Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2010 Vintage

Please bear with me as the posts may be slow to roll for a while due to the birth of my son. Hope to get back up to speed here in the next few weeks.  -E

Brewery: Sierra Nevada
Location: Chico, CA
Style: Barleywine
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

On the tasting block today is Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot barleywine. I am tasting a bottle from this year's (2010) bottling. The Bigfoot pours a deep amber brown color with a thick, light-tan head. The nose has aromas of citrus, caramel, honey and oatmeal.

On the palate there is a distinct wininess along with a mild acidic note. The malt has a pretzel-like flavor. There is a notable bitter hops bite that is powerful without seeming out of balance. At 9.6% ABV, there is an obvious alcohol presence. Minor flavor notes of raisins, toast and mineral water sit in the background along with a slight residual sweetness. The finish has a lingering bitter hop bite. The Bigfoot has a full body without being too heavy.

I have been a big fan of Bigfoot since the first time I tried it. While every year's brewing has produced good results, some years are "A" quality right from day one. This year's brew seems to be a little rough around the edges to me. Notably, the bitter hops notes seem to clash a bit to me. I'm holding high hopes that the 2010 Bigfoot will age well (as most Bigfoot vintages do). I think there is some great promise for this one after a couple of years in the cellar smooths out the rough edges a bit. Good to drink now, but will likely be great to drink in 2-3 years.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Beer Fest!

The week has been Boston Beer Week, and it culminates with the American Craft Beer Fest this weekend. We have reviewed several of the beers that will be featured at the festival this weekend. For those who would like to compare notes, or would like some ideas on what beers to try this weekend, here are our reviews of those beers:

Clipper City:
Heavy Seas Below Decks Barleywine
Heavy Seas Small Craft Warning Uber Pils

Dogfish Head:
World Wide Stout

Leviathan Big Bohemian Pilsner

Left Hand Brewing Co:
Polestar Pilsner

Long Trail:
Double Bag
Pale Ale

Magic Hat:
Blind Faith

Otter Creek:
Stovepipe Porter

Sierra Nevada:
Pale Ale


Hop Wallop

Double Simcoe IPA

Magic Hat Blind Faith

Brewery: Magic Hat Brewing Company
Location: South Burlington, VT
Style: IPA
Brewery Website
Rating: A-

Along with their full time IPA, Lucky Kat, their current "IPA on Tour" is the Blind Faith, which is on the tasting block today. The Blind Faith is a hazy amber in color. It pours with a clumpy off-white head that fades rather quickly. The nose has notes of citrus, wheat toast and caramel.

On the palate the Blind Faith has an initial citrus and bitter hops rush that fades a bit to open up a cereal/bready malt note. There is a touch of caramel and sweetness present. The hops component has an herbal character along with pine and citrus in the background. The finish is balanced between aromatic and bitter hops along with a sweet malt note with oatmeal and caramel.

The Blind Faith is a really nice IPA. The malt holds up well to the hops without ever stealing the show. This has just the right balance of malt and hops for an IPA, and a nice mix of hops flavors. I'd love to see Magic Hat make this their year-round IPA.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pralus Trinidad

Manufacturer: Pralus
Cocoa Content: 75%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

Up next is another tasting from Pralus's dark chocolate "Pyramide des Tropiques". Today we have the Pralus Trinidad up for review. The Trinidad is deep brown in color with merlot highlights. The first impression on the palate is a rich chocolate flavor with a noderate bitter kick. The flavors that open up are earthy with herbal and vegetal notes, similar to grilled asparagus. There is a hint of spice. A mild acidity is present that gives rise to some citrus and black cherry notes.

Chewing the Pralus Trinidad opens up more earthy notes along with some tobacco. There is a slight grittiness to the texture as the chocolate melts on the tongue. The finish is well-balanced with smoke, bitterness, slight acidity and herbal earthiness all present. The lingering herbal and bitterness do lend themselves to a slightly medicinal taste on the tail end.

