Monday, February 28, 2011

Harpoon Belgian Style Pale Ale

Today Beer! reviews the Harpoon Belgian Style Pale Ale:

Brewery: Harpoon
Location: Boston, MA
Style: Pale Ale
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

In my glass today is Harpoon's Belgian Style Pale Ale. The Belgian Pale Ale is golden in color with a hint of copper. It pours with a short, off-white head, and a considerable amount of fine carbonation. The nose has a Cascade-like citrus note along with sweet malt.

The Belgian Style Pale Ale leads with a fruity hop note up front followed by a piny hops kick. The hops fade into a sweet malt note of multigrain bread. There is a hint of witbier flavor here (most notably a banana-like sweetness), but it is just a highlight in the background. The body is light-to-medium with fizzy carbonation. The Harpoon Belgian Pale Ale finished with sweet malt over fading hops undertones.

Harpoon has crafted a refreshing, unique pale ale with their Belgian Style Pale Ale. This basically drinks like an amber with a touch of witbier. This is a nice option for pale ale fans looking for something just a bit different.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Barista Prima House Blend KCup

Manufacturer: Barista Prima
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A+

We're wrapping up our reviews of Green Mountain Coffee's Barista Prima line of European-roast style K-Cup coffee's. I have been eagerly awaiting my opportunity to try the House Blend, as this was out of stock on the GMC website for a while. I am happy to report that my patience has been rewarded in spades. The House Blend brews up a deep chestnut brown in color, topped by a light tan froth and some faint swirls of oil. The nose detects smoky, roasted nuts along with a fruity berry note in the background.

The Barista Prima House Blend hits the palate with a fruity acidity up front followed by a bite of espresso-like bitterness, which comes as a nice 1-2 punch combination. There are berry notes and a faint lemonade citrus note on the fruity side. Unsweetened cocoa is present on the bitter side. Woody notes of oak, applewood and smoke fill out the flavor profile nicely. The House Blend has a full, coating mouthfeel. The finish has unsweetened cocoa and roasted almonds over fading acidity and fruit notes.

As much as I have enjoyed the Barista Prima coffeees I've tried up to this point, the House Blend is truly the pinnacle for me. The House Blend is full-flavored, complex and strikes the perfect balance between acid/fruit and deep roast without either side becoming overpowering. To match the big flavor, the body is full with a sumptuous richness. The Barista Prima House Blend has everything I'm looking for in my everyday coffee, and will pair excellently with any chocolate that has a lively fruit note such as the Domori Porcelana or the Amano Madagascar. I can't recommend this one enough, this coffee is as good as it gets.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Domori Cacao Sambirano Single Origin Dark Chocolate

Check out The Dark Chocolate Blog's take on the Domori Sambirano, and find out what it "cranks all the way to eleven":

Manufacturer: Domori
Cocoa Content: 70%
Location: Madagascar
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A-

Today's tasting is the Domori Sambirano. As the name implies, this is a single origin choolate made from cocoa beans sourced from the Sambirano Valley in Madagascar. My first impression on opening the package was a powerful aroma of acidic wininess that reminded me of popping the cork on the bottle of a big Red Zinfandel. The bar is a deep mahogany in color with a slight orange tint. It strikes me as being a bit darker in color than the typical 70% cacao Madagascan chocolate.

At first taste the Domori Sambirano has an immediate bright, berry jamminess. Strawberries are here in spades and red raspberry peeks through as well. The acidity level is very lively with sour berry and cherry notes. There is some lemon custard here, but the dominant citrus note common to Madagascan chocolate is outpaced by tart berries on this bar. Some herbal/grassy notes are present, as well as some hazelnut. Chewing the Domori Cacao Sambirano leads to strawberry creme and cherry cordial notes. The melt is perfect - smooth, thick and creamy. The finish has continuing sour cherry paired with some herbal notes.

Every chocolate I have tried to date from Domori has been amazing, and the Cacao Sambirano from their Single Origins line is no exception. Astute readers of this blog know that I'm a big fan of chocolate with a lively acidity, and the Sambirano cranks the acidity all the way to eleven. This bar is really quite sour, and seems to go all the way up to the limits of tartness for a dark chocolate. There is an interesting, and quite enjoyable, berry dominance here. If you told me that I was going to try an extremely acidic Madagascan chocolate, then I would be expecting lemonade, not strawberry jam. The texture here is fantastic as is typical of Domori. My only quibble with the Sambirano is that there is an herbal note that just doesn't seem to fit. Otherwise, this is another fantastic chocolate from Domori.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tröegs Troegenator Doublebock

Today, Beer! reviews the Troegs Troegenator Double Bock:

Brewery: Tröegs Brewing Company
Location: Harrisburg, PA
Style: Double Bock
Brewery Website
Rating: A-

Up for review today is the Troegenator Double Bock from Tröegs (umlaut rule in effect - I'll give you the first one, but I'm skipping it from here on in). The Troegenator pour up a clear, deep amber-brown color. There is some fine carbonation in the glass and a short, tan-brown, frothy head. The nose is fairly light with notes of wine and wheat toast.

