Tag Archives: beer reviews

Porter/Stout Tasting Series: Southern Tier Choklat Oranj

Beer is wonderful.  I know.  Of course, I think beer is wonderful.  I have a blog dedicated to it.  I have a job dedicated to it.  It is what is paying my rent.

However, beer is wonderful because you can taste 7 beers from the same style and they can all be similar, yet still distinct.  If you follow this blog I have tasted in the past week:  Boulevard Brewing Imperial Stout-X Aztec Chocolate, Red Brick Thick Silky, Left Hand Wake Up Dead Nitro, Stone Chai-Spiced Russian Imperial Stout, Coronado Blue Bridge Coffee Stout, and Stone w00tStout 2015.

These are all porters or stouts.  All similar yet distinct beers.  That’s why I love beer.

20150816_222347The Southern Tier Choklat Oranj Stout is yet another distinct type of stout.  It is a sweet dessert beer.  It is one of a group of dessert beers Southern Tier makes called The Blackwater Series.  Basically, dessert beer is one that is made to taste like candy, cake, or Crème Brulee.

Choklat Oranj looks like a stout.  It is a dark brown color bordering on black with touches of garnet when the light hits it just right.  The head was thin with little retention making the beer look almost like black coffee.

The aroma jumps right at you.  It is all chocolate and orange.  This is a beer that does not hide from its name.  Besides the chocolate and orange, you get a little caramel and malty roasted taste on the backend.  There is a hint of bitterness to it that I attribute to the roasted malt and the use of bittersweet Belgian candy.  It is lighter on the tongue and in the mouth then you would expect making it much easier to drink then is safe at 10% ABV.  However, it is so sweet that after the first one goes down so easy, the second one will be a problem.  The sweetness just becomes too much.  This is a beer made for sharing.

After a good meal with good beer, sit down with a quality vanilla ice cream and pour this over it.  You and your guests will enjoy it.

Your play list:

Porter/Stout Tasting Series: Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout

What makes a good beer?  Is it the simple joy and skill needed to take a basic simple recipe into a quality beer? Or is it the creativity and skill it takes to craft a recipe that produces a beer of almost infinite complexity?

In the context of this week, do you want a good dry stout or do you want an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels brewed with cocoa nibs and what not?  I want both.  It just depends on the context.  Every beer has a time and a place where it fits.

If I’m going to have a few beers with friends at a bar, a sessionable beer like a dry stout is welcome.  I can have a few of them, not get trashed, but still have a great beery time.  On the other hand, sitting around at home with either a good friend or a good book (two not too dissimilar things) a big complex imperial in a snifter is a great time.

20150815_222229One such complex stout is the Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout.  This is the third year of w00tstout and this year’s version is not only bourbon-barrel aged but it is also blended with some of last year’s edition.

This beer pours a brown that is virtually black.  It forms a nice mousse like creamy tan head with great retention.  The aroma is where the fun begins.  I experienced a lot of cocoa and coffee.  There were also touches of dark fruit, vanilla, and hints of bourbon.

On the taste, you get a subtle but noticeable touch of alcohol on the back of the tongue.  The initial taste is a lot of cocoa and coffee plus vanilla and touches of bourbon.  This is a beer that coats your mouth with a nice creaminess and warms you all the way down.

You will want to take your time drinking w00tstout.  This is the kind of beer made to sip while you’re sitting around with a friend or two when you have no place you would rather be.

I guess because of Wil Wheaton’s involvement, here is some They Might Be Giants for your listening pleasure.

Porter/Stout Tasting Series: Coronado Brewing Blue Bridge Coffee Stout

Here are the other reviews in the porter/stout series.

There is something to be said for being exactly what you say you are.  Some of the best coaches in all sports were great because they were great teachers and they taught what they did better than anyone else.

They didn’t feel the need to recreate the wheel with each coming season.  They knew what they were going to coach and you knew what they were going to coach, and you still couldn’t beat them.