Overall, the Pralus Trinidad has a good chocolate flavor. Like many other selections from the Pralus Pyramide, the taste profile of the Trinidad is very distinct. The Trinidad focuses on aromatics, herbs and earthy flavor notes to create a unique chocolate experience.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Michel Cluizel 1er Cru de Plantation Hacienda "Concepcion"

Manufacturer: Michel Cluizel
Cocoa Content: 66%
Location: Venezuela
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

Our next review from Michel Cluizel's 1ier Cru de Plantation line is the "Concepcion" from Venezuela. The Concepcion bar is deep brown in color with faint purple hues. On the palate, the Concepcion has a nuttiness with peanut and walnut notes. There is a moderate acidity that brings out citrus, blackberry and dark cherries. Vanilla, roasted notes and "grilled" notes are also detectable.

Chewing the chocolate opens up notes of grilled vegetables, earthy/mushroom flavors and sweet lemonade citrus notes. The finish has a nuttiness along with a bitter note that combine to leave the impression of hazelnuts. The Concepcion's mouthfeel is smooth and creamy.

While the Concepcion didn't quite "wow" me the way the other chocolates from the 1er Cru de Plantation line have, this is still quite a tasty chocolate. Michel Cluizel's chocolates always seem to have just the right texture, along with balanced acidity and complex flavor. What more can you ask for?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

E. Guittard Ambanja 65% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate

Manufacturer: Guittard Chocolate Company
Cocoa Content: 65%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B

Up for review today is the Ambanja dark chocolate from E. Guittard. The Ambanja is made from Criollo cocoa beans from the Sambirano Valley in Madagascar. The bar is rather light brown in color for a 65% cacao chocolate, along with some orange/red/yellow highlights. The Ambanja leads with a rich chocolate flavor on the palate that has notable, yet balanced, sweetness. Acidity slowly builds to a moderate level. Red fruit notes of pomegranate and cherry are present, along with a banana/plantain note. Some floral and herbal flavors are present as well.

Chewing the Ambanja opens up sweet aromatics of vanilla and caramel, along with some floral notes. The finish has cherries over a faint bitter note. The mouthfeel has some barely noticable grit, but is otherwise thick and creamy. While the Ambanja leaves a nice initial impression, I find that the floral notes clash a bit with the bitterness and acidity in a way that ends up leaving a bit of a medicinal aftertaste. A decent chocolate, but has some room for improvement.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pralus Tanzanie

Manufacturer: Pralus
Cocoa Content: 75%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

Today's tasting is yet another dark chocolate from Pralus's "Pyramide des Tropiques". As you can probably guess, the cocoa in the "Tanzanie" dark chocolate bar comes from Tanzania, which is located just south of Kenya on the east coast of Africa. The chocolate bar is dark mahogany in color with hints of orange and red. The initial flavor impression is a bitter note resembling black coffee or bitter, IPA-style hops. There is an acidity that builds and highlights orange and citrus notes along with tart berries.

Chewing the Tanzanie dark chocolate brings forward floral and herbal notes, along with cherries, tobacco and pepper. The finish is rather long with a bitter/tannin note resembling hop flowers, along with some fruit notes and a hint of spice. The texture of the Tanzanie has a bit of grittiness to it.

I really found the flavor of this bar to be quite interesting. The bitterness plays off the floral/herbal flavors as well as the citrus notes to give the impression of a hoppy India Pale Ale. Being a big fan of hoppy beer, I really enjoyed this flavor combo. The only thing keeping this chocolate bar from scoring higher was some texture issues. This chocolate is well worth searching out if you like both bitter beer and bitter chocolate.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chimay Grande Réserve (aka Chimay Blue)

Brewery: Bières de Chimay S.A.
Location: Chimay, Belgium
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
Brewery Website
Rating: A+

Today's tasting is the legendary Chimay Blue. Chimay is widely regarded as the preeminent Trappist brewery in Belgium, and the Chimay Grand Réserve is their flagship offering.

The Chimay Blue is a hazy, deep reddish brown in color with some fine sediment. It pours a frothy, brownish-tan head bith big clumps of foam. The nose picks up some sweetness, with notes of port, sourdough bread, yeast, as well as earthy and mineral notes.

The Chimay Grand Réserve has a rich maltiness up front. There is not as much sweetness on the palate as the nose would have you believe. There are toasted notes, yeast, wine and some warming alcohol. There are distinct notes of wood and earth. The Chimay Blue has a faint acidity, and a slight note of black coffee bitterness. The finish is soft with woody and earthy notes along with toasted sourdough and a lingering winy warmth. The Chimay Blue has a medium body that stands up well to the complex flavor, and is surprisingly smooth for a beer brewed at 9% ABV.

