Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nirvana Belgian Chocolate Organic 72% Cocoa Bar

Manufacturer: Nirvana
Cocoa Content: 72%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B

Up for review today is a 72% cocoa chocolate bar by Nirvana Belgian Chocolates. This bar is made from 100% organic Trinitario beans from the Dominican Republic. The chocolate is dark mahogany in color with a purple hue. The small, unadorned squares break with a crisp snap.

The Nirvana 72% bar has both bitterness and sweetness prevalent. There are roasted notes, salt, espresso, earthiness and nuttiness on the palate. The sweetness also accentuates flavors of apples and caramel. There is just a touch of acidity as well. Chewing the chocolate brings out notes of cherries, hazelnuts and marshmallows. The finish trails with roasted coffee and roasted nuts with some of that sweet marshmallow flavor.

Overall, the Nirvana Belgian Chocolate 72% Cocoa Bar seems rather sweeter than the 72% cocoa content would lead you to believe. There is a nice balance and some complex flavors in this bar. Despite the complexity, I found the flavor to be rather flat. If there was a deeper richness to the chocolate, then this bar would really meet its potential and earn a much higher score.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Kilwin's Authentic Origin Collection 70% Tanzanian Chocolate

Manufacturer: Kilwin's
Cocoa Content: 70%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: C

On my recent trip to Panama City Beach, I happened to stop in at Kilwin's for some ice cream. When I saw several chocolate bars from their "Authentic Origin Collection" sitting by the register, I decided to grab a few to taste. First up is their 70% cocoa bar of Tanzanian origin.

The Kilwin's 70% Tanzanian dark chocolate bar is mahogany in color with orange-tan highlights. There are flavors of bread, cocoa and plantains. There is some fruitiness reminiscent of cherries, berries and apricots. A fair amount of sweetness is detectable as well. There is some slight acidity present. Chewing the chocolate intensifies the fruit undertones a bit. The finish has cocoa and marmalade notes.

The Kilwin's 70% Cocoa Tanzanian origin bar has a smooth, though somewhat thin mouthfeel that seems slightly waxy. I did find the taste to be rather flat. I can't help but wonder whether the lack of vanilla in the bar may contribute to that somewhat. Frankly, this chocolate bar reminded me of some of the chocolate that I remember from generic Easter and Christmas candy as a child. And that is certainly not a good thing. I'm hoping that the other bars I picked up from Kilwin's are better this one from Tanzania.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

Brewery: North Coast Brewing Co.
Location: Fort Bragg, CA
Style: Stout
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

Up today we have the Old Rasputin Imperial Stout from North Coast Brewing. Named after one of my favorite historical personalities (and one of my favorite movies), this beer is as dark as Old Rasputin's soul. It pours an opaque ebony color with a thick tan-brown head that hangs around for a good long while. The nose has fruity and floral hop notes, as well as aromas of coffee, malt and a banana-like sweetness.

On the palate the Old Rasputin has coffee and unsweetened chocolate flavors as well as a bitter hop component. There are also hints of black pepper spice. A metallic/mineral flavor is strong initially, but then fades into balance. The alcohol is noticable, which is expected at 9% ABV. The finish is quite bitter with coffee and chocolate notes. There is a creamy mouthfeel and a medium-to-heavy body that matches the big bitter flavor rather well.

The Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout is a big stout loaded with coffee and chocolate flavors. There is a nice bitter hops kick that compliments the malt quite well. This is a great curl-up-on-the-couch winter beer for coffee/chocolate stout fans.

Thirsty Dog Old Leghumper Robust Porter

Brewery: Thirsty Dog Brewing Co.
Location: Akron, OH
Style: Porter
Brewery Website
Rating: A

Today's tasting is Old Leghumper, an award-winning porter from Thirsty Dog. Thirsty Dog is currently distributed in 11 states, and by some lucky chance Rhode Island is one of them. If you can find them in your area, do yourself a huge favor and check them out.

