Thursday, March 29, 2012

Krakus Classic 70% Dark Chocolate

Manufacturer: Krakus
Cocoa Content: 70% 
Rating: C-

During a recent trip to my local Polish deli my eye spied some dark chocolate bars for sale. When I saw a couple with the actual cocoa percentage listed on the label I snapped them up for tasting. The chocolate I am tasting today is a 70% dark chocolate from Krakus. Unfortunately, I really don't have much more detail than that.

The bar itself is very dark, almost black, with undertones of a deep plum/merlot purple. The nose finds fudge and the dreaded coconut. At first taste there is a rich, fudgy chocolate note. There is a hint of anise at first, but then it builds and becomes quite distracting over time. There is also a note of burnt pretzel as well. There is very little acidity or roasted notes to speak of. The Krakus Classic 70% has a very coarse mouthfeel. The finish is dominated by lingering, bitter anise.

Well, you can't win them all. I will frequently take a chance on unfamiliar or store brand dark chocolates, because you will frequently find a tasty, value-priced chocolate that is fairly easy to find. (See Trader Joe's for example) Unfortunately, the Krakus is a big strikeout. The dominating anise flavor tells me that this chocolate bar spent quite a bit of time in storage near some black licorice or something of that sort. But even without the poor storage, the chocolate itself was pretty flat in flavor and poorly constructed. Pass on this one.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Founders Centennial IPA

Brewery: Founders Brewing Company
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Style: IPA
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

Todays tasting is the Centennial IPA from Michigan's Founders Brewing Company. A quick internet search shows extremely high marks at sites like BeerAdvocate and RateBeer for the Centennial IPA, so needless to say I was quite excited to have a taste. The beer pours up a hazy, dark gold color with a hint of amber. The head is golden-tan, and relatively short. The nose finds both floral and citrus hops notes, along with faint hints of caramel and malt syrup.

On the palate there is an initial bitter bite followed by a quick rush of hoppy aromatics. As these floral and citrus notes fade, a light, pretzely malt note starts to peek through with bitter pine and resinous hops riding on top. The Centennial IPA is medium-bodied with resinous astringency and some carbonated fizz. The finish sees a tongue-coating hops bitterness riding through.

I found the Founders IPA to have a nice bitter kick with some interesting hops complexity. Unfortunately, I found that the flavoring hops faded too fast. I do have some questions about the freshness of the bottle I tasted. I would love to give it a taste at peak freshness as hops flavor and aroma fade pretty quickly over time. As it is, the Founders Centennial IPA is fairly standard fare as American IPA's go, but I appreciate that the hops component goes a little beyond the typical Cascade overload I see in so many American IPA's.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

Brewery: Ballast Point brewing Companu
Location: San Diego, CA
Style: IPA
Brewery Website
Rating: A+

For today's tasting I am finally getting to review a beer that I have been trying to track down for a very long time, the Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. The Sculpin has been the top-rated IPA on BeerAdvocate for a long while now, and I was finally able to track down a bomber at one of the many stores I frequent. The Sculpin pours up a deep-gold color with a hint of amber, with a sticky, off-white, large-bubbled head. The nose is just loaded with fruit. There are citrus notes of grapefruit and lemonade, along with notes of peaches and apricot. This is truly one of the most amazing beers I have ever smelled.

The first sip of the Sculpin is like taking a swig of grapefruit juice. The initial impression is juicy fruitiness with a bit of an acid bite. There is a wealth of hoppy fruitiness here. There is a tart orange juice note, along with hints of stone fruit and berries. A hint of sweetness provides some balance and fills out the fruit flavor nicely. There is only a moderate level of bitterness here for such a highly hopped IPA, which fades to reveal pretzel and pasta dough malt notes tucked in the background. The Ballast Point Sculpin is medium-bodies with a bit of fizzy carbonation. The finish sees lingering tart citrus notes fading to an herbal/bitter hop finish.

The Ballast Point Sculpin IPA is by far the fruitiest IPA I've ever tasted. There is a nice tartness here that only serves to accentuate the fruit even more. In addition, there is just a hint of residual sweetness that fills out the fruitiness. It's easy to see how the Sculpin IPA has garnered such acclaim, as this is truly a one-of-a-kind beer. The juicy hops fruitiness may be an acquired taste for some, but there is no denying that this is truly a special beer that belongs on every beer lover's bucket list.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Weihenstephaner Korbinian Doppelbock

Brewery: Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan
Location: Freising, Germany
Style: Doppelbock
Brewery Website
Rating: B+

Today we are tasting the Korbinian doppelbock from Weihenstephan. The beer pours up a dark cola/mahogany in color with a hint of ruby. The head is frothy and dark tan in color. The nose finds wine, fresh baked whole wheat bread, a faint banana note, herbal hops and a hint of dark chocolate.

The Korbinian is off-dry with a fleeting malt syrup sweet note that disappears quickly. The malt has a dark rye bread character. There is a touch of acidity. Hops are just barely perceptible. There is a notable mineral water/metallic note. The Korbinian is medium-heavy bodied with a touch of astringency. The finish is a long fade on the bready malt note.

