Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Heavy Seas Below Decks Barleywine 2008 Vintage

Brewery: Clipper City Brewing Co.
Location: Baltimore, MD
Style: Barleywine
Brewery Website
Rating: A-

We originally tasted the Heavy Seas Below Decks back in February 2010. I've been cellaring several bottles from the same batch (labelled 2008) and decided to crack one open back in May of this year to see how it has progressed as it has aged. The Below Decks is copper-amber in color with quite a bit of haze and sediment in the glass. The head is foamy and a light tan in color. The nose detects citrus, yeast, banana and a whiff of sharp cheese.

On the palate the Below Decks is smooth, winy and has a slight syrupiness to it. Notes of banana and sweet apples are here along with some dark rye toast notes and a touch of mesquite wood. There is a hop bite with notes of juniper and pine. As the beer has aged notes of golden raisins and caramel are starting to peek through as well. There is a warming alcohol sensation. A faint, fleeting note of sharp cheese is detectable as well. The 2008 Below Decks has a medium-heavy body and has done a good job of retaining its carbonation as it approaches its third birthday. The finish has lingering notes of yeast, fruity esters, rye and a bit of oily hop resin.

At three years old, the 2008 Heavy Seas Below Decks is developing rather well. Yeasty esters are still readily apparent, and the caramel and raisin notes that many barleywines start to develop with age are starting to make their presence known. My only concern is a bit of an odd note of sharp cheese. I'm not sure if this is specific to the bottle I tasted, or whether this will lessen or become more pronounced as time goes on. I guess I'l find out when I check in on this batch in another year or two. I will definitely be stashing away another 4-pack of this year's release based on how well the 2008 release has aged.

We're back!

I am happy to announce that the blog is returning from its extended hiatus and will begin posting new reviews starting later in the day today. Fatherhood has taken a big chunk out of my free time, but we should be able to get 1-2 reviews up each week for the forseeable future. Thanks to my loyal readers for your patience.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Harpoon Summer Beer

Beer! welcomes summer with the Harpoon Summer Beer:

Brewery: Harpoon
Location: Boston, MA
Style: Kolsch
Rating: A-

Today we're welcoming in the summer with a review of Harpoon's Summer Beer. While I always enjoy a few Harpoon Summer Beers over the course of the summer, this was my first time enjoying it in canned form. Harpoon Summer Beer is a pale straw-gold in color and pours up a huge white clumpy/sticky head. The nose has a lagery malt note with herbal and piny hops and a hint of fruity esters.

The Harpoon Summer Beer is very clean on the palate. It is off-dry with a light grainy/pasta malt note. There are some hints of fruity yeast esters, but nothing in the ballpark of a fruity witbier. Hops are here with a touch of a piny bitter kick as well as some herbal hops notes. The Harpoon Summer Beer is light-bodied, crisp and smooth. The finish has a lingering pasta dough malt with herbal and pine hops in the background.

Harpoon Summer Beer is exactly what you want in a summer beer. This is a great, easy-drinking Kolsch. The malt and drinkability are close to a typical lager, but there is a nice hint of weissbier-like fruity esters that add some interest. It's not a full-blown Leinenkugel-esque fruitiness, but there is just the right amount for my tastes. This is a great summer seasonal, and is perfectly suited to can form.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ithaca Cascazilla

Watch out Tokyo! Today, Beer! reviews Ithaca's Cascazilla:

Brewery: Ithaca Beer Company
Location: Ithaca, NY
Style: Amber
Rating: B

As one can guess by the name, Ithaca's Cascazilla is a hoppy amber that is brewed with a boatload of Cascade hops.Cascazilla is a dark, cloudy amber-brown in color with a clumpy tan head. The nose has everything you expect from Cascades with sweet citrus, grapefruit and lemon oil notes.

The palate finds pretzel malt and a touch of sweetness up front. Fruity hops and sweet cereal are prominent notes as well. Ruby red grapefruit and lemonade are notable on the fruity hops side and a touch of herbal hops blends in and hints at lemongrass as well. There is some bitter hops as well, but that is way in the background. Cascazilla is medium-bodied, and juicy with a slight syrupy cling. The finish has a slightly toasted malt with sweet citrus notes.

Cascazilla is a nice look at Cascade hops without the big bitter kick. There is a bit too much sweetness here for my tastes, and I would like to see a bit more of a bite to balance things out. Having said that, this is a nice amber and a good intro to Cascade hops without the bitter bite of a big imperial IPA.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

TCHO Chocolatey 70% Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate Blog tastes a "Chocolatey" chocolate from TCHO. Go figure:

Manufacturer: TCHO
Cocoa Content: 70%
Location: Ghana
Rating: B

TCHO is a chocolate manufacturer from San Francisco whose chocolates are primarily sold at Starbucks as well as Whole Foods (in certain regions). I was recently given a sample of their 4 "flavor" chocolates. These are single-origin chocolates that have been selected to highlight certain flavors common to dark chocolate. Today I am tasting the "Chocolatey", which is a 70% dark chocolate bar made with Ghanan cacao. The bar is mahogany-red in color. the nose detects vanilla and cocoa powder.

On the palate there is a very prominent walnut note up front that transitions to espresso. Fudge is notable, as are some earthy and woody highlights. There is a fairly mild acidity that leads to the faintest hint of blackberries. Chewing the TCHO Chocolatey beings forward vanilla, sweet spice, banana and coffee grounds. The melt is quite smooth. The finish has fudge and nuts with trailing berry notes as well as some caramel.

The TCHO Chocolatey is an enjoyable chocolate. I certainly see where they get the Chocolatey descriptor, as fudge is prominent, as well as a heavy nuttiness up front. Overall, the flavor profile is fairly nondescript, but this is a tasty bar nonetheless.

Monday, June 13, 2011

San Diego County Session Ale

Today, Beer! asks the question - Can you cram big hops into a small beer?

Brewery: Stone/Ballast Point/Kelsey McNair
Location: Escondido, CA
Style: Pale Ale
Rating: B+

The good folks at Stone and Ballast Point have gotten together with homebrewer Kelsey McNair with the noble goal of creating a session beer (i.e., a beer with a low enough alcohol content that it can be consumed all day long - generally in the vicinity of 4%) that has the big hoppiness that is generally reserved for big double-IPA's. The San Diego County Session Ale pours up hazy gold/amber in color with a foamy white head and some dark swirls of sediment floating. The nose has huge grapefruit and pine hoppiness.

On the palate you are first hit with the telltale grapefruit citrus notes of West Coast hops. There are some toasted grain notes as well as a dry wood/oak note. There is a really big bitter bite with piny, oily hops. The San Diego County Session Ale is light-medium bodied with quite a bit of tannic astringency. The finish is very long and dominated by the bitter hop notes of pine and oily resin.