The Chimay Grand Réserve is one beer that lives up to the hype. Perfectly balanced, and loaded with great flavor complexity, this is the pinnacle of Belgian beer. Buy two and stash one for aging, as a beer of this style and complexity will only improve as the years go by. One matter of note, with many of the complex flavors being quite soft, the Chimay Blue is particularly sensitive to the temperature it is served at. Anything more than a slight chill (45-50F) will kill off some of the softer notes. Give it ample time to warm up a bit if you had this in the fridge.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Long Trail Unfiltered IPA

Brewery: Long Trail Brewing Co.
Location: Bridgewater Corners, VT
Style: IPA
Brewery Website
Rating: B

Today's tasting is the Unfiltered IPA from Long Trail. The Unfiltered IPA is hazy golden yellow in color with some clumpy sediment. The head is white and bubbly and pours rather short in height. On the nose there are notes of citrus and yeast as well as a "Eurolager" note.

On the palate, the Long Trail Unfiltered IPA has a wheaty maltiness with some yeast. There are citrus and pine hops notes present, as well as a touch of sweetness. There is a bitter hops undertone that builds slowly, as well as some warming alcohol. The finish is wheaty malt with some bitter and citrus hops. The Long Trail Unfiltered IPA is medium bodied with a crisp, juicy mouthfeel.

As I've mentioned before, I don't think going the unfiltered route really lends itself well to an IPA. While this is an enjoyable beer, it drinks more like a hoppy hefeweizen than an IPA. The yeast and malt flavors tend to lead more than the hops here, and that just doesn't say IPA to me.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Victory Hop Wallop

Brewery: Victory Brewing Company
Location: Downingtown, PA
Style: IPA
Brewery Website
Rating: A-

Today's beer review is the Hop Wallop from Victory. As we've seen before with their Prima Pils and their Hop Devil Ale, Victory has a great track record with my favorite green flower. The Hop Wallop, as the name suggests, is a highly hopped ale that is not to be taken lightly.

The Hop Wallop is a hazy golden yellow in color. It pours a short, white, bubbly head. The nose is loaded with hoppy aromas of grapefruit/citrus along with pine. There is also a faint wheat aroma notable.

On the palate, the Hop Wallop wallops you with hops. (Yes, that was cheesy.) There is a bitter resinous hop punch. Citrus and pine notes are present in spades along with a bit of a mineral note. Some warming alcohol is here as well, which is expected at 8.5% ABV. The finish has clinging, bitter hops with citrus and mineral notes. The Hop Wallop is medium bodied with clinging tannic hop resin.

The Hop Wallop is another winner from Victory. This is a potent hoppy brew with plenty of flavor to support the strong bitter kick. While the alcohol level is high enough to keep this a sipping brew, it smooths things out nicely and provides a solid background that can hold up to the hops. Victory knows hops, and their Hop Wallop is a must-try for fans of bitter hoppy brews.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Left Hand Brewing Company Polestar Pilsner

Brewery: Left Hand Brewing Company
Location: Longmont, CO
Style: Pilsner
Brewery Website
Rating: A-

Today's beer tasting is the Polestar Pilsner from Colorado's Left Hand Brewing Company. The Polestar Pilsner is golden yellow/straw in color with a bubbly, clumpy white head. The nose has notes of citrus, eurolager and pine. I also detected a slight skunky aroma, but the bottle I sampled was about 6 months old so that may explain the skunkiness.

On the palate the Polestar Pilsner has a maltiness with notes of both wheaty and lagery notes. There is a mild-to-moderate bitter kick from the hops along with notes of pine and citrus. Some mineral water flavor is present on the palate as well. The finish has lingering lager maltiness along with some faint citrus hops. The Polestar Pilsner has some bigger malt and hops flavors than the typical Euro-style pilsner and it has a crisp, medium body that is just enough to hold up to them without being heavy.