The Old Leghumper Porter is deep mahogany, nearing black in color. It pours with a thick, light-mocha colored head that leaves a nice lacing behind as it fades to a clumpy foam. Its nose has liquid smoke, floral hops, citrus and woody notes.

On the palate, the Old Leghumper hits you with some bitterness up front, followed by a quick squirt of acidity. Following that roasted notes start to kick in. There is some sweet maltiness. Undertones of bitter hops, grassiness and carrots are present on the palate as well. There is a touch of steely minerality on the finish, along with roasted and citrus notes. The Old Leghumper has a medium to heavy body that is well matched with its robust flavor. This is a beer that just screams out "big porter". If that's your style, then do what you need to hunt down this beer. Your search will be well-rewarded.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter

Brewery: Flying Dog Brewery
Location: Frederick, MD
Style: Porter
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

Today's tasting is the Gonzo Imperial Porter from Flying Dog's Canis Major Series. This is Flying Dog's "big beer" line. The Gonzo Imperial Porter is nearly black in color with a faint hint of reddish brown. It has a somewhat short, light brown head. The nose has chocolate and roasted notes. There are also fruity hops, reminiscent of plums.

On the palate the Gonzo Imperial Porter has cocoa, smoky and roasted notes. There is a mild bitter kick, as well as some fruity hops. There are background flavors of grass and cucumber as well. Through all of this a powerful smoky flavor remains dominant. There is noticible warming alcohol. The Flying Dog Gonzo Porter has a fairly heavy body that clings to the tongue a bit. The finish has some bitter notes akin to unsweetened chocolate. The powerful smokiness seems a bit out of balance to me, but if you're a smoke fan then this may just be the porter for you.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Newport Storm Cyclone Series Luke India Style Red Ale

Brewery: Coastal Extreme Brewing Co.
Location: Newport, RI
Style: Amber
Brewery Website
Rating: C+

Today we have a brew from my home state of Rhode Island. Luke is from the Newport Storm Cyclone Series, which is a line of limited release beers generally brewed in a big style. Cyclone Luke is a deep amber red/brown in color, similar to cherry wood, with a slight haze. The tan head pours very thick and foamy. The nose has butter, bread and tart lambic notes.

On the palate, Luke's flavor is dominated by a strong buttered-popcorn flavor. There are smoky notes, bitter hops and some alcohol on the palate as well. The bitter character is reminiscent of unsweetened dark chocolate. Supporting notes of earthiness and wood are present as well. The Luke India Red Ale has a medium body with a bit of astringency. The finish is butter and bitter notes.

To me, this one is a bit of a swing and miss for Newport Storm. There are some nice flavors here, but the strong buttery diacetyl flavor clashes with the strong bitter hops. If you like buttery beer, then you may like this. I just can't get into it myself.

Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale

Brewery: Smuttynose Brewing Co.
Location: Portsmouth, NH
Style: Pale Ale
Brewery Website
Rating: A-

Up for review we have the Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale. With all the great craft breweries in New England, I think Smuttynose tends to fly under the radar a bit, which is a real shame since they brew so many great beers, such as the Shoals Pale Ale.

The Shoals Pale Ale is ruddy amber in color. It has a slight haziness and many very fine bubbles. The head is a rather thick light foam, and is a light golden color. On the nose, the Shoals Pale Ale has fruity hops notes of cherry and lemon, along with bread and some sweetness.

On the palate, there is a grainy, bready malt flavor up front with a medium hoppy kick. The bitter and aromatic hops are well-balanced with floral, pine and citrus notes. There is a slight acidity which rounds out the flavor well. The finish has bitter hops with a background of sweet malt. The Shoals Pale Ale has a drinkable light-to-medium body with some juiciness.