Well, there's no doubt that the San Diego County Session Ale has met its objective of cramming a massive amount of hops into a session ale. There really is an amazing amount of hops in this beer. Of course, there is something to be said for the higher alcohol and bigger body of an imperial IPA having the ability to hold up to and balance out a tremendous amount of hops. Even though the lighter body and alcohol content qualifies this as a session beer, for me the huge hoppiness still keeps this beer in the "sipping beer" category for me. This is a well-executed, unique idea, but I'll stick to the real deal when I'm looking for an IPA.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Caribou Coffee Mahogany KCup

Manufacturer: Caribou Coffee
Rating: B+

Today we have another coffee review - the Caribou Coffee Mahogany KCup. True to name, the Mahogany is a deep mahogany in color. It comes off the brewer ringed by a light tan froth and topped with oily swirls. The nose is a bit on the mild side, with some aromas of roasted nuts notable.

On the palate there is a bit of an initial oily bite. Roasted nuts and dark chocolate flavors are here along with a faint woody spice note. Overall, the flavor is smooth. The roast is notable, but not powerful, and there is minimal bitterness. The Caribou Coffee Mahogany is medium-bodied, with some slight chewiness and oiliness. The finish is a decent length, with notes of cocoa and nuts.

The Caribou Coffee Mahogany has some good, rich flavor. This is a straight-up, no frills, good nutty coffee. This will definitely be a staple medium-roast coffee in my pantry.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chocolat Bonnat Chuao 75% Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate Blog continues their run of Chuao reviews with a tasting of Bonnat's offering:

Manufacturer: Chocolat Bonnat
Cocoa Content: 75%
Location: Venezuela
Rating: A-

Today we are tasting Bonnat's take on the legendary Chuao chocolate. The Bonnat Chuao bar is deep brown with ruby and purple highlights. The nose has woody and nutty notes along with some espresso.

The palate first finds nutty notes, followed by a building acidity. There is some juiciness here with a faint orange peel/citrus note. There is a rich chocolate flavor. Espresso, oak, vanilla and mint all highlight the chocolate flavor. Chewing the Chocolat Bonnat Chuao brings forward notes of wood, nuts, earth, cinnamon and a rich chocolate note that is reminiscent of pudding or mousse. The Bonnat Chuao has a smooth melt with some cooling sensation and a bit of a fudgy texture. The finish is complex with rich chocolate, bitter espresso, nuts, orange peel and sweet spice aromatics.

While the Bonnat Chuao is a great chocolate bar, I did find the flavors to be a bit understated. With that caveat, the construction and melt are absolutely flawless, and the "chocolatiness" is outstanding. This is probably the most accessible Chuao I've tried. If you're looking to dip your toes in ultra-premium dark chocolate, this is a good place to start.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Uerige Doppelsticke

"Holy Shit!" is how Beer! sums up their review of the Uerige Doppelsticke. Read on to find out why:

Brewery: Uerige Obergärige Hausbrauerei
Location: Düsseldorf, Germany
Style: Alt
Rating: A+

Today's tasting is a true one-of-a-kind beer. Stickebier is a rare style of German beer that can essentially be thought of as a double-alt (Long Trail's Double Bag is one example of this style). Uerige has taken this one step further in creating their Doppelsticke, which essentially amounts to a double-double-alt.

The Doppelsticke pours up a cloudy, deep-chestnut brown with a light chestnut, creamy head. A firm pour leads to a beautiful cascading-head effect that is reminiscent of a nitro-tap stout. The nose detects raisins, wheat toast, and sherry notes.

On the palate there is a big malt note of dark pretzels along with a clinging malt syrup note. Dried fruit notes of raisins and apricots come along next. Hops hit with a snappy bitter bite along with herbal and grassy notes. There is some initial winy juiciness that drops off quickly. The Uerige Doppelsticke has a medium-heavy body with a clinging body and light syrupiness. The finish just seems to hang around forever. There is a great caramel/"burnt" sweetness, along with rich, dark malt notes paired with fading bitter undertones.

In reading my notes I wrote while tasting this beer, the first line simply reads "Holy Shit!", and that pretty much sums it up. Right from the beginning I was blown away by the flavor and complexity of the Doppelsticke. It rivals the Thomas Hardy's Ale in complexity. The flavor is constantly evolving - from juicy, to bitter, to sweet, to a ringing harmonious chord. Not only is this the best German beer I've ever had, the Uerige Doppelsticke is one of the best beers I've ever tasted. Find this beer ASAP and buy two - one for now and one for the cellar.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tully's French Roast KCup

Manufacturer: Tully's
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

Today we're sitting down with a good cup of joe, the Tully's French Roast. Tully's French Roast is a deep ebony color. It comes off the brewer ringed with tan froth and coated with swirling oiliness, The nose picks up aromas of smoke and roasted nuts.

On the palate there are roasted nuts, almonds and walnuts in particular. Some smokiness highlights the roast. There is a fleeting bitter oiliness, as well as some woody notes. Tully's French Roast is medium-bodied with a slight astringency as well as some mouth-coating oiliness. The finish has roasted nuts complimented by smoke and some bitter undertones.

Tully's French Roast is a bit one-dimensional, but what it does, it does well. There are some very nice roast and nutty notes here that are prominent, but not overpowering. If you like dark roast coffee, Tully's French Roast is well worth a try.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pralus Chuao Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate Blog reviews yet another bar made from the legendary Chuao cacao bean. Here is Pralus's interpretation:

Manufacturer: Pralus
Cocoa Content: 75%
Location: Venezuela
Rating: A+

Today we turn to Pralus for their interpretation of the legendary Chuao bean. Right from the beginning it is clear that this is something special as the Chuao bar is packaged in a mini-box as opposed to the usual paper and foil packaging. The bar is brown with plenty of brick-red highlights. The nose detects rich, earthy chocolate with a touch of mint.

On the palate, the classic Pralus roast notes are unmistakeable. There is a lively acidity here with lemon notes. Earthiness is pronounced, in particular a big tobacco note. There is a bite of bitter espresso that fades into waves of alternating acidity and earthiness. Behind all the layers there is a rich chocolate background. Also here are some smoke and wood (mesquite in particular). Chewing the Pralus Chuao brings forward rich chocolate, oak, walnuts and lemon zest. The melt is smooth and creamy, with some astringency at the end. The finish is long and evolving. Wood smoke, citrus and smoky espresso start out, then some nuttiness starts to peek through, and oaky tannins start to show up after a long fade.

Pralus has taken an exceptional bean and produced an equally exceptional chocolate with their interpretation of the Chuao. The end result is amazingly complex, yet the rich chocolate flavor never gets lost. This isn't as heavily roasted as some of their other offerings, but the flavor is unmistakably Pralus. The Pralus roast style is a perfect match for the earthiness in this chocolate, but the fruit notes are still able to shine through. This chocolate is about as good as it gets.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pabst Blue Ribbon

Today, Beer! sees whether Pabst Blue Ribbon lives up to the hipster hype, or if it's just trailer-park swill:

Brewery: Pabst Brewing Company
Location: Woodridge, Il
Style: Lager
Rating: B-

In recent years, Pabst Blue Ribbon has been seeing a bit of a resurgence in a trendy counterculture "trailer park chic" sort of way. The question is, does PBR live up to the hype, or is it just another mass-market lager with little redeeming quality? Let's taste and see. 

