Monday, November 29, 2010

Green Mountain Coffee Sumatran Reserve K-Cup

Manufacturer: Green Mountain Coffee
Location: Sumatra
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A+

In my cup today is the Sumatran Reserve K-Cup from Green Mountain Coffee. The Sumatran Reserve is an organic, fair-trade certified dark roast coffee. Off the brewer, the cup is ringed with a latte-colored froth and coated with a faint, swirling, oily sheen. The coffee brews up mahogany in color. The nose detects a delicate aroma of roasted nuts.

On the palate there is a roasted nuttiness similar to roasted almonds. The nuttiness is balanced with a hint of unsweetened cocoa. There is a touch of acidity with some berry undertones. The Sumatran Reserve is light-to-medium bodied, and has little oiliness or chewiness to speak of (especially for a dark roast). The finish has a faint lingering cocoa bitterness paired with roasted nuts and a hint of earthiness.

The Green Mountain Sumatran Reserve is a great balanced, complex coffee. The flavors are subtle, with no one characteristic overpowering the rest. This may not be the deepest-roasted coffee out there, but dark roast fan or not, you owe it to yourself to try this coffee. This is simply one of the best.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Geary's London Porter

Brewery: Geary's Brewing Co.
Location: Portland, ME
Style: Porter
Brewery Website
Rating: B

In my glass today is Geary's London Porter. This porter pours an opaque, deep mahogany color. The head is huge and foamy with a color similar to cola-fizz. The nose has smoke, caramel and some faint herbal hops.

On the palate the Geary's London Porter leads with smokiness which is followed by a touch of acidity. The hops sit well in the background with only a faint bite of note. There is some caramel and a slight warming sensation as well. Geary's London Porter is medium bodied, although it does seem a bit light for a smoky porter. The finish has long, smoky malt notes.

Geary's London Porter is an easy-drinking porter. I do find it to be a bit one-dimensional, and I think the flavor would hold up better to a bigger bodied beer. Despite this, the Geary's Porter is a nice smoky porter to curl up with on a cold winter night.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hägeland Peru 64% Dark Chocolate

Manufacturer: Hägeland
Cocoa Content: 64%
Location: Peru
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B-

Up for tasting today is the Hägeland Peru, a 64% dark chocolate bar. The bar is deep brown in color with a faint orange undertone. The nose is rather straightforward, calling to mind semi-sweet chocolate chips.

On the palate, there is a dominant roasted chocolate flavor along with nuttiness (i.e., roasted almonds) up front. There is just a touch of acidity in the background here. This leads to a citrus note of orange peel. The Hageland Peru has a smooth, creamy and slightly thick mouthfeel. Chewing the bar brings out notes of mint, vanilla and toffee. The finish has trailing roasted nuts with some coffee as well as a strong caramel note.

The Hägeland Peru is a decent chocolate, but the flavor is pretty one-dimensional with a strong roast flavor. This is definitely a bar calling for a higher cocoa percentage. There is definite potential here. Again, for a made-for-Walmart chocolate, this is a pretty nice surprise.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dogfish Head Raison D'Etre

Brewery: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Location: Milton, DE
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

Up for review today is Dogfish Head's Raison D'Etre. This is a Belgian-style dark ale brewed with raisins. The Raison D'Etre pours dark brown with a hint of ruby. A thick, brownish-tan, foamy head slowly rises. The nose detects juicy and winy notes along with some sweet cereal.

On the palate both wininess and a slightly sweet cereal note come to the forefront. There are notes of brown bread and burnt toast here. The hops take on an herbal character with a touch of bitterness. Oaky/woody notes sit in the background along with raisins. The Raison d'Etre has a moderate-heavy mouthfeel that is nearly syrupy. The finish is off-dry with dark wheat toast being the dominant flavor.

Dogfish Head has a really good beer on their hands with the Raison D'Etre. It drinks similar to an aged barleywine with a bit more burnt/raisin notes and not quite as winy. The raisins here seem to emulate the great raisiny flavor that develops with time on a vintage barleywine (see Thomas Hardy). Similar to aging wine or scotch in small barrels or over oak chips, you get a sneak peek at an aged beverage, but some of the complexity that can only be produced by time is missing. I am very curious to see how this beer ages.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lake Champlain Tanzania 75% Dark Chocolate

Manufacturer: Lake Champlain Chocolates
Cocoa Content: 75%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

On the tasting block today is another chocolate from Lake Champlain's Select Origin line - the Tanzania 75% dark chocolate. The chocolate bar is deep mahogany brown in color with some ruby undertones. The nose detects cocoa and marshmallow notes.

On the palate a roast chocolate character jumps out up front. There is a rich cocoa bitter note that hints at black licorice. A caramel note is present as well. The acidity is rather slow to build as the thick bar slowly melts, but it eventually reaches a moderate level. Fruit notes of raspberry, pomegranate and currant eventually make their presence known. Chewing the Lake Champlain Tanzania bar brings forward strawberry, vanilla and a fleeting woodsy note. The chocolate is thick and creamy as it melts on the tongue. It is almost completely smooth, but it has just the finest grit. The finish has sweetened coffee and strawberries as it fades.