The Shoals Pale Ale is a well-balanced pale ale that drinks like a good IPA. There is a lot of nice hops flavor without being overpowering, and a great bready malt that holds its own with the hops. This is easily one of the top pale ales coming out of New England at the moment.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dogfish Head World Wide Stout

Brewery: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Location: Milton, DE
Style: Stout
Brewery Website
Rating: A+

Dogfish Head frequently takes chances and ends up producing a multitude of very unique beers. There are both hits and misses along the way, but generally there are more hits than misses. The World Wide Stout is one of the big hits. At 18% ABV (yes, that says eighteen), this is nothing like your typical Guinness/Murphy's style stout. This is a big beer that is not for the faint of heart.

The World Wide Stout is opaque black in color. The head pours fairly short. The tan head fades fast as is expected of a beer with such a high alcohol content. The nose is aromatic with notes of raisins, soy sauce, oatmeal, wood and smoke. The aroma is reminiscent of a port or a cream sherry.

On the palate, the World Wide Stout continues its resemblance to sherry/port with sweet malt giving rise to a familiar burnt raisin character similar to those fortified wines. There is a bitter espresso flavor, as well as nuts, earthiness, leather, oak and plums. The finish has a bitter roasted flavor and some black coffee. There is just a touch of acidity, as well as a warming, lip-tingling alcohol component. The mouthfeel is heavy with some juiciness and some syrupiness as well.

The Dogfish Head World Wide Stout is rather reminiscent of the Thomas Hardy's Ale in it's resemblance more to a fine port or sherry than a typical beer. Keep that in mind if you're new to this style of beer. This isn't up everyone's alley, but it's well worth the try if you're into extreme beer (or ports and sherries for that matter), as this beer is one of a kind. Keep in mind that the World Wide Stout is a whopping 18% alcohol, and plan your consumption accordingly. The first time I tried this beer I was unaware of its potency. When I got up off the couch I nearly fell over!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

Brewery: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Location: Milton, DE
Style: Brown Ale
Brewery Website
Rating: A+

Dogfish Head is one of my all-time favorite breweries. Today's tasting is their Indian Brown Ale, which is one of my all-time favorite beers. The Indian Brown Ale is deep brown with some red. It is nearly opaque in the glass. The head pours rather short and is a light golden-brown in color. The head quickly fades to something reminiscent of cappucino froth. On the nose there is a sweet coffee aroma, with supporting notes of nuts and wine.

On the palate, the Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale has a distinctive flavor akin to coffee with cream and sugar. There is a nice bitter kick and a sweet maltiness that are well-balanced. There is a fantastic complexity in the flavor, with notes of peanut butter, tobacco, nuts, leather, cherries and pepper-spice all being detectable along with a hint of smokiness. The finish is more of that coffee and cream flavor with some earthiness and a touch of hops. The Indian Brown Ale is medium bodied with some mouth-coating creaminess.

Dogfish Head is well known for producing big beers with big flavor, and the Indian Brown Ale is no exception. The Indian Brown Ale has plenty of that big maltiness that brown ales are known for, but there is also some great complimentary hops to round it out. This one has it all.

Out of Town

I'm going to be out of town next week, so I don't expect to get any new reviews up for a bit. So to hold you over, I have two great beer tastings for today and tomorrow that I've been saving for just such an occasion. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wolaver's Brown Ale

Brewery: Otter Creek Brewing
Location: Middlebury, VT
Style: Brown Ale
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

Wolaver's is a line of organic beers produced by Otter Creek Brewing. The brown ale is one of four beers available year-round from Wolaver's. The Wolaver's Brown Ale pours a deep reddish amber with a hefewiezen-like haziness. There are lots of fine bubbles rising as well. The head is a foamy, golden tan, and is fairly short. The head has citrus and yeast. There are faint aromas of sweet cereal, wine and rye bread as well.

Initially on the palate there is a sweetish maltiness, which is followed immediately by bitter hops. Mineral notes as well as a faint buttery diacetyl flavor are detectable in the background. The dominant flavor character I note is a piney hops bite. The finish has notes of cereal, grapefruit and resinous hops. The Wolaver's Brown Ale has a medium body. There is some slight astringency and a touch of fine fizziness.