Pabst Blue Ribbon pours from my brown-bottle longneck a clear, straw-gold in color with a white foamy head. The nose detects some grassiness, lager malt notes and a bit of juicy white wine.

On the palate the initial impression is that of crisp, smooth malt with wheat bread undertones. There is a bit of a calcium/lime mineral note, as well as some straw. Hops are fleeting and have an overall grassy flavor. PBR has a light body with decent carbonation. The finish is very short with a malt note that hints at pita bread.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is a prototypical mass-market American lager in that it is smooth and easy-drinking. The flavor does fade very quickly (too much for my liking). What is notable is the lack of any of the "off" flavors I typically notice with the usual Bud/Miller/Coors-style lagers. While it may not fully live up to the renewed hype surrounding it, PBR is still one of the best mass-market/adjunct lagers out there. I have no qualms serving it to guests, and it is always welcome in my fridge.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Duvel Tripel Hop

Today, Beer! reviews the sensational Duvel Tripel Hop: 

Brewery: Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat
Location: Breendonk-Puurs, Belgium
Style: IPA
Rating: A+

Today we bring you something special, the Duvel Tripel Hop. Duvel is widely regarded as one of Belgium's best breweries, and the Tripel Hop is rather novel for a Belgian brewery. This beer is an infusion of a distinctly American-style hop-forward IPA with a traditional Belgian-style ale. The Tripel Hop is cloudy, honey-gold in color with a white, clumpy-foam head. The nose has fruity/citrus and spicy hops along with a background note of yeast.

On the palate there is a nice spicy (black pepper) hops note. The yeast and malt lead to some cherry and wine notes. Citrus/grapefruit hops make themselves known. The bitter hops show up eventually, but take a while to shine through the juicy malt. There is also some woodiness and a hint of sweetness. The Duvel Tripel Hop has a medium-heavy body and is on the juicy side. The finish has citrus and spice along with lingering juicy notes.

When a brewery the caliber of Duvel takes on a beer such as this, good things almost always happen. The Tripel Hop is no exception. This is a fantastic combination of IPA-meets-tripel, and Belgium-meets-US craft brew. The end result is the best of both worlds. This beer is juicy, rich and loaded with complex hops flavors and aromas. Well worth every penny, this is truly an exceptional beer.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Blue Point Spring Fling Ale

Beer! takes a trip to Long Island for a taste of the Blue Point Spring Fling Ale:

Brewery: Blue Point Brewing Company
Location: Patchogue, NY
Style: Alt
Rating: B+

We're following up our review of the excellent Otter Creek Copper Ale with Blue Point's own copper ale (and spring seasonal), the Spring Fling Ale. The Spring Fling Ale pours up a clear amber-copper in color with a hint of gold, paired with a foamy white head. The nose finds spicy and piny hops tinged with citrus and steel.

The palate first finds the clinging oiliness of hops, followed by malty notes of dark pretzels. The overall hops flavor isn't quite as prominent as the nose. Oily pine resin and spice are here, but there isn't much fruit on the palate. The hops bite may not be front and center on this beer, but it is still quite sharp. There is a mineral note of copper/steel as well. The Spring Fling Ale is medium-bodied and a bit oily. The finish has resinous hope, a hint of fruit and dry malt undertones.

Blue Point has a nice, well-rounded copper ale in their Spring Fling Ale. The hops give it a nice kick and spiciness, to match the dry malt. This is well worth a taste if you run across it this spring.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Domori Chuao Dark Chocolate

Today, The Dark Chocolate Blog tastes Domori's take on the legendary Chuao:

Manufacturer: Domori
Cocoa Content: 70%
Location: Venezuela
Rating: A

Today I have the pleasure of tasting Domori's Chuao dark chocolate bar. Legend has it that the cocoa from the Chuao region was once reserved solely for kings. It's not hard to see why. Domori's Chuao bar looks to be an equal mix of clay-red and light brown in color. The nose has rich chocolate aromas with honey and caramel.

On the palate the initial impression is deep chocolate with strawberry jam. There are highlights of almond aromatics here. Along with the strawberry jam, a fruit note of gooseberries is here as well. Complex sweet notes of honey and caramel are notable, along with coffee, mint and a faint butterscotch note. Chewing the Domori Chuao brings forward notes of almond extract, raspberries, pomegranate and caramel. The bar melts with a superb thick, coating mouthfeel. The finish has butterscotch, caramel and jammy notes all fading in harmony.

Domori has once again impressed me with their take on the legendary Chuao cacao. The end result is wonderfully complex, but unmistakably Domori. The finish and complex caramel and honey undertones are reminiscent of a milk chocolate, while the jamminess is signature Domori. This is great stuff and well worth searching out if you don't have easy access to it in your local area.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Otter Creek Copper Ale

Today, Beer! cracks into Otter Creek's flagship beer, their Copper Ale:

BreweryOtter Creek Brewing
LocationMiddlebury, VT

Today's tasting is generally considered the flagship beer from Otter Creek, their Copper Ale. True to its name, the Copper Ale pours up copper-amber in color with an off-white, clumpy foam head. The nose has citrus/grapefruit hops notes paired with a pretzely malt aroma.

The overall impression on the palate is a rich, full maltiness paired with crisp hops. The malt has bready & pretzel notes. Hops have a oily bitter note that coat the tongue with a piny note that hints at copper. There is a bit of citrus fruitiness as well. The Otter Creek Copper Ale has a medium body with some oiliness. The finish has slight residual sweetness with bready malt and lingering hops.

The Copper Ale is Otter Creek's flagship beer for good reason. The Copper Ale has rich, full malt with nice, dry/piny bitter hops as a compliment. I've found that the Copper Ale is even better on tap, but draft quality can be approximated by using a good, firm pour from bottle. If you've never tried the Otter Creek Copper Ale, you're missing out. If you're familiar with the Copper Ale, maybe it's time to grab a sixer and revisit an old friend.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Radeberger Pilsner

Beer! is finally wrapping up our spring Pilsner tastings with one last stop in Germany:

Brewery: Radeberger Exportbierbrauerei
Location: Radeberg, Germany
Style: Pilsner
Rating: B-

Our next stop on our German Pilsner quest is Radeberger. The Radeberger Pilsner pours up straw yellow with a hint of gold. A firm pour ends up with a thick, clumpy white head. The nose is rather light. There are some lager malt aromas along with some floral notes (jasmine comes to mind).