On the palate the first thing I notice is a light tangy note followed by a touch of sweetness. There is a nice toasty note reminiscent of lightly toasted bread. Wine and oak are notable as well. There are both bitter and floral hops notes present, but they fade well into the background. There is also a faint vanilla/marshmallow note in the background. The Troegenator is medium-heavy bodied with light syrupiness and juiciness present. The finish has lingering oak and syrup notes with a squirt of juicy tang.

Troegs has a great dopplebock on their hands with the Troegenator. The flavors are very well balanced, with no one flavor overpowering anything else. They really nailed the right amount of sweetness, which to me is one of the biggest components that sets the decent dopplebocks apart from the great ones. The Troegenator is one of the best double bocks this side of Bavaria, and is worthy of your finest Octoberfest stein.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva 2007

Winery: Banfi
Vintage: 2007
Appellation: Chianti Classico
Winery website
Rating: B+

We've generally stuck to the chocolate/beer/coffee tack lately on Critical Tastings, but today I have some tasting notes on a Chianti I enjoyed recently. The Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva is made almost exclusively from Sangiovese grapes and is aged for 2 years in oak before bottling. It is a deep reddish purple in color, looking like pomegranate juice crossed with a black plum. The nose detects fruit notes of cherries and blackberries, vanilla/oak and a touch of grass.

The palate detects oak on the tip of the tongue. Fruit notes of Bing cherries and ripe blackberries are notable. Pomegranate is here as the arils are detectable in the acidity and the seeds in the tannins. The juicy fruit softens the oakiness a bit, but not completely. There is a hint of leather here as well. The mouthfeel is slightly tannic with some juiciness. The finish has lingering oak and jammy fruit.

The Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva is a nice fruity Chianti that I really enjoyed. My only quibble here is the oak seems to be just a bit too much for the amount of fruitiness here. If they rolled back the oak a hair, then this would be perfect. I've always been a fan of Banfi's Chiantis and this is another one that I would happily serve my guests with pasta or even grilled meat.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pacari Los Rios 72% Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate Blog goes bean-to-bar in Ecuador with the excellent Pacari Los Rios bar:

Manufacturer: Pacari
Cocoa Content: 72%
Location: Ecuador
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A

Today's review is Pacari's Los Rios 72% dark chocolate bar. The bar is made from beans originating in the Los Rios region is west-central Ecuador. The bar is a deep, purplish-brown color.

On the palate, the Los Rios leads with a rich chocolate note. There are some herbal/floral and grassy notes up front as well. The acidity starts at a moderate level then builds from there. Key lime is the most notable fruit flavor, and there are some blackberries here as well. There is a nice evolution from a bit of an herbal bitter note that develops into Key lime along with a hint of lemongrass as the acidity licks in. Some woody notes and cinnamon are here along with a touch of cream as well. Chewing the Los Rios highlights lime zest and chestnuts. The melt is fairly smooth with a slight cooling sensation. On the tail end the fruit simmers down revealing nutty notes over some lingering Key Lime.

The bars from Pacari have been a bit of a mixed bag for me up to this point. The Los Rios totally solves the issues I've seen with construction issues and flavor near-misses from Pacari in the past. This really shows the amazing potential of the Ecuadorian Arriba Nacional cacao beans. There is a nice, distinct Key lime flavor here with herbal and berry undertones that compliment it nicely. The flavor reminds me of some of the top-end Madagascan Sambirano Valley dark chocolates. Outside of the Waialua Estate, this is the best single-country bean-to-bar chocolate I've come across. If you're looking to sample Ecuadorian chocolate, or are interested in the potential of bean-to-bar chocolate, then this is the bar to try.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Lost Abbey Deliverance Ale

Today, Beer! reviews the Deliverance Ale from The Lost Abbey:

Brewery: The Lost Abbey
Location: San Marcos, CA
Style: Strong Ale
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

In my glass today is the Lost Abbey Deliverance Ale. The Deliverance Ale is an interesting blend of the Lost Abbey's Angel's Share Strong Ale and their Serpent's Stout, aged in brandy and bourbon barrels, respectively. The Deliverance Ale pours up a short, chestnut colored head. The beer is opaque and the color of black coffee. The nose detects raisins, syrup, wood and smoke.