Now these coaches did adapt certain things, but at their core you knew what they were going to do.  Their players were so well drilled that even knowing what was coming wouldn’t let you stop them.  Dean Smith shifted with the times and adapted to players, but you always knew the secondary break with backdoor cuts was coming.  Yet, you still couldn’t stop it.

Sometimes you know what a beer is going to be because it tells you in the name.  There is no mistaking it.  Some breweries like to come up with interesting names to mostly entertain themselves.  However, some of my favorite breweries just name a beer what it is: IPA, brown ale, hefeweizen.

20150814_210354The Coronado Brewing Blue Ridge Coffee Stout is exactly what it says it is:  a coffee stout.  There is no filigree or adornment.  You pour it in the glass and it has a clear dark brown color with hints of garnet.  The tan head is rather thin and has a medium retention.  It smells of coffee with a little roasted malt also coming through.  Often with a coffee stout or porter you will also get a little chocolate, caramel, or coffee.  Not here. It is all coffee.

This is a light beer when you drink it.  It almost has the texture of a porter actually coming off a little watery.  Again, there is no pretending as to what this is with taste.  You get coffee with a little roastiness from the malt.  Any bitterness you get from this beer will primarily come from the coffee and roasted malt and not hops.  It finishes dry actually encouraging you take another sip.

When I first started this beer I was unimpressed.  After three days of stouts and porters with fifteen different things going on, a simple coffee stout seemed a little weak and pedestrian.  I was wrong.  This is a good sessionable stout.  It is light on the tongue and dry with a low ABV (5.4%).

Since I can’t really think of a playlist to create here is a lot of Justin Vernon.

Porter/Stout Tasting Series: Stone Brewing Chai-Spiced Russian Imperial Stout

This is review 4 in the Porter/Stout Tasting Series.  Here are the first three reviews.

I started this little project by accident.  First, I bought a porter and specialty porter from the same brewery and decided to do a side by side comparison. Then, I looked at all the beers I had in my fridge and in my beer cooler and noticed I had a bunch of porters and stouts.  So, why don’t I taste one a day for a week and see what happens.

What has happened isn’t that I have stopped liking stouts and porters, but that I have started to hone my palate and have a much better idea of what I like and dislike.

For instance, I like Russian Imperial Stouts, but I prefer to drink more subtle beers.  Also, with stouts being as big and bold as they are when they are just normal stouts, the addition of bourbon barrel aging and additional flavoring can sometimes be overkill.

20150812_211646Take tonight’s taste subject the Stone Brewing Chai-Spiced Russian Imperial Stout.  This is part of their “Odd Beers for Odd Years” series.  This is a beer I honestly like, but I would be hard-pressed to say I would just sit down and have one of these.  I definitely would have it at the end of a dinner with dessert or with a bottle and sitting around with a couple of other friends so that we all get a glass, but I don’t think I would just sit down and have another at a bar.

However, that is not to say it is a bad beer. Quite the opposite it is a good bordering on a great beer and I would recommend it to most people.

It pours an almost black dark brown and has a nice foamy off-white head.  A not so secret thing about me, I love tea.  I drink loose leaf tea almost every morning and as the days turn colder, I will be drinking chai-tea, so I know the smell and taste of chai spice and this beer has a lot of it.  The aroma is full of a slight chocolate aroma with cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

The initial taste is very similar to the aroma.  You get a lot of chai-spice up front:  cinnamon, ginger, cloves and chocolate.  As you finish it you get more of the cinnamon and cloves.  Not much hop presence on the taste, but it has a high-enough IBU to help me earn a level up on my Hopped Up badge on Untappd.  This goes to my growing theory that IBUs only matter when comparing IPAs and pale ales to each other.  The actual bitterness and the effective taste bitterness are not always equal.

It also a pretty light beer on the tongue.  For all the spices and ABV (10.6%), this is a pretty easy drinking beer.  If you aren’t used to chai-spice it might be a chore to get through, but if you are, it is almost like sitting in a coffee shop sipping on a chai latte.