I do appreciate the hoppy bite of the Wolaver's Brown Ale. It is a bit out of character, hovever. Brown ales tend to be very malt-forward, but I found the malt being a bit overpowered by the hops here. Despite the hop inbalance, this is quite a tasty beer.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Xingu Black Beer

Brewery: Cervejaria Sul Brasileira
Location: Brazil
Style: Schwarzbier
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

Xingu is a black lager from Brazil that is very similar in style to European schwarzbiers. It is dark mahogany in color (nearly black), with just the faintest hint of red. It pours with a short, dark tan head. The nose has red wine, cocoa and a lagery malt as notable aromas.

On the palate, Xingu has wheat bread and wine as distinctive flavors. There is a hint of lager malt, berry fruit and some sweetness. There is a touch of acidity as well as some mild roasted notes. There is a hint of a steely, metallic taste as well. The Xingu has a juicy mouthfeel, with a fairly light body for such a dark beer. The finish has roasted notes, wheat toast and berry preserves.

I admit that the first time I tried Xingu it was mainly out of curiosity to try a Brazilian beer. I keep coming back because it turns out that Xingu is a pretty good dark lager. It can definitely hold its own with most of the European schwarzbiers out there.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout

Brewery: Samuel Smith's Old Brewery
Location: Tadcaster, England
Style: Oatmeal Stout
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

Today we have Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout up for review. This oatmeal stout is deep brown in color with a ruby hue. The head is foamy with the appearance of cappuccino froth. The nose has coffee, chocolate and roasted notes. There is also a bread/cereal aroma and a faint whiff of wininess.

On the palate, the Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout has bread and coffee as leading flavors. There is some acidity up front reminiscent of cherries and citrus. There is also a touch of bitterness as well. On the finish the acid notes fade leaving some roasted and bitter notes. The Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout has a creamy mouthfeel and a medium body that makes this beer very drinkable without seeming too thin.This is the beer that introduced me to oatmeal stouts and it's still one of my favorites. Flavor and drinkability, what more can you ask for?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lindt Excellence 99% Cocoa Dark Chocolate

Manufacturer: Lindt
Cocoa Content: 99%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

Last, but certainly not least, we come to the big bad 99% Cocoa dark chocolate bar from Lindt. This one is not for the faint of heart. This is as close to eating pure unsweetened chocolate as you can get. The bar itself is fairly thin, and the squares it is divided into are rather small compared to your standard dark chocolate bar. This is for good reason as a little bit really does go a long way here.

The Lindt Excellence 99% Cocoa bar is dark ebony, nearly black, in color. There is a strong bitterness that hits the palate almost immediately. After a moment, the bitterness subsides enough to notice the rich, deep chocolate flavor. There are roasted coffee notes, along with earthiness, nuts and a hint of tofu flavors. Chewing the Lindt 99% bar opens up more earthiness and some tobacco notes. The mouthfeel is smooth and rather thick. The finish is that of a strong dark espresso with some peat and coffee grounds. The finish lingers for a good long while. I could still detect bitter coffee notes more than 20 minutes later.

The Lindt Excellence 99% Cocoa Dark Chocolate is an interesting novelty. It is well worth it for serious chocolate tasters to give this a try. It is a good match for scotch and espresso if you're looking for something to savor. For my tastes, however, this is just a little too potent to want to try more than once every great while. Chocolates on the 85%-90% range tend to show as much of the rich chocolate flavor that the 99% does without overloading the palate.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark Chocolate

Manufacturer: Lindt
Cocoa Content: 90%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A

Today we continue to climb the ladder to 90% Cocoa percentage in the Lindt Supreme Dark Chocolate Bar. The Supreme Dark is deep ebony in color, with a hint of reddish-orange along the snap line. It has a very firm, hard snap to it. The Supreme Dark has bitterness and some smokiness up front on the palate. There is a deep chocolate flavor. Some faint acidity is present with notes of cherries. There are also notes of almonds and earthiness. Chewing the chocolate releases notes of tobacco, pepper and vanilla.