The Polestar Pilsner has a rich European-style lager/pilsner flavor, along with a fair amount of hoppiness. This is one of the better American takes on a European pilsner that I've tried. The Polestar Pilsner is well worth checking out.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale

Brewery: Ballast Point Brewing Company
Location: San Diego, CA
Style: Pale Ale
Brewery Website
Rating: A

Today's tasting is the Yellowtail Pale Ale from Ballast Point. The Yellowtail Pale Ale is golden yellow with some fine carbonation in the glass. It pours with a short white head. On the nose there are notes of citrus and pine hops along with lagery malt aromas and some wheat.

The Yellowtail Pale Ale is crisp and off-dry with citrus and wheat bread malt on the palate. There is a nice hops presence with some citrus and pine along with some slight bitter notes. The finish is crisp and smooth with lingering light hops and doughy malt notes. The Yellowtail Pale Ale has a light body with a slight fizz.

The Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale is the perfect model for a summer ale. It is crisp and easy drinking with just enough hops. Impress your guests and serve this at your next cookout.

Friday, June 4, 2010

EB Beer

Brewery: Żywiec Brewery
Location: Żywiec Poland
Style: Pilsner
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

Continuing on with our selection of Polish beer this week brings us to EB Beer from Żywiec. The EB Beer is golden yellow in color, with some fine rising bubbles. The head pours up white and foamy. On the nose there are notes of citrus hops, white wine and some wheaty/lager malt notes.

On the palate, the EB Beer leads with a lager note followed by a winy juiciness that fades quickly into a biscuity malt flavor. There are herbal and citrus hops notes paired to a pleasant mild bitterness. The finish is led by a wheaty biscuit malt note. The EB Beer has a crisp, light-to-medium body with a bit of fizz.

EB Beer is a good European pilsner that has some nice flavor without sacrificing its lightness or drinkability. Fans of Carlsberg and Pilsner Urquell should check this one out.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

O.K. Beer

Brewery: Browar Okocim
Location: Brzesko, Poland
Style: Lager
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

Today we continue our Critical Tastings Polish festival with O.K. Beer from Okocim Brewery. The OK Beer is a deep gold color. It pours with a foamy white head. The nose has a characteristic Eurolager aroma along with bread and a faint herbal note.

On the palate the OK Beer is slightly sweet up front. There is a lagery malt flavor with bread and some vegetable notes. There is a faint spicy hops note along with some herbal flavors. The finish is short and lagery with some residual hop spice. The OK Beer has a crisp light-to-medium body, along with a faint fizz.

Okocim's O.K. Beer is better than OK. This is a quite a good European lager with good flavor.


Brewery: Żywiec Brewery
Location: Żywiec, Poland
Style: Lager
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

Up for tasting today we have Żywiec Beer. The Żywiec pours a straw/golden yellow color with a foamy white head. The nose has notes of lagery malt along with some herbal hops notes and a faint winy fruitiness.

On the palate, the Żywiec has lager malt flavor with a bit of a wheaty note to it. There is a pleasant herbal/floral hop note with a slight bitter bite. The finish has a doughy malt flavor with some lingering hops. The Żywiec has a crisp light-to-medium body, and a faint prosecco-like fizz. Żywiec Beer is a nice alternative to the typical Euro Lagers out there, with much more flavor than the typical green bottle fare.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Brewery: Zakłady Piwowarskie w Leżajsku S.A.
Location: Lezajsk, Poland
Style: Lager
Rating: B-

In my glass today is Lezajsk, a European-style lager from Poland. The Lezajsk is a deep straw-gold in color. It pours with a short white head that fades rather quickly. On the nose there is wheat, lager malt and some faint herbal hops.

The Lezajsk has a rather light flavor on the palate. There is a light lager malt flavor with some sweetness. (The sweetness here is likely due to the addition of rice or corn as an adjunct) Some citrus and herbal hops flavors are noted. The finish is rather short with sweetness along with malt and a faint bitter hops note. The Lezajsk has a crisp and fairly light body.

While technically a European lager, the taste profile and light flavor of Lezajsk puts is closer to the mass-market american lager/pilsners. In comparison to the typical BMC fare, to me this is a far superior choice. The light body and hint of sweetness are well matched, and suited to be served ice cold. If you're a fan of Bud/Miller/Coors you would do well to give the Lezajsk a try.