Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Julian Hard Cider

Brewery: Julian Hard Cider
Location: Julian, CA
Style: Hard Cider
Brewery Website
Rating: B

Today we're breaking out of the beer box a bit and reviewing our first hard cider. Julian pours a very light straw in color, bordering on colorless and clear. The nose has a Riesling-like wininess, along with notes of banana and apple.

On the palate, Julian Hard Cider is slightly tart, with a quick zing of lemony tartness that quickly fades. There are sweet ester notes of bananas and circus peanuts as well as some sweet apples. Julian is light-bodied with big-bubbled soda fizz carbonation and a touch of juiciness. The finish is clean and crisp with lingering dry apples and yeasty esters.

Julian Hard Cider is clean and crisp, although the flavor is on the soft side. There are some nice yeasty ester notes that add an interesting layer of complexity here. This is a decent brew, but in the end I found myself looking for a little more.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cadbury Royal Dark Chocolate

Manufacturer: The Hershey Company 
Location: Hershey, PA
Manufacturer Website
Rating: C-

Today's dark chocolate review is the Cadbury Royal Dark chocolate bar. The Royal Dark bar is reddish mahogany in color. the nose finds cocoa and a big coconut note.

On the palate there is a note reminiscent of sweetened breakfast cereal. Notes of coconut and cocoa are notable as well. The Royal Dark is rather sweet, bordering on overly sweet, and this sweetness seems to drown out the other flavors of the chocolate. Buried way in the background there is a faint note of walnuts/hazelnuts. Chewing the Royal Dark brings some fleeting earthy and nutty notes before the overly sweet coconut floods back in. The mouthfeel has a slight sugar-crystal grit to it. The finish finds coconut and sweetened corn flakes.

Hershey's pretty much misses the mark with the Cadbury Royal Dark bar. The chocolate is overly sweet and is dominated by a powerful coconut flavor that masks just about all the other flavors in this chocolate. This pretty much seems par for the course when it comes to mass-market dark chocolate (I'm looking at you, Godiva), but it doesn't have to be that way. Hershey's is currently producing some excellent dark chocolates under their Artisan Confection lines (such as the Scharffen Berger Ben Tre). It would be fantastic if they could bring some of that high quality production to their mass-market brands.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Otter Creek Irish Red Ale

Brewery: Otter Creek Brewing
Location: Middlebury, VT
Style: Amber
Brewery Website
Rating: B

Today's tasting is Otter Creek's new winter seasonal, the Winter Red Ale. Thw Winter Red is a deep chestnut-amber in color with a short, off-white head. The nose finds citrus and herbal hops notes. There are also aromas of fresh-baked bread and malt syrup.

On the palate there is a quick taste of fruity hops which moves into a sharp steely/mineral note that is paired with an oily, bitter hops bite that has a touch of pine. A dry, toasted malt note sits in the background. A touch of residual sweetness is hinted at as well. The Winter Red Ale has a medium-heavy body that is a bit heavier than the typical amber. There is also a significant astringent oiliness. The finish sees the strong mineral bite clinging on with undertones of pine, pretzel and malt syrup.

Otter Creek seems like they're going for an amped up version of their flagship beer, their Copper Ale, with the Winter Red. While it does hit the mark on most accounts, the execution seems to be a bit out of balance for my tastes. The hops seems like it's all bite without much in the way of aromatics on the palate, and this ends up drowning out the malt. I also found the mineral note (likely from the resinous hops) to be a bit overpowering. Overall, the Otter Creek Winter Red Ale is worth a try if you're looking for a heavier beer for the winter that is more hops-forward, but personally I'd love to see more aroma hops and malt in the final mix.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ommegang Three Philosophers Quadrupel 2010 Vintage

Brewery: Brewery Ommegang
Location:Cooperstown, NY
Style: Quadrupel
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

Today's tasting is the 2010 edition of Ommegang's Three Philosophers. The Three Philosophers is a blend of a Belgian-style Quad and a Belgian-style Kriek (aka, cherry lambic). The Three Philosophers pours up a deep, hazy amber-mahogany in color. The light-tan head is thick and creamy. The nose has cereal malt, fruity hops, sweet yeast esters (banana and circus peanut) as well as a hint of sweet cherry.

On the palate there is an initial acidity that is followed up by a dry malt/graininess. There are herbal and piny hops notes present in the background. Alcohol is noticeable along with mineral water and oaky/woody notes. Tart cherries from the lambic are here as well. The Three Philosophers is medium-bodied, with an initial juiciness that develops into a bit of astringency. The finish has lingering alcohol with dry grain and the faintest hint of cherry.