The 90% Supreme Dark has a smooth mouthfeel with just a slight hint of grittiness. There is also a tannin-like astringency. The finish lingers with strong chocolate flavor. While the level of bitterness may mask some of the more complex flavors in its lower cocoa percentage brethren, this is made up in spades by intense chocolate flavor. This is definitely not a chocolate bar that most people would eat in one sitting, but it is well-suited to savor a few pieces at a time. This is one chocolate where the higher cocoa level really brings out an intense chocolate flavor.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Extra Dark Chocolate

Manufacturer: Lindt
Cocoa Content: 85%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A-

Continuing on with out flight of Lindt Dark Chocolate is the 85% Cocoa Extra Dark. The Extra Dark is dark blackish-brown in color. It has a nice firm snap to it. First to hit the palate are some faint roasted notes. From there bitterness starts to take over. There is also some acidity notable. Notes of citrus, ash and plum are present. Chewing the chocolate seems to de-emphasize the bitterness to a small degree. Notes of earthiness, tobacco and black pepper are detectable upon chewing the chocolate.

The Lindt 85% Extra Dark Chocolate has a fairly thick, almost pasty mouthfeel. There is a fine hint of grit, and a slight pucker from the acidity. The finish lingers with notes of tobacco and finally fading to a creamy latte flavor. While I generally prefer chocolate in the 70% cocoa range that is more suited to snacking, this chocolate has some great complexity in its flavor. The bitterness is strong without being overpowering. If you're ready to step up to some higher cocoa percentage chocolates, this is a great place to start.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa Intense Dark Chocolate

Manufacturer: Lindt
Cocoa Content: 70%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A

Up next for today we have the 70% Cocoa Lindt dark chocolate bar. The Intense Dark is a deep, dark mahohany color. It breaks with a firm snap. The initial flavor notes are light roasted notes with some light bitterness. From there acidity hits the tongue and starts to build with a citrusy squirt of lemon. The level of sweetness is well balanced. Chewing the chocolate brings some sweet fruit notes to mix in with the acidity with notes of black cherry and mango.

The Lindt Intense Dark has a smooth mouthfeel. There is a slight puckering sensation from the acidity. The finish is rather short with the acid fading out first leaving a faint espresso note. All in all, this is a damn good chocolate. I've found that a lot of the European chocolatiers tend to shy away from bold acidity in their chocolate, so this is a refreshing change. This is a must try for dark chocolate fans.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lindt Week

It's been a while since we've featured chocolate here, so for this week I have a full flight of dark chocolate lined up from Lindt. Most of you are familiar with the very tasty Lindor Truffles that have become ubiquitous as impulse buys at the cashier of so many retailers. Lindt also produces a great line of dark chocolate. This week we will be featuring a flight of Lindt dark chocolate tastings starting with their 50% cocoa bar and working all the way up to their big bad 99% cocoa chocolate.

Day 1: Lindt Excellence Smooth Dark 50% Cocoa Bar
Day 2: Lindt Excellence Intense Dark 70% Cocoa Bar
Day 3: Lindt Excellence Extra Dark 85% Cocoa Bar
Day 4: Lindt Excellence Supreme Dark 90% Cocoa Bar
Day 5: Lindt Excellence 99% Cocoa Bar

Lindt Excellence 50% Cocoa Smooth Dark Chocolate

Manufacturer: Lindt
Cocoa Content: 50%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B

First up for review in our flight of Lindt dark chocolate is the 50% Cocoa Smooth Dark chocolate bar. The Smooth Dark is deep mahogany in color. It has a firm snap to it with a hint of deep brownish-red visible on the snap line.

The flavor profile of the Lindt 50% cocoa bar is fairly sweet. There are notes of cocoa, marshmallow, cherries, banana and caramel. The Smooth Dark bar has little bitterness or acidity to speak of. There is a smooth, slightly thin mouthfeel with a creamy cocoa finish. This is a good example of the typical flavors present in a low-cocoa percentage dark chocolate, but the flavors seemed to taste a bit watered down for my liking.