The first taste finds a light, clean lager malt. It takes a while, but some bitter hops do show up at the party after a bit. There is a dry malt flavor of pasta dough with some spice and bitter hops notes. The Radeberger Pilsner is light bodied with plenty of carbonation. The finish finds more dry malt taking on a saltine character along with some lingering spicy hop bitterness.

The Radeberger Pilsner is very clean and crisp, with none of the off-flavors found in some Euro Pils (mainly the green-bottle variety). There is a decent amount of hops once you wade in. But for my tastes, this is just too light in flavor. If you’re a light beer drinker, then this may be a good introduction beer. Otherwise, I’ll be reaching for something with a bit more flavor.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Republica Del Cacao El Oro 67% Dark Chocolate

April showers bring May flowers. The Dark Chocolate Blog gets in touch with the floral side of dark chocolate:

Manufacturer: Republica Del Cacao
Cocoa Content: 67%
Location: Ecuador
Rating: B+

On deck today is another chocolate from Ecuadorean bean-to-bar chocolate maker Republica del Cacao. The El Oro is a deep mahogany-red in color. The nose has hazelnut/walnut notes along with floral (jasmine) notes.

On the palate I first pick up orange juice flavors. Next come mint and sweet woody spice of cinnamon. The sweet spice turns to cardamom which becomes a full-blown floral/perfume note. The acidity level is on the mild side with some banana showing through. Chewing the El Oro brings forward notes of cardamom, cookie dough and blueberries. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy, and just slightly course. The finish has sweet notes and floral aromatics. Nuttiness creeps in as the floral notes fade.

Republica del Cacao has quite a unique chocolate here in the El Oro. It is a bit too much on the floral side for my tastes, but this is a true showcase of someplace unexpected that you can take a dark chocolate. Well worth a try.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Paulaner Premium Pils

More pilsner lovin' over at Beer!:

Brewery: Paulaner Brauerei
Location: München, Germany
Style: Pilsner
Rating: B

We continue the pilsner hunt in Germany. Today's find is the Paulaner Premium Pils. Paulaner's offering pours up golden yellow with barely any haze and lots of carbonation. The head is bubbly white and fades fast. The nose has wheaty malt, dry white wine and straw.

The palate leads with a dry lager maltiness. There is a touch of acidity and juiciness that hints at a dry white wine. There is also some lightly toasted white bread and a touch of hops spice. The Paulaner Premium Pils has a light-medium body and is well carbonated. The finish has dry malt notes with a faint hoppy bite.

Paulaner's Premium Pils is a pretty good pilsner. It is slightly more fully-flavored than the typical Euro-pils. I appreciate the choice of a brown bottle, as there is no skunkiness to speak of. Paulaner's Premium Pils is dry and refreshing. It is an excellent choice for green bottle fans looking for a step up in flavor.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Einbecker Brauherren Pils

More German. More Pilsner. More Beer!:

Brewery: Einbecker Brauhaus AG
Location: Einbeck, Germany
Style: Pilsner
Rating: B

Next up from Germany is the Einbecker Brauherren Pils. The Einbecker Pils is clear, straw-yellow in color. An aggressive pour yields a clumpy white head. The nose has a distinct green-bottle skunkiness, along with some dry pasta and herbal hops.

The palate finds less skunkiness than the nose (thankfully). There is a dry lager malt that has pasta dough and grainy components. There is a nice bitter kick on the back end that shows up after a sip or two. The Einbecker Pils has a light, smooth body. The finish has more pasta dough with a lingering hop bite.

The Einbecher Brauherren Pils is exactly what I'd expect Heineken to taste like if it had a hoppy kick. It's a shame that it comes in a green bottle, because the skunkiness really does a number on this one. I'd love to try this on draft, because the potential is really there.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ikea Choklad Mörk

The Dark Chocolate Blog reviews Ikea Food's Choklad Mörk, which, appropriately enough, rhymes with "Börk Börk Börk!":

Manufacturer: Ikea Foods
Cocoa Content: 60%
Rating: B

During a recent trip to Ikea, I saw their private label dark chocolate bar by the register and had to give it a try. The bar is labeled as minimum 60% cocoa and is made in Germany for Ikea Food. The bar itself is dark purplish-brown, near ebony in color. The nose detects sweet cocoa with some walnuts.

The main flavor impression on the palate is a roasted, nutty chocolate note. There are sweet notes of caramel and a liqueur note that reminds me a bit of Kahlua. Other sweet notes are sweetened french toast and cinnamon. Coffee and walnut flavors are here as well. Chewing the Choklad Mörk opens up flavors of vanilla, hazelnut and walnuts. The melt is smooth and thick, but I did notice a few crunchy crystals. The finish is fairly long and has lingering roast notes with sweetness and caramel.

Ikea's Choklad Mörk is a decent dark chocolate for a private label. At 60% cacao, it did seem a bit sweet to me. I found that some flavor is buried behind the sweetness. The roast on this bar was very nice. I think on the lower percentage chocolates the roast component really plays well with the extra sweetness. While this isn't the most complex chocolate, the Choklad Mörk is worth a taste next time you find yourself in Ikea.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jever Pilsner

It was only a matter of time before this spring's pilsner tastings brought Beer! to Germany. Check out the first of many German pils reviews:

Brewery: Jever
Location: Jever, Germany
Style: Pilsner
Rating: A-

Our spring pilsner lovefest continues with some true German representation of the style. Today we taste the Jever Pilsner. The Jever Pilsner is clear straw-yellow in color, looking similar to an unoaked sauvignon blanc, with a short white head. The nose has a prominent lager malt character with grassy/herbal notes and some straw.

The first impression on the palate is dry crispness. There is the usual lager malt note, with a faint hint of green-bottle skunk. Hops take on an herbal note along with a nice bitter bite. There are notes of wheat toast, grass and baled hay as well. The Jever Pilsner is medium-bodied with a nice, crisp fizziness. The finish has long, lingering hops paired with trailing notes of malt.

The Jever Pilsner is a great European Pils, too bad it comes in a green bottle. This is well-hopped for a Euro pils. There is a distinct grassy/straw flavor that pairs quite well with the dryness. If you normally drink any green bottle beers, this is a huge upgrade that you owe yourself to try.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tuatara Bohemian Pilsner

You pretty much can't get any further from the Czech Republic than New Zealand, but today Beer! finds out that this doesn't stop the Kiwis from making a damn good pilsner:

Brewery: Tuatara Brewing Co.
Location: Wellington, New Zealand
Style: Pilsner
Rating: A-

Today we cross the Pacific on our quest for great pilsners. Today’s tasting is from New Zealand’s Tuatara brewery. The Tuatara Bohemian Pilsner pours up a deep, hazy yellow-gold color with a frothy, white head. The nose has notes of herbs, apricot and lager malt.

