Stillwater Artisanal Ales
A Saison Darkly
I don’t know that I’ve had a beer before technically classified as a “dark saison”, but Stillwater gets good reviews wherever it goes, and I’ll admit I love whatever this fad of adding roasted grains to beers is. The Cascadian dark (or BPAs or whatever you want to call it) is awesome, so I’m willing to give this a go, particularly as it’s supposedly actually brewed in Belgium. They make pretty good beer in Belgium, in case you hadn’t heard. Also, a new tag: Saison!
As expected, the head inflates in a hurry, climbing to an inch of smoky brown froth. The effervescence is steady, with the big globules pushing their way to the surface, keeping the head sturdy. The beer is virtually opaque, with only the bubbles on the interior surface of the glass making their presence known.
The color is black, save for a slightly cola-brown tinge around the edges. The general aroma is surprisingly light, lacking an overwhelmingly sweet or densely roasted smell that one might expect. Malt is the first thing to appear. It rises as warm bread crust, exposing baked apple, and a touch of butterscotch.
The mouthfeel is busting-at-the-seams full. The carbonation dances across the tongue, carrying with it that roastiness. It emits a smokiness that props up the rest of the flavors. Warm alcohol notes spread in the form of ripe stone fruits across the palate. Dark chocolate, cherry, and dried apricot emerge along with a barely perceptible crackle of yeast and hops, like damp wood burning.
A heap of sediment is still sitting on the bottom of the empty glass. This bottle could sit for a year or more and would probably turn out to be a pretty nice mix of smooth and sweet, but as it is, it’s a really lovely amalgamation of two a porter and a saison.
Clipper City Brewing Co.
Heavy Seas Gold Ale
A slow, slightly glugged pour yields little in the way of head, though a lacy white honeycomb sits on top of this mildly carbonated ale. The clarity is just this side of glassy. There is some blush through the middle of the glass, but the color is otherwise a wonderfully tawny gold.
The nose is biscuity – warm bread crust and honey on top of some slightly floral hop perfume. A light vegetal smell sits beneath the slightly murky lupulin layer.
The mouthfeel is nice and even; soft at first as a mild ale should be, but opening up towards the back of the swallow with sweet tangerine and mandarin that carries just a faint tart pop. The finish hangs on for just a moment, coating slightly, before gradually dissipating into a slightly malty sponginess.
Again, this is a mild, though not entirely quiet session ale. I’d sit down with a couple more of these in front of me.
Heavy Seas Beer (Brewed by Clipper City Brewing Co.)
Beer of the Month Club pulled a fast one on me. When this particular shipment arrived, I was excited to receive a beer from a brewery I’d never heard of. However, upon further investigation, I found that Heavy Seas is simply Clipper City redux; and the Marzen used to be the MarzHon. Also, Heavy Seas uses some cute marketing to class their beers into “Pyrate”, “Clipper”, and “Mutiny” fleets. Fine. Despite already (sort of) reviewing this one way back in January 2009, I remember liking it quite a bit, so I’ll just have to give it another go. I’m a trouper.
The brew pours softly, not yielding too much of a head, though a snowy and delicate layer hangs around for a while. Very nice. The clarity is superb, and some decent sized pearls buzz up the glass. The color shines like a coin, but is just on the yellow side of copper-penny.
The nose is dank with malt, offering some toasted, biscuity notes, along with mildly sweet brown sugar aromas, and just a smattering of Noble hops.
The mouthfeel is excellent, flowing across the tongue and coating the mouth evenly with a smoothness of perfectly-made pie crust and a bit of honey graham cracker. The end of the swallow barely mentions the hop presence, but there’s enough of a green-twig crackle to even things out. No alcohol warmth like some German varieties, but this is as smooth a lager as you’re likely to find locally. Heavy Seas or Clipper City – either way, I’m on board.
Wild Goose Brewery
I am saddened to learn that the Wild Goose Brewery was bought by Flying Dog and subsequently closed. Both the IPA and Oatmeal Stout were solid brews. Also, it means this batch of Brown Lager, and any IPA or Stout I might have, will be my last (and may be past its due date).
A fine tawny lace shows no signs of diminishing any time soon. Swarms of delicate pearl strands fly up the glass to make sure. The clarity is very good, though the beer is quite dark, like root beer with touches of vermillion and eggplant through the light.
The nose has hints of dry straw, coconut flesh, and a bit of molasses. The crackling straw aroma hints at hops, but there is more richness of malt than anything.
The mouthfeel is a bit thin, with the effervescence being the most prevalent thing. It feels a bit like mineral water at first. Gradually, some of that slatiness turns into a bit of lemon, but not really. A slightly roasted character feints at the middle of the tongue, but disappears just as quickly.
At 4.3%, this beer is an easy drinking session beer, and with the lack of any defined body, it’s just as well that it can be drunk quickly.
Wild Goose Brewery
A steady, barroom pour elicits a lively beer with a head that sticks around at about a quarter-inch, subsiding to a film that stays active from the steady stream of bubbles. The lacing seems to remain.
The color is a slightly hazy honey color with touches of gold bar and marmalade orange in the light.
The nose is an interesting amalgam of malts and hops. With the IPA tag, this beer should have more citrus and bitters on the nose, but the aroma is mostly wet woodchips and a background of faintly peppery fruit, like a grainy ripe pear.
The mouthfeel is excellent – full and creamy, and yet exhibiting all the life that the effervescence of the pour indicates. Dry, chalky bitterness is the first thing to hit the palate. The flavor is a bit acerbic, like crabapple, with some very terse grassiness that cracks like bitter endive.
This is a truly sere beer, which is actually pleasantly surprising after the damp malt miasma that initially rises from the glass. The aftertaste is a tad metallic, but overall the flavor is good – neither citric nor grassy. The hop characteristic is similar to the tobacco notes of Simcoe but this is more of a Fuggle hop English IPA.
Clipper City Brewing Co.
I’d thought I’d already written a review for this beer, but as a terrible blogger and a very good drinker, it seemed to have evaded me. CCBC was founded at the end of 1995 by former brewpub owner Hugh Sisson who was, I believe, featured in a spread in Draft Magazine last year.
A nice, off-white and very active head charges its way up the glass with a bit of a flourish, settling into a nice cloudy billow. The color is a perfect amber and the clarity is excellent. The nose is strong and is all roasty and toasty malt. The mouthfeel is fine and the carbonation in the glass is not indicative of the first sip. The maltiness is evident on the tongue and produces a smoothness like a brown ale but with a fine effervescence that reflects a faint yeastiness that is just noticeable in a warm alcohol note at the top of the swallow.