The Lake Champlain Tanzania 75% dark chocolate bar is tasty and well balanced. I did find this bar to be a little lacking in complexity, especially compared to their fantastic Sao Thome, but overall this is a great snacking dark chocolate.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Green Mountain Naturals Hot Apple Cider K-Cup

Manufacturer: Green Mountain Coffee
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A-

We have a bit of a novel beverage getting the Critical Tastings treatment today. Green Mountain Coffee has introduced a Hot Apple Cider K-Cup under their "Green Mountain Naturals" line. As soon as I got word of its release I ordered myself a box online, as I am a huge fan of hot cider this time of the year. The Hot Apple Cider K-Cup brews up a greenish-brown color. It is a bit lighter in color than real pressed cider, although not by much. The nose detects equal parts of apples and cinnamon. This cider smells very much like apple pie pulled hot from the oven.

On the palate there is a nice tart kick, which is balanced with brown sugar sweetness that is just sweet enough without being syrupy. The flavor of cinnamon is notable, but it sits nicely in the background. The body is thinner than a normal pressed cider would be, but it still works fine for a hot cider. The finish does have a bit of a lingering taste from the stevia that is added as a sweetener. As sweeteners go, I don't find stevia to have the chemical bitterness that other sweeteners (such as aspartame and saccharin) have so this isn't a big problem for me.

Green Mountain has really taken the K-Cup to a new place with their Hot Apple Cider, and it works amazingly well. While the K-Cup does have some limitations compared to real pressed cider, the few quibbling shortcomings are negligible when balanced with the fact that in less than 2 minutes I can have a hot mug of cider with no mess or prep work. The only way I can see this improved is if Green Mountain can find a way to make this work without needing to add an additional sweetener like stevia. The bottom line is if you like hot cider and you have a Keurig brewer, then you need to get the Hot Apple Cider K-Cup asap. It is that good.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tully's Italian Roast K-Cup

Manufacturer: Tully's
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

In my mug today is the Italian Roast K-Cup from Tully's. The Italian Roast is deep mahogany in color and comes off the brewer ringed with an off-white froth. There is a fair amount of oil on top. The nose detects earthy and woody notes, along with berries over a background of roasted aromas.

On the palate there is more of that woody/earthy character from the nose, along with a rich roasted note. There is a lingering (yet not overpowering) bitter kick. There is a touch of acidity that brings out a hint of fruitiness. Chestnuts and cocoa sit in the background as well. The Tully's Italian Roast is medium-bodied with a slightly chewy mouthfeel. The finish has lingering earthy & roasted notes over an oily bitter kick.

The Tully's Italian Roast is a dark roast you can sink your teeth into.  I enjoy that it has a bit of a bite to it. It has a nice rustic quality with a good roast character.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Amano Ocumare 70% Dark Chocolate

Manufacturer: Amano
Cocoa Content: 70%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

Today's tasting is the Amano Ocumare, a 70% dark chocolate bar made with cacao from the Ocumare Valley in Venezuela. The Ocumare bar is mahogany in color with a reddish-purple tint. The palate finds roasted chocolate notes up front along with some smokiness and a pleasant bitter kick. The acidity builds, opening up flavors of blackberry, blueberry and plum. Spice notes of black pepper, bell pepper and mint sit in the background with some earth and floral notes.

Chewing the Ocumare brings forward mint, vanilla, earth and a cedary wood note. The mouthfeel is very smooth and creamy, leaving a slight cooling sensation on the tongue. The finish has lingering bitter and roast flavors over juicy acid/fruit notes.

The Ocumare is a very good showing from Amano. This is a complex, well-balanced dark chocolate. The only fault I find is that no one feature stands out. The Ocumare is almost too balanced and complex for its own good. And as far as chocolate goes, that's not such a bad problem to have.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Samuel Adams Boston Ale

Brewery: The Boston Beer Company
Location: Boston, MA
Style: Stock Ale
Brewery Website
Rating: A-

In my glass today is the Sam Adams Boston Ale. While the Boston Lager may be Samuel Adams' flagship beer, the Boston Ale is (unfortunately) often overlooked. In my opinion, the Boston Ale is their best year-round offering. The Boston Ale pours a deep amber with hints of brown and gold. The head is golden-tan and frothy with big clumps. The nose detects citrus and herbal hops notes, along with a faint wheaty malt note.

On the palate the Sam Adams Boston Ale has aromatic citrus and floral hops up front, leading into a rich pizza dough/pretzel malt, which then fades to bitter hops notes of pine and juniper. There are also some wine/barleywine notes here and a hint of residual sweetness. The Boston Ale is moderate-to-heavy bodied with a fairly full mouthfeel. The finish has a distinct barleywine character along with bitter hops notes.

The Samuel Adams Boston Ale is a real winner. It is well-balanced, full-flavored and rich. The malt is the real star for me, but there is just the right balance of hops here to hold up to the rich flavor. Next time you go to reach for Sam Adams Boston Lager as "the old standby", do your tastebuds a favor. Reach right next to it and bring home their Boston Ale instead.