On the palate there is a nice progression that starts with dry lager malt, progresses to a fruity hops note and heads back to dry maltiness paired with bitter hops. The malt flavor is crisp without any skunky Eurolageriness (yes, I just made that word up) going on. There is a lot going on with the hops. There are herbal hops notes with some spice, fleeting sweet fruit hops notes of nectarines and orange juice, and bitter hops that build to a moderate level without being overpowering. The Tuatara Bohemian Pilsner is medium-bodied and crisp. the finish has long dry maltiness paired perfectly with bitter and spicy hops.

This is the first beer I’ve tried from Tuatara and I am quite impressed. The Bohemian Pilsner is a bit on the hop-forward side for a typical pils, but the dry malt never gets lost and is a perfect match to the more assertive hops. While this isn’t a big, full-on Imperial Pilsner, there is some big flavor here. Tuatara has an excellent, well-balanced Pilsner on their hands. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Godiva Solid Dark Chocolate

Today, The Dark Chocolate Blog finds that you really do get what you pay for:

Manufacturer: Godiva
Rating: D

Today we are tasting a chocolate that is a bit more accessible than most of the others we typically review here on The Dark Chocolate Blog. Today we have the Godiva Solid Dark Chocolate bar. This is the 1.5 ounce bar you typically find at the cash register in book stores and the like. There is no cocoa percentage listed on the package. The bar itself has four rather thick squares embossed with a "G", and is nicely textured with crisp embossing. The bar is a deep mahogany/rosewood color. The snap is notably soft, especially for such a thick bar. The nose has a distinct coconut aroma.

On the palate there is a dominant, very sweet coconut flavor that really buries the chocolate flavor on this bar. There are some notes of chocolate milk and caramel, and loads of sweetness. Chewing the Godiva Solid Dark Chocolate hints at nuts and cedar before another big wave of coconut rolls in. The finish is overly sweet with notes of coconut milk and caramel.

I’ve had several good chocolates from Godiva before, so I was surprised at just how bad this chocolate was. The Solid Dark Chocolate bar was sickly sweet with overpowering coconut flavors, and not much chocolate flavor to speak of. Stay away from this one.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Magic Hat Demo Black IPA

Today Beer! reviews a Magical black IPA:

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

We interrupt our run of pilsner tastings for today with a Black IPA. Today we have the Magic Hat Demo IPA, one of their "IPA's on Tour" set. The Demo pours up a deep cola-black in color with a hint of amber. There is a bit of sediment in suspension as well. The head is mocha in color and frothy. On the nose there is a rich chocolaty porter aroma with a hint of fruity hops.

On the palate there is a slightly sweet mocha note up front paired with dark wheat toast. Bitter hops comes in a wave along with some fruity hops notes. As the hops fades there is a dryer toastiness with raisins and bittersweet chocolate. The Demo is medium-bodied, and feels right for an IPA. The finish has mocha notes, toast and some herbal and bitter hops as well.

I have yet to try a Black IPA I didn't like, and the Demo is no exception. I like the transition on the palate as the experiance goes from a sweeter porter to an IPA to a dryer porter, and finally it all blends together on the finish. There is a nice smokiness here, but it is not so overpowering to affect drinkability. Another highly recommended Black IPA.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Red Hook Rope Swing Summer Pilsner

Today on Beer! - when good Pilsners go bad:

Brewery: Red Hook Ale Brewery
Location: Portsmouth, NH
Style: Pilsner
Rating: C

Up for tasting today is the Rope Swing Summer Pilsner from Red Hook. The beer pours up a deep golden color with some haze and sediment, topped with a foamy white head. The nose has some rather shocking aromas of butter and yeastiness similar to a witbier.

The bizarreness continues on the palate. There is a bit of tartness, some mild butteriness, and a yeast note reminiscent of a Belgian white or abbey ale. Bitter hops build with time. There are some mineral notes here, as well as dry lager malt way in the background. The Rope Swing is light-medium bodied, with a dry mouthfeel. The finish has lingering yeast with dry malt and hops notes.

I can't help but wonder if something went wrong with the Rope Swing. The butter and yeasty notes are jarringly out of place in a pilsner. This really seems more like an abbey ale in flavor. The sediment really leads me to believe that this beer was contaminated somewhere along the line. Hopefully this only affected a small portion of the batch, as this is not the quality I expect from Red Hook.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Patric Rio Caribe Superior 70% Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate Blog reviews another great bar from Patric Chocolates:

Manufacturer: Patric
Cocoa Content: 70%
Location: Venezuela
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A

Today we are tasting Patric's Rio Caribe Superior dark chocolate bar. This is a single-source bar made from cacao produced near Rio Caribe, Venezuela, a town referred to as "City of the Masters of Cacao". The bar is mahogany in color with orange and red highlights. The nose detects cocoa, espresso and dried fruit.

There is a rich chocolate note up front on the palate. Fruity acidity then builds. There are notes of stone fruit, with a very distinct cherry flavor which goes between bing and maraschinos, along with a bit of nectarine. Nutty notes of walnut and almonds are here along with pistachio. There is a sweet, latte-like creaminess as well. Chewing the Rio Caribe Superior leads to almonds, cherries and leather. The mouthfeel is smooth, thick and creamy. The sweet creaminess carries into the finish and leaves me with the impression of a pistachio sundae covered with chocolate and cherry syrup and sprinkled with nuts.

Color me impressed with the Patric Rio Caribe bar. There is a great, distinct cherry note here that plays well with the rich chocolate, as well as the supporting notes of sweetened coffee and nuts. The construction is perfect as well. This is really a fantastic chocolate that I highly recommend.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Oskar Blues Mama's Little Pils

Today Beer! asks the age-old question, can bottled-beer flavor really be found in a can?

Brewery: Oskar Blues Brewery
Location: Lyons, CO
Style: Pilsner
Brewery Website
Rating: C+

There has been a small resurgence of canned beer in the craft beer community as of late. The question is whether this is merely a novelty or if these beers can really hold their own against their glassbound brethren. The Mama's Little Yella Pils comes in your standard-issue 12 ounce can. It pours up a deep yellow-gold color with some haze and a foamy white head. The nose detects wheat and lager notes on the malt side as well as some herbal and fruity hops notes.

On the palate there is an initial lager malt character that seems to be on the light side. The flavor seems a bit flat to me. There are wheat bread and malt syrup notes. This does seem to have a bit more sweetness than I'd expect from a lighter pilsner. Bitter hops do appear after after a few sips. There is a hint of herbal/floral hops and some fruit hops as well. Mama's Little Yella Pils is medium-bodied, but it does seem a little flat on the carbonation side. The finish has lingering grainy sweetness with faint bitter hops notes.