The Korbinian is a solidly crafted doppelbock, especially if you are a fan of the low-hops, "liquid bread" interpretation. This is a fairly dry doppel; the residual sweetness many doppels seem to have is not here. My only complaint is the metallic note seems a bit out of place. But that's a small quarrel, as the Korbinian is a very nice beer.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Red Hook Treblehook 2009

Brewery: Red Hook Ale Brewery
Location: Portsmouth, NH & Woodinville, WA
Style: Barleywine
Brewery Website
Rating: A

Today's tasting is the 2009 vintage Treblehook from Red Hook Brewery. The bottle I tasted was bottled on 9/5/2009. The beer pours up amber in color with a slight haze and a few sediment particles. The nose finds malt syrup along with bread, raisins and caramel.

On the palate there is a smooth, rich malt syrup flavor. There are notes of caramel, raisins and rye toast. The hops have citrus and piny notes along with some spice. The Treblehook is full-bodied with a slight syrupy mouthfeel and some residual creamy carbonation. The finish is fairly long and well balanced between malt and citrusy hops.

I tasted the Treblehook at just about the 2 year mark post-bottling and the aging has served it well. The beer is very smooth at this point. Flavor is well balanced between malt and hops. Although it may be a touch too sweet, signs point to it continuing to age well. I'm looking forward to checking back on this vintage in another year or so.

FYI - I have recently spotted some bottles still floating around from this bottling date in my area, so keep your eyes open. It's nice to snag a barleywine that already has enough age in the bottle where it is starting to hit its prime.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Patric Madagascar 75% Dark Chocolate

Manufacturer: Patric Chocolate
Cocoa Content: 75%
Location: Madagascar
Manufacturer Website
Rating: A+

Up for review today is Patric's Madagascar 75% dark chocolate bar. The bar is deep mahogany in color with merlot/plum colored highlights. The nose detects red wine, currants and oak.

On the palate there are earthy cocoa notes and brownie batter fudge. There is a bit of a black coffee bite of bitterness. Then the classic Madagascar citrus notes start to roll in with orange juice and lemon being most notable. There are also fruity notes of ripe berries and pomegranate. This chocolate has a snappy acidity punctuated by frequent squirts of citrus. There is a hint of oak here as well. Chewing the Patric Madagascar brings forward some fleeting earth notes followed by a wave of berries and citrus. The chocolate has a mouth-coating melt and a smooth, faintly astringent mouthfeel. The finish has rich, fudgy cocoa with citrus and pomegranate/berry juiciness.

The Patric Madagascar is one of my all-time favorite Madagascan chocolates. It has the telltale citrus notes typical to the region paired with some nice juicy berry notes. But what really sets it apart is how these flavors are paired with a rich, fudgy counterpoint. This bar hits the mark for being both savorable and snackable, which is a rare find in the extra dark chocolate realm. Highly recommended.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Samuel Adams Perfect Pint Glass

Today we are branching out into glassware with a review of the Samuel Adams Perfect Pint glass. I put my recent acquisition to the test with a side-by-side comparison to my 22oz weizen glass that is my standard brew tasting vessel. The beer I used for testing was the Duvel Golden Ale that we recently reviewed. Right off the bat, I did notice a longer, stronger stream of fine bubbles rising from the etched nucleation site on the bottom of the glass. Compared to my weizen glass the Perfect Pint did a better job of retaining aroma over time. Head retention is very good with the Sam Adams glass as well.

One complaint I do have is that the 16 ounce glass seems a bit small to hold a full 12 ounce bottle of beer, especially if you give a firm pour to generate a nice foamy head. I would definitely recommend the 22 ounce version if you commonly drink pint or half-liter sized beers. All in all, I am very happy with the Sam Adams glass and I will be using it for the majority of my beer tastings in the future.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Duvel Belgian Golden Ale

Brewery:  Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat
Location: Breendonk-Puurs, Belgium
Style: Pale Ale
Brewery Website
Rating: A

Today we are tasting Duvel's flagship brew, their Belgian Golden Ale. The beer pours a clear straw-gold color with a huge head of clumpy white foam. The nose has malty notes reminiscent of a European lager along with some herbal hops and a hint of yeasty esters.

On the palate there is initial bit of tartness that fades through some herbal and grassy notes and then settles into sweet wheaty malt with some pasta dough flavor. Herbal and winy notes are present and combine to give a brief impression of fume blanc. There is a touch of sweet banana esters as well. The Duvel is medium-bodied and crisp. The finish has lingering sweet malt notes paired with herbal notes that fade in and out.

The Duvel Golden Ale is one of the most widely known Belgian beers. It is highly regarded, and with good reason. This is a well-balanced beer. The Duvel is a malt-forward ale, but has a perfect blend of yeast and hops notes to support the malt and add a wealth of complexity. This beer is a true classic.