The Ommegang Three Philosophers is a well-constructed blend. It is complex and balanced. I did find that some of the flavors seem to clash a bit, but I bet a year or so in the cellar will round that out nicely. The cherry here makes this a fantastic pair for the Patric Rio Caribe Superior 70% dark chocolate. All-in-all, the Three Philosophers is a very good beer that promises to become great after a year or two of aging.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Left Hand Brewing Company 400 Pound Monkey

Brewery: Left Hand Brewing Company
Location: Longmont, CO
Style: IPA
Brewery Website
Rating: A

Today we get the monkey off our back and into our glass. A 400 pound monkey to be exact. Left Hand Brewing's English-style IPA pours up a deep gold color with a very short white head. The nose has a whiff of "Eurolager" along with some spice and fruity hops.

On the palate the grainy malt hits at the same time as the hops.  The hops here have a great spiciness to them along with a touch of pine and some herbal notes as well. In addition, there is a solid bitter bite from the hops. The malt has pretzel and pasta dough components to its side of the flavor profile. There are also some woody notes and a touch of alcohol. A hint of sweetness presents as a malt syrup/honeyed flavor. The 400 Pound Monkey is medium bodied with some mouth-coating astringency. The finish has lingering grains and some faint oakiness, but the dominant note is spice and piny hops.

Left Hand Brewery has a real winner on their hands with their 400 lb Monkey. This is a refreshing change from the typical west coast Cascade-fest IPA. There is a nice bit of malt here, but the hops really take the center stage. I really love the unique spice and pine hop character this beer. I can't recommend this enough to IPA fans who are looking for a bit of a break from the same old thing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

TCHO Nutty 65%

Cocoa Content:65%
Location: Ecuador
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A-

Today's chocolate tasting is the "Nutty" dark chocolate bar from TCHO. This is a 65% cacao dark chocolate of Ecuadorean origin. Please note that there are no nuts in the bar, it is simply named after the prominent nutty flavor this chocolate possesses. The bar is dark, bordering on ebony, with a hint of red. The nose is chocolatey with nutty and herbal notes.

The initial flavor impression of the TCHO Nutty is cocoa. Nutty notes and espresso then make an appearance, and the nuts steadily become more prominent. Acidity fades in bringing some cherries to the party. Biscuit notes, as well as fudgy chocolate/brownie batter notes are here as well. Chewing the chocolate brings forward notes of vanilla, cinnamon, berries and almonds. The Nutty has a smooth, creamy and somewhat thick melt. The finish is rich, fudgy chocolate with espresso and a hint of nuts.

The TCHO Nutty has a great chocolate flavor. There are nice notes of espresso, nuts and berries. While not overly complex, the TCHO Nutty is both flavorful and balanced. This is probably one of the easier bars to find of those we typically review on this site and it is well worth picking up.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Victory Yakima Glory Ale

Brewer: Victory Brewing Company
Location: Downingtown, PA
Style: Black IPA
Brewer Website
Rating: A

Victory has thrown their hat in the ring on the Black IPA front with their Yakima Glory Ale. While not officially billed as a Black IPA on the bottle it definitely fits the style. The Yakima Glory pours up a deep amber-brown in color. It is a bit lighter than most black IPAs but that does allow a nice ruddy amber undertone peek through. The head is tan, clumpy foam. The nose is led by the aromas of citrus hops paired with caramel and chocolate.

​The palate is hit by bitter hops with some citrus notes, including a nice pineapple note. This moves into bitter roast malt notes of espresso and dark chocolate. The tongue is quickly coated with bitter notes of black coffee and hop resin. The Yakima Glory Ale is medium-bodied and not as astringent as the level of bitterness would lead you to expect. The finish has long-lingering hop with espresso undertones.

​Victory's take on the Black IPA is excellent, as I have come to expect. The focus here is definitely on the synergy between hoppy bitterness and the bitter coffee and chocolate notes coming from the roast malt. The citrus notes of West Coast hops paired with caramel and chocolate malt undertones play nice support roles. While I do with that the volume was turned up a bit on the malt side, this is really a minor quibble as the Yakima Glory ale is near-perfect.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Uerige Sticke

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

Today's tasting is the Uerige Sticke. We had high praise for its bigger brother, the Uerige Doppelsticke. How does the Sticke fare in comparison? The Uerige Sticke is deep mahogany in color with a short white head. The nose has raising, caramel and notes of dark wheat toast.

On the palate, the Sticke is juicy with some acidity. There is a note of red liquorice. The back end holds a big note of toasted grain. Raisins, nuttiness and a sweetness are here as well. the Sticke is medium-bodied and juicy. The finish has notes of banana and raisins along with plenty of dark wheat toast.

While not necessarily as big and bold as its big brother the Doppelsticke, Uerige's Sticke is still a fantastic beer on its own merit. I love the flavor profile. I also find that is quite easy drinking for a beer that has such a wealth of complex, big flavors. I did find that the Sticke was a bit undercarbonated. I can't help but wonder if the choice of a flip-top cap plays any role in that. Despite that minor quarrel, the Sticke is a fantastic beer that I highly recommend.