I really wanted Mama's Little Yella Pils to be good, but I am unfortunately rather unimpressed. This beer reminds me more of it's canned adjunct-lager brethren than a craft beer in a can. There is a bit of a grainy/corny sweetness that, coupled with the can-flatness, really reminded me a lot of the usual fare from Bud/Miller/Coors. The hops component was disappointingly mellow as well. This is definitely an upgrade over the usual mass-market lager, but not by enough for me to want to try it again.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Stoudt's Pils

Our first review from Stoudt's over at Beer!, and it's - you guessed it - a pilsner. Enjoy, I sure did:

Brewery: Stoudt's
Location: Adamstown, PA
Style: Pilsner
Brewery Website
Rating: A-

The pilsners keep rolling in with the spring. Today's beer tasting is Stoudt's Pils. The beer pours up straw-gold in color with a bubbly white head. The nose has lager malt with fruit and herbal hops notes.

On the palate the Stoudt's Pils has crisp lagery malt up front leading into some sweet notes and an apricot fruit note. Bitter hops build over a few sips and end up providing a nice counterpoint to the malt. Some raisin and wine notes sit in the background as well. The Stoudt's Pils is medium-bodied with some nice carbonation. The finish has lingering hops bitterness with toast, pretzels and a hint of sweet fruit.

The Stoudt's Pils has a good malt flavor paired with a nice hoppy kick. The touch of sweetness here may not be typical for a pilsner, but it leads to some nice complexity, especially given that this isn't a huge imperial pilsner. The Stoudt's Pils is definitely worth a taste.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Theo Madagascar 74% Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate Blog reviews a Madagascan chocolate from the coolest Theo that is not a Huxtable:

Manufacturer: Theo
Cocoa Content: 74%
Location: Madagascar
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

Today's chocolate is a 74% cacao dark chocolate from Theo. This bar is made from Madagascan cacao beans. The bar is a light mahogany in color with some orange highlights, which is typical for Madagascan chocolate. The nose has woody cocoa aromas.

The first impression on the palate is chocolate with bright citrus notes. The acidity is immediately present, but it is not overpowering. Citrus notes of lemonade, fresh squeezed lime juice and orange juice are all present. Other fruit notes are blackberries and juicy red wine. Other flavor notes include vanilla and some woodiness. Chewing the Theo Madagascar highlights lemonade, cherries and brownie batter. The mouthfeel has some slight grit/graininess. There is a touch of cooling sensation as well. The finish has lemonade, marshmallow and oak.

Theo has a bar that really makes for a good reference for the typical Madagascan chocolate. The color and the citrus flavor are classic Madagascan characteristics. There is some nice fruitiness without ever losing the chocolate flavor. My only compalint is that the texture is a near miss. If you're starting to get into single origin chocolates, I highly recommend the Theo Madagascar as a reference for what good Madagascan chocolate brings to the table.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mikkeller Czechet Pilsner

Spring. Beer! Pilsner. Boom goes the dynamite.

Brewery: Mikkeller
Location: København, Denmark
Style: Pilsner
Brewery Website
Rating: A

Today we sample a Czech-style pilsner from Danish brewery Mikkeller. The Czechet Pilsner pours up a deep, golden yellow color with some haziness and a short white head. The nose detects winy lager notes, bread and highlights of both fruit and herbal hops.

The first impression on the palate is crisp lager malt with some fizz followed by fruity hops notes. The malt has notes of pizza dough and pasta. The hops have apricots and herbal notes that transition to a piny bite. The Czechet Pilsner has a light-medium mouthfeel with a fizzy tingle, making this beer crisp and refreshing. The finish fades rather quickly to a mild note, but sweet bread/cereal notes couples with fruity and bitter hops hang around softly for a while.

I really enjoyed the Mikkeller Pilsner. It has great balance. There is a nice lager malt with typical pils flavors, but not even a hint of skunkiness. This beer is nicely hopped without ever overpowering the malt. This is really a fantastic pilsner.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dogfish Head My Antonia

More pilsner love over at Beer! today. Here's the Dogfish Head My Antonia:

Brewery: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Location: Milton, DE
Style: Pilsner
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

As my loyal readers know, pilsners are one of my favorite styles of beer. I was quite excited to see that Dogfish Head, one of my favorite breweries, recently released the My Antonia pilsner. It is not often that Dogfish Head produces a lager, so I was really interested in trying this out. The My Antonia pours up yellow-gold with a faint haze and a massive, white, clumpy foam head. The nose is almost all hops with citrus being the dominant note along with some herbal and floral aromas.

At first taste the hops really coat the tongue. There is a balance between citrusy West Coast hops and the herbal fruitiness of European noble hops, with some bitter resin at the end. The malt definitely takes a back seat to the hops. There are some lager notes here, but they are barely discernible. There is a slight sweetness that does pair well with the hoppiness. The mouthfeel is medium-heavy with clinging, syrupy hops. The finish has a complex balance of hops notes that linger with fading sweetness.

My overall impression of the Dogfish Head My Antonia is that it is fairly 1-dimensional. It would be nice if a bit more of the malt peeked through. This beer is a great display of hops, but it needs a little more Pils character from the malt. This is a good beer by anyone's standards, but we're all a bit spoiled by the folks from Dogfish Head. I was hoping for greatness and this falls a bit short for me.

The fruity citrus character of this beer makes it a natural pair for Madagascan chocolate. My choice was the Amano Madagascar and that worked well. Other good pairs would be the Michel Cluizel Mangaro Noir, the Patric Signature Blend, or for the real daring the Pralus Le 100%.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dagoba Eclipse 87% Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate Blog takes on the Dagoba Eclipse. Do sparkly vampires make for good chocolate?

Manufacturer: Dagoba
Cocoa Content: 87%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B-

I never thought I'd be reviewing a chocolate bar named after a book in the Twilight series, but I when saw "Dagoba" and "87%" on the label I knew I couldn't leave Whole Foods without this chocolate. The Eclipse is mahogany in color with lots of clay-red coloration. The nose has a chocolate liqueur aroma with highlights of wood and herbs.

On the palate there is a bitter note up front that hints at espresso. The bitterness is rather sharp, although not necessarily out of place in an 87% cacao dark chocolate. There is some acidity here, but it sits in the background. There is a hint of orange-citrus notes along with some woodiness. There is also a notable, tannic red wine note. Chewing the Eclipse brings forward notes of oak, cherries and cinnamon. The mouthfeel is astringent with some cooling sensation. The melt is mostly smooth with just a faint hint of grit. The finish has espresso and wine with woody undertones.

Having recently tasted several excellent chocolates in the 99-100% cocoa range, I must admit I was a little disappointed in the Dagoba Eclipse bar. At 87%, the bitterness level seemed higher than some of the better 99-100% chocolates. There was quite a bit of astringency, reminiscent of a red wine with loads of tannins. I found this to be a bit much and it definitely seemed to throw the chocolate out of balance. What it boils down to is that the Eclipse meets my expectations of a chocolate bar named after a sparkly vampire movie, but I was hoping for much more from Dagoba.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Saranac Bohemian Pilsner

Spring is here, and the wave of pilsners are starting to roll in over at Beer! Check out the Saranac Bohemian Pilsner:

Brewery: The Matt Brewing Company
Location: Utica, NY
Style: Pilsner
Brewery Website
Rating: A

Spring is here, and to me there is nothing like a good pilsner on a sunny spring day. Today's beer tasting this the Saranac Bohemian Pilsner and this surely fits the bill as a good pilsner. The Bohemian Pilsner pours up a light gold in color with a fizzy white head and very fine, profusely effervescent carbonation. The nose detects lager malt, wheat/semolina grain and some fruity hops notes.

