Tag Archives: Strong to Quite Strong

SweetWater 420

Sweetwater Brewing Co.
Atlanta, GA
IPA

SweetWater was one of the first Southern breweries to start getting their small batches up above the Mason-Dixon. Their 420 is fairly ubiquitous and was a staple at most beer bars in the last 10 years. I digress. 

The pour is active and hazy – bottle-conditioning will do that to a brew – and a copper penny color sits in the dense middle while the out edges of the glass shine like polished amber. A fluffy white head holds up nicely as the active yeast keeps doing its work. It’s a treat to have a bottle-conditioned beer at the right time. 

  
The nose is heavy on grapefruit with a vegetal zest smelling sort of the way radishes taste. It sounds weird but you know what I mean. 
The mouthfeel is very even and balanced – exceptionally so. Nothing is out of place. There’s enough malt to cover the palate and some peppery sparkle on the tip of the tongue while the hops hit their high notes on the sides.  
Certainly it is a citrus-forward brew, but it is tempered by Chinook pine which adds earthiness to the high-flying grapefruit flavor. This is not nearly the “mammoth” IPA the label claims it is but it’s a damn fine beer and, in my opinion, outranks their flagship 420. 

Berkshire Brewing Drayman’s Porter

Berkshire Brewing Co.
South Deerfield, MA
Drayman’s Porter
6.2% ABV / 36 IBU

Holy hell, it has been too long. I am back, I swear it. It’s not that I haven’t been drinking – I have! A lot! As much as I can. Inspiration struck the other night, and a bomber of this stuff in the fridge was just calling to me. “Open me,” it said. “Drink me, and enjoy. But share it with the world. With all your countless fans.”

“I will, talking beer,” I said. “I will.”

This beer lets in no light, save for what trickles in from the top as the honey-colored head subsides. All but black, the muddy brown curtain obscures any view of the gentle carbonation.

A few of these and you'll need to carried

A few of these and you’ll need to be carried.

The nose has caramel, milk chocolate, and the cold smell of a concrete floor – like a garage or basement that has been cleaned but is perpetually damp. Some minor vegetal aromas appear, but are overpowered by the cool sweetness.

The first sip starts smoothly, with very little carbonation. There is a softness, but no coating of the mouth or acrid bitterness from the toasted grains. The sides of the tongue get touched with some sparkling but evanescent green hop bitterness, but everything gets ironed out to the back of the palate with chocolate milk, sourdough, and a touch of mocha.

I may have served the first pour a bit too cold, but it’s an easy drinker and a smooth 6.2 percent, which lacks any of the roasted char and sticky alcohol apparent in so many bulkier US porters.

Sixpoint Righteous Ale

Six Point Brewery
Brooklyn New York
Righteous Ale
6.3% ABV / 57 IBU

I don’t usually include the ABV or IBU, but since they are so keen to include it on the can (along with SRM, no less), I figured I’d add it. Six Point has found their stride with recipes, and with their new can design branding, it looks good too.

The pour is surprisingly quiet though with a little help, a frothy faintly beige head emerges, maintaining at a half inch.

The clarity is low, but the beer is murky, not opaque. Reddish-brown mahogany and cherry wood colors predominate, letting some amber light through. It’s basically like an Irish setter, but it smells better.

The nose has a heavy wort grain aroma – rich and oaty with a bitter pop like an ESB. That segues into the hops, which are resinous and herbal, but not overly floral. The mouthfeel is good (though I think I poured this particular can when it was too cold). The woodsy hop character shows up gradually atop the palate, spreading outward with peppery rye and some clean lemongrass. A green apple skin tartness is accompanied by brown sugar maltiness.

The beer never cloys, but the finish has a slightly dank cling that hopheads and ale lovers will recognize and adore. The rye is relatively quiet, so it comes across more as an APA – and a good one – but I was expecting just a little more twang from the malt.

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.

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.

Lake Placid IPA

Lake Placid Brewing Co.
Utica, NY
India Pale Ale

The beer pours with decent clarity, through which steady streams of fine effervescence can be seen heading up to the surface to help bolster the already frothy beige head. The color is deep amber with toffee brown highlights.

Lake Placid IPAPungent, resinous piney aromas mingle with some very tart citrus notes. Hopheads will get fired up delving into the miasma of hops emanating from the glass.

The mouthfeel is excellent and expectedly hop-forward. The hops come together without zapping the tongue, and veer more towards the woodier pine flavors than any citrus fruit. There is a very subtle malt presence that helps to even out the swallow along the sides of the tongue but, ultimately, the finish is green and tart and gives a hint of the nearly 7% ABV that lurks behind what is otherwise a well-balanced, though certainly hoppy, brew.

He’Brew Hop Manna

Schmaltz Brewing Co.
Saratoga Springs, NY
He’Brew Hop Manna IPA

Love the folks at Schmaltz – they make great beer, aren’t afraid of taking chances, and manage to do it all without taking themselves too seriously. This brew is made with Warrior, Northern Brewer, Cascade, Amarillo, Crystal, Fuggle, and Golding AND is dry-hopped with the Cascade, Crystal, and Amarillos.

Not much head appears on the pour, but what does show up is cloud white and looks just as soft. The beer is straw gold with a honey quality to it that belies its crystal clarity. That clarity shows slow, sparse effervescence chugging up to the surface, keeping a clingy halo at the mouth of the glass.

The nose is not as aggressive as the seven hops may initially indicate, but Fuggle and Golding are much subtler than Cascade or Amarillo. What you get is a really nice medley of soft aromas. There is citrus, naturally, but that grapefruit spray emerges slowly behind a powdery floral bouquet of paperwhite, lavender, as well as some pine sap that masks just a bit of bready malt. Great stuff.

The mouthfeel excellent, accelerating from a surprisingly bubbly front and spreading out like a meadow. The hops hit immediately – bitter citrus first, then the wafting, rosy florals, and finally just a slightly metallic tobacco touch at the end. The malt is not apparent immediately, but the lack of any sere, saliva-sapping aridity shows that there is more balance than you might think.

Sixty-five IBUs is a lot, but not a ton, and this beer is an easy-going 6.8% that’s going to please any hophead. It’s hop-forward, to be sure, but Schmaltz has done a wonder here by creating a ‘big’ beer that is not going to be undrinkable for those who don’t have a sense of humulus. Nice stuff.