas. It turned out that Ed and Ron were no newcomers to the cue either. However, in both their matches, they went for some aggressive shots, scratching and losing twice. The rest was up to Rade and me, and we came through on top.

Tommy considers his next shot

Scores:
Jabe & Tom: (2,7)
Rade & Charlie (3,8)
Ed & Ron (1,3)

A disheartened Ed and Ron led the way up to Heidelberg, dreading the Boot after what was, apparently, a bigger night than any of their younger compatriots had attempted. We were served in fine fashion once again, our bartender grinning as she filled the mighty vessels with Radeberger.

The Boot rears its frothy head

The only true drinking event of the day, the Boot Race provides more than just bragging rights to the winners, but can be a serious swing event, providing momentum (and liquid courage) to the victors. As we begin, it is clear that Rade and I, despite our long and storied history of drinking lager for sport, were outmatched. Ed and Ron had their Boot on the table in 1:26, while we were a mere nine seconds behind. Jabe and Tommy, seeing the futility in rushing across the line for third place, sat back and sipped until the clock hit 5:10.

Jaber finishes up. Finally.

The Boot record is still held by the Follansbee/Davidson repeat team of 2010 (1:24), but with Will, the two-time Yard Race champion and record holder showing up in 2011 to take on the Boot for the first time since its addition to the schedule, the ink in the record books may be subject to change.

Scores:
Jabe & Tom: 5:10 (1,8)
Rade & Charlie: 1:35 (2,10)
Ed & Ron: 1:26 (3,6)

It's easy to laugh after three liters of lager

After the Boot , naturally, are the two most precision-oriented events: Darts and Buck Hunter. Darts were fairly uneventful, with Ed and Ron showing their prowess at the more low-tech shooting event. With some outstanding pointing by Rade, we managed to go undefeated in Darts, besting the elder statesmen. Ed was not about to let his progeny surpass him on the cork, and the two of them claimed two points, ahead of Jabe and Tommy in the event.

The big man aims small

Ed lets Rade know a thing or two about a thing or two

Scores:
Jabe & Tom: (1,9)
Rade & Charlie: (3,13)
Ed & Ron: (2,8)

Rade and I were surging as we entered perhaps my strongest event, while Ed and Ron were making a real push to make up for their slow start. Jabe and Tommy were not floundering, but had lost the sure-footing of their first three events. I had confidence in my partner and knew that we had a serious chance at putting the title out of reach before heading into the Photohunt. We went first to put the pressure on the competition. My goalie and I put up strong numbers. Jabe and Tommy went next, with Tommy edging out Rade by a few points and getting within spitting distance of my score, but our gold for the event seemed intact. Next up, Ed and Ron, despite their Libertarian citizenship, proved themselves somewhat of Luddites, failing to put up significant numbers with the orange gun.

Scores:
Jabe & Tom: 3377 + 4233 = 7610 (2,11)
Rade & Charlie: 4428 + 4168 = 8596 (3,16)
Ed & Ron: 873 + 1947 = 2820 (1,9)

With the titled sewn up, we headed down the block for Photohunt. Again, the numbers were not close enough to be significant and the podium was set. There would be no need for a tie-break Beirut match.

Jabe and Tommy try to make up ground with Erotic Photohunt.

Scores:
Jabe & Tom: 105,000 + 80,017 = 185,017 (3,14)
Rade & Charlie: 129,432 + 51, 867 = 187,299 (2,18)
Ed & Ron: 61,359 + 12,705 = 74,064 (1,10)

Rado and Tommy keep it collegial

As always, the BGO is the best day of the year, and the best part is always the year’s newcomers. Ed and Ron, fierce competitors, were disappointed by their final results but plan to return to the field of play in 2011. Congrats to all the slackletes. Finally, the podium:

Gold: Rade and Charlie
Silver: Jabe and Tommy
Bronze: Ed and Ron