The first impression on the palate is that this is a mostly dry, European-style pils. There are malt notes of bread and pasta. A distinct mineral water flavor is present as well as some "Eurolager" notes. Hops are notable with both herbal and citrus aromatics along with a touch of piny bittering hops. The Bohemian Pilsner has a light, fizzy body that is quite refreshing. The finish has pasta with lingering hops and just a hint of sweetness.

Saranac has a fantastic pilsner on their hands here. This is a light, refreshing Euro-style pils that doesn't hide the hops. The Bohemian Pilsner is balanced, flavorful and refreshing. You can't ask for much more in a Pilsner.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gulden Draak Ale

Today Beer! slays a golden dragon. Check out their review of Gulden Draak:

Brewery: Brouwerij Van Steenberge
Location: Ertvelde, Belgium
Style: Belgian Dark Ale
Brewery Website
Rating: A

In my glass today is the Gulden Draak Ale, one of Belgium's best-known dark ales. The beer pours up a hazy amber-mahogany in color with a foamy, light-tan head. The nose detects wine, mineral water and whole wheat flour.

On the palate there is some sweet cereal up front along with some malt syrup. The malt also gives notes of doughy bread as well as brown rice and rice candy. There is a yeast note typical to Belgian Ales, as well as some wininess. Hops are here and give both herbal and piny notes. There is also a note of stone fruit such as cherries and apricots. The Gulden Draak has a medium-heavy body with some slight syrupiness, plenty of carbonation and a bit of a warming sensation. The finish has lingering cereal sweetness and a bit of a tingle (from a combination of fizz and alcohol).

The Gulden Draak Ale is a great Belgian Ale that even those of you who aren't into Belgian-style beers will enjoy. There is just the right amount of residual sweetnesss here without becoming over-syrupy. This leads to some really nice fruity notes. The Gulden Draak is a well-balanced, complex beer that I highly recommend.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Domori Puertomar Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate Blog reviews the award-winning Domori Puertomar:

Manufacturer: Domori
Cocoa Content: 75%
Location: Venezuela
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A-

Today's tasting is the award-winning Domori Puertomar. The Puertomar is part of the same Criollo line as Domori's Puertofino and Porcelana. The bar is deep mahogany in color with purple highlights. The nose detects a deep chocolate aroma with cherry jam.

The immediate impression on the palate is rich chocolate with Domori's typical jamminess. Distinct notes of bread and caramel are here. There is a moderate level of acidity but lots of fruitiness. Red raspberries, pomegranate, Rainier cherries and orange are all here. There is a notable bitter espresso component, but the bitter kick is somewhat mitigated by all the fruitiness. The bitterness does seem to fade in and out in waves, and combines with the fruit to leave an impression of hops. Chewing the Puertomar opens up sweet cherries, mint and tobacco. The mouthfeel is smooth with a slight cooling sensation. The finish is jammy with cherries and shortbread cookies.

The Puertomar is instantly recognizable as Domori with the big fruitiness and jammy flavor. I find the overall flavor to be similar to their Porcelana, but the fruit tends to be a bit less "in your face". There are some big jam/fruit notes here, but the great thing is that the chocolate flavor never gets lost. Another classic from Domori here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Otter Creek Alpine Black IPA

Today Beer! tastes another Black IPA, the Otter Creek Alpine Black IPA:

Brewery: Otter Creek
Location: Middlebury, VT
Style: Black IPA
Brewery Website
Rating: A-

We're following up on our recent review of the perfect Heavy Seas Black Cannon with another Black IPA. Today we have the Otter Creek Alpine Black IPA on tap. The Alpine Black is ebony-amber in color with a thick, foamy dark-tan head. There is a considerable amount of chunky sediment as well, so take care in pouring if you prefer not to have it in your glass. The nose has the classic grapefruit note of Cascade hops along with some smoke.

On the palate the Alpine Black IPA has a long initial fruity lead-in before bitter and smoky notes start to roll in. Hops provide citrus fruitiness and a mild kick of juniper/bitter hop resin. Smoke and roast notes are here, but mainly play a support role to the hops. Also notable are yeast notes and a touch of residual sweetness. The Alpine Black IPA is medium-bodied and juicy, making this a very drinkable beer. The finish has a squirt of lemon over bitter hops notes and black coffee.

In contrast to the Black Cannon that we recently reviewed, the Otter Creek Alpine Black IPA is really more of a fruity IPA with some smokiness as a highlight rather than equal parts porter and IPA. This is just as effective of an interpretation of the style, as the smoke and roasted coffee-like bitterness really play well in supporting the hops-forward flavors of an IPA. The Alpine Black is a great beer with some great flavor. I'm really liking this Black IPA style. I hope more breweries follow the lead that breweries like Otter Creek and Clipper City have set, because there is a wide range of interpretations possible on this style and I want to taste them all.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Valrhona Palmira 2009 Dark Chocolate Bar

The Dark Chocolate Blog takes on vintage chocolate with a tasting of the 2009 Valrhona Palmira:

Manufacturer: Valrhona
Cocoa Content: 64%
Location: Venezuela
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

Today's tasting is the 2009 vintage of the Valrhona Palmira. The Palmira Estates where these criollo beans are grown is located near Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, the home of some of the world’s finest cacao. The Palmira is an orange-mahogany in color. The nose is on the lighter side with some aromas of earthy chocolate.

The first impression on the palate is sweet chocolate with herbal (mint in particular) and earthy notes. Acidity slowly builds, along with nuttiness and roasted flavors. Acidity leads to notes of citrus and sour cherries. There are roasted notes of roast cashews and medium-roast coffee along with some notable earthiness. Chewing the Palmira opens up cherries, leather and earth notes. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy with some cooling sensation. The finish has coffee, cherry pie, mint and nuts.

I have some mixed feelings about the Valrhona Palmira. On one hand, there is a wealth of complexity in this chocolate bar. But on the other hand, there is a notable lack of rich chocolate flavor. It may well be that I am experiencing this chocolate past its prime as this is the 2009 vintage. Still, this chocolate does show a lot of promise for vintaged single-origin chocolate. I'll be curious to see how more recent vintages compare to this one.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Patric Signature Blend 70% Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate Blog takes its first taste of Patric today with their Signature Blend dark chocolate bar:

Manufacturer: Patric Chocolate
Cocoa Content: 70%
Rating: A-

Today we're tasting the Patric Signature Blend, which is a 70% dark chocolate bar. The bar itself is quite eye-catching as it is emblazoned with the Patric logo and has a textured finish. Notably absent are the squares most chocolate bars are divided into. The bar is mahogany in color with some red streaks showing along the edge when snapped. The nose has chocolate and coffee notes which, while pleasing, seem to be pretty standard fare.

