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.