The flavor leads with sweet notes of vanilla bean and maple. Raisins, dark chocolate and syrup are also present on the sweet side. Oak and tannins are here, along with dark rye toast. There is also a bit of wininess as well. The Deliverance Ale is medium-bodied, and is on the lighter side for such a syrupy-tasting beer. The finish has dry woodiness with lingering vanilla and syrup.

Although it is a bit too oaky for my tastes, the Lost Abbey Deliverance Ale has some great flavor. It has just the right amount of sweetness. My main issue is that the flavor and high alcohol content want this to be a sipping beer, but the body wants to be a session beer. (At 12.5% ABV, this is in no way a sessionable beer, unless your name is Rasputin.) It could really use more syrup in the body to fill it out a bit. That concern aside, the Lost Abbey Deliverance Ale is a damn tasty brew and I will be sure to snatch some for the cellar if I can still find some around.

One other point of note on the Deliverance Ale - the cocoa, vanilla and woody notes make this a perfect pair for a dark chocolate. I paired this with the Chocovic Ocumare, which has some nice woody notes of its own.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Domori IL 100% Dark Chocolate

Today The Dark Chocolate Blog finishes off 100% week with a review of the stellar Domori IL100%.

Manufacturer: Domori
Cocoa Content: 100%
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A+

Today we review the ultimate in pure chocolate, Domori's IL 100% dark chocolate bar. The ingredient list has but one entry: unsweetened cocoa mass. There is no sugar, vanilla or lecithin added here - this is just pure, unadulterated chocolate. The bar is deep ebony red in color. The nose picks up rich cocoa notes along with espresso.

At first taste, my first impression is that there is much less bitterness than I expected. There are a wealth of fruity notes with pomegranate, orange peel and black cherry. Espresso, hazelnuts, cinnamon and a woody cedar note are all here. There is a lager/pilsner character that hints at European noble hops such as Saaz and Tettnang. There are rich chocolate notes, but only a moderate bitterness level considering this is an unsweetened chocolate. Chewing the IL 100% opens up notes of raspberry, wood and mushrooms. Chewing the chocolate does increase the level of bitterness by a fair amount. The finish has smoky, deep-roasted espresso notes along with berries.

The Domori IL 100% is pure, unadulterated cocoa at its finest. It is a wonderfully complex chocolate bar. At 100% cocoa, this is not for the faint of heart, but if you enjoy dark chocolate this is really a must-try. While I’ve always considered very high percentage chocolates to be niche products that I’d try just for the “unique factor”, the IL 100% is very enjoyable on its own merit. I will definitely be coming back for more on this one.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pralus Le 100% Dark Chocolate

Today The Dark Chocolate Blog reviews the Le 100% dark chocolate from Pralus:

Manufacturer: Pralus
Cocoa Content: 100%
Location: Madagascar
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A

Today's tasting is the Le 100% dark chocolate from French chocolate maker François Pralus. The Le 100% is made from Madagascan Criollo beans from the Sambirano Valley. The bar is mahogany in color with red-orange highlights. The nose is rather reserved, with both floral and fruit notes.

As expected for an unsweetened chocolate, the palate is first hit with a bitter note. A strong nutty roast soon takes over with roasted almonds and a distinct dark pretzel note. The acidity is notable with lemon/citrus and sour cherries. As the citrus fades to finish, complex nutty and earthy undertones pop out. The Le 100% has a soft, yielding chew that brings forward hazelnut, lemon peel and more the the well-done pizza dough/pretzel roast note. The mouthfeel has mouthwatering, juicy acidity and a smooth melt. The finish has roasted coffee, and as the acid dies down notes of earth, wood and almonds open up.

Pralus knows how to roast a bean, and there is no clearer example of that than the Le 100%. The distinct doughy/pretzely roast notes on this bar are fantastic. And despite the prominent roast character of this chocolate, there is plenty of acidity available to counteract the bitterness of an unsweetened chocolate. While the acidity does mute some complexity in this bar, it is in just the right balance for a 100% cacao chocolate bar. The Le 100% is truly one of the best chocolates out there.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Pacari Raw Chocolate 100% Cocoa Dark Chocolate

Today The Dark Chocolate Blog kicks off their 100% chocolate week with the Pacari Raw Chocolate 100%:

Manufacturer: Pacari
Cocoa Content: 100%
Location: Ecuador
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B

Today we kick off our theme week of 100% chocolates with Pacari's Raw Chocolate 100%. Raw chocolate refers to chocolate that is minimally processed and has few (or no) additional ingredients added. And you can't get more raw than 100% unsweetened cocoa. The Pacari Raw 100% is deep ebony in color with purplish red undertones.

The first impression of the Pacari 100% on the palate is that this is a very bitter chocolate. There is a brief off note of sulfur/egg but that dissipates rather quickly. There is a very light acidity that has notes of currant, cranberry and a touch of grapefruit. Espresso and chestnuts are here as well. It does seem to me that the more complex undertones seem to be muted by the strong alkaline bitter bite. Chewing the Pacari Raw 100% brings forward wood, mushrooms, red wine and a "barnyard" note. The melt is thick and creamy. I find it interesting that the 100% cocoa raw chocolate seems to be smoother in texture then the other bars I've tried from Pacari. The finish is lingering bitterness with espresso and faint berry notes.

Pacari's Raw Chocolate 100% bar is well-constructed and has a lot of potential. My main issue is that the bitterness of this chocolate is so potent that many of the other flavors are overwhelmed. As you will see later on this week, the key for an unsweetened chocolate is to have enough acidity to cut through the bitterness. The Pacari Raw 100% just doesn't have enough acidity to counterbalance the bitterness of this bar. All-in-all this is a decent showing for a 100% chocolate, but there is definitely room for improvement.

100% Cacao Chocolate Week!

This week The Dark Chocolate Blog is serving up the darkest of the dark. Check out our reviews of 100% cocoa dark chocolate all week long.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Barista Prima French Roast KCup

Manufacturer: Barista Prima
Manufacturer Website
Rating: B+

Today we continue our reviews from the new Barista Prima KCup line with their French Roast. The Barista Prima French Roast brews up a deep mahogany/rosewood color. It comes off the brewer with a tan-brown froth along with swirls and drops of oil on top of the cup. The nose picks up aromas of smoke, roasted nuts and cocoa/cocoa butter.

The palate leads off with more roasted nuts. There is a sharp initial bitter bite that drops off to a background of bittersweet chocolate. There are notes of hickory smoke and earthiness along with a faint orange peel note. The Barista Prima French Roast is medium-bodied with a hint of oiliness. The finish has highlights of earth, wood and BBQ pit smokiness, all over a bitter bite of 100% cocoa dark chocolate.

As expected, this is another great dark roast from Barista Prima. There is a nice woody smoke to this coffee, but most notable to me is a nice unsweetened chocolate bitterness. This coffee would be a great pair to a very high percentage chocolate, such as the Lindt Excellence 99% dark chocolate.

Speaking of high-cocoa percentage chocolates, join us next week as The Dark Chocolate Blog hosts a theme week of 100% cocoa dark chocolate bars. If you're after the purest of the pure chocolate rush, then we will have three bars reviewed to get you your theobroma fix.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Avery Mephistopheles Stout

Today Beer! reviews a demonically good beer from Colorado's Avery Brewing, the Mephistopheles Stout.

Brewery: Avery Brewing
Location: Boulder, CO
Style: Stout
Brewery Website
Rating: A

Today's tasting is a big, bad boy from Avery - their Mephistopheles Stout. The bottle I am sampling is from batch 5, dated 12/09 and weighing in at a gigantic 16.83% ABV. Mephistopheles is an opaque ebony color and pours with a slow-rising dark brown head that fades to a clumpy foam. The nose detects complex notes including wine, yeast, honey, raisins and wheat toast.

On the palate the Mephistopheles is off-dry, despite its somewhat syrupy mouthfeel. There is a malt note of very dark toasted rye bread and an overall heavy burnt toast characteristic. Big beer notes of honey, raisins and wine are here. There is also some espresso and a piney bitter hops note. The Avery Mephistopheles Stout has a heavy body to go with the light, clingy syrup sensation. There is also some serious warming from the potent alcohol level. The finish has lingering dark toast with some raisins and black coffee in the background.

The Mephistopheles is simply a beast. This is a complex, rich and potent stout that is quite unique. The only thing I'd change is that this is a little dryer than I'd like, but not by much. The Avery Mephistopheles Stout reminds me a lot of the Thomas Hardy's Ale. I plan on cellaring a few of these as this should only improve with age.

This was also a fantastic pairing with the Waialua Estate dark chocolate bar.