On the palate there is coffee initially, followed by building acidity. The acidity brings forward both lemony citrus notes as well as berry notes of blackberries and blueberries. All the while there are nutty notes competing with to be heard over the fruitiness, with almond and hazelnut. Espresso then comes back along with a light oaky highlight. Chewing the Patric Signature Blend leads to sweet nuttiness of pistachio and cashew as well as sour cherry/blackberry notes. The mouthfeel is smooth, creamy and a bit juicy with some cooling sensation. The finish continues the complexity with mocha coffee taking the lead and supported by lemon zest, almond, caramel and chocolate milk.

In contrast with the Amedei "9", the Patric Signature Blend takes a different approach in blended chocolate with some very bold flavors and acidity. The end result is still a great, complex chocolate that let's the beans' flavor shine through. Bold fruit is dominant here, and the citrus leads me to believe that there is some Madagascan chocolate in the blend. Coffee and nuts are pretty big components here as well. The flavors have a great evolution as new flavors are constantly introducing themselves throughout the melt and finish. The one drawback is that the wealth of bold flavors tends to hide the actual chocolate flavor a bit. When the chocolate does finally kick in it reminds me a lot of milk chocolate with caramel and creamy undertones, which is very interesting for a dark chocolate. The Patric Signature blend is quite snackable because of this. This is a great blended chocolate. I can't wait to dig into some of their single-source bars.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Victory Old Horizontal Barleywine

Beer! goes horizontal today with Victory's winter seasonal barleywine:

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

Today's tasting is Victory's Old Horizontal Barleywine. The Old Horizontal is ruby-amber in color with a hint of gold. The head is slow-rising and climbs up to a massive volume. The head is a ruddy tan in color. The nose is very fragrant of fruit, with notes of berries, citrus, and apricot. There is a wininess to nose that is characteristic of a barley wine as well.

Upon tasting, there is a sweet fruitiness up front that quickly gets taken over by syrupy malt. A bitter kick is here from the hops, which takes on a bit of an herbal character. The Old Horizontal is well-hopped, but not over-hopped. Flavors of maple, pretzels and cherries are also notable. The Old Horizontal is heavy with a slightly syrupy body and leaves a bit of a warming sensation. The finish has piny hop resin over malt syrup.

Victory has really hit the mark with this year's showing of the Old Horizontal. It is very drinkable and enjoyable right now. I especially like the fruit notes both on the nose and the palate. What I am most excited about, however, is the promise this beer shows for aging. I'm kicking myself for not grabbing a few extra to tuck away for aging, so I'm hoping to grab some before they're all gone in my area. The big fruitiness and hops paired with the syrupy malt is generally a recipe for great aging. I'm really looking forward to revisiting the Old Horizontal in a year or two.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Michel Cluizel Noir Infini 99% Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate Blog goes big with Michel Cluizel's 99% dark chocolate bar, the Noir Infini:

Manufacturer: Michel Cluizel
Cocoa Content: 99%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A

Up for review today is the Michel Cluizel Noir Infini 99% dark chocolate bar. The small 30 gram bar is impeccably made. The face of the bar is 2-textured, with the lower right half covered with very fine stippling. The stippling is flawless, and I am really amazed at the level of fine detail here. The Noir Infini bar is deep ebony in color with highlights of purple and red. The nose detects a rich dark chocolate aroma along with vanilla beans and caramel.

On the palate there is a deep, rich chocolate flavor as the dominant note. There is only a moderate amount of acidity here revealing some lemon peel citrus. The impression of sweetness is really much higher than I would expect from a 99% cacao dark chocolate, with notes of caramel and honey. Bitterness leads to a deep roasted espresso note. Notes of oak, leather and tobacco are here as well, along with a hint of ginger. The Noir Infini has a rather soft, yielding bite to it. Chewing the bar reveals ginger, vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon, orange juice and earthy notes. The melt is perfectly smooth, thick and creamy. The finish has deep espresso highlighted by oak and cinnamon.

Every aspect of the Noir Infini shows the supreme level of dedication that Michel Cluizel puts into producing ultra-premium chocolate. The construction is immaculate and flavor is astounding. The Noir Infini has the richest chocolate flavor of any of the ultra-dark chocolates I've tried. I did find the flavor to be slightly subdued because of the lower level of acidity. I think that increasing the acidity a bit would likely increase the complexity a bit, as it seems like there is some fruit that is hidden under the dominant spice/earth/wood flavors. But in its current incarnantion the chocolate flavor is phenominal. If you like ultra-dark chocolate, then you owe it to yourself to get your hands on the 99% cacao Noir Infini. It is truly an incredible taste experience.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Republica Del Cacao Los Rios 75% Dark Chocolate

Today, over at The Dark Chocolate Blog we take our first taste of Republica Del Cacao with their Los Rios 75% Dark Chocolate. How did it fare, and how does it compare with the stellar Pacari Los Rios? Read on to find out:

Manufacturer: Republica Del Cacao
Cocoa Content: 75%
Location: Ecuador
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B

We're following up on our recent tasting of the excellent Pacari Los Rios with another take on these beans. Today's tasting is from Ecuadorian bean-to-bar chocolate maker Republica Del Cacao. Their take on the Los Rios chocolate is a 75% bar that is deep brown in color, bordering on ebony, with ruby and purple highlights. The nose has a deep, powerful chocolate aroma, with highlights of marshmallow and cinnamon.

The Republica Del Cacao Los Rios hits the palate with a distinct note of tobacco/leather. Herbal and sweet spice notes abound with cinnamon, mint and some grassiness. There is a bite of black coffee bitterness here. Banana, hazelnut and cream are here as well. Chewing the Los Rios brings forward notes of mint, honey, toffee and some cinnamon/nutmeg. The melt is perfectly smooth with a slight cooling sensation. On the finish, some chocolate finally sets in along with spearmint as a strong highlight.

I am quite torn over the Republica Del Cacao Los Rios. On one hand, the construction of this bar is absolutely flawless. The bar is divided into four large rectangles with pristine embossing and a lustrous shine. The nose has a wonderful chocolate note that is rich and fudgy like brownie batter. But once the chocolate hit my palate I found myself searching for this powerful chocolate note that the nose alluded to. It takes seemingly forever for any of the chocolate flavor to show up. Overall, the flavor is quite complex, interesting and bold with dominant notes of mint and tobacco/leather highlighted by sweet spice and herbs, but the chocolate flavor is conspicuously missing until the tail end. Still, the attention to detail is promising and I'm looking forward to trying some of Republica Del Cacao's other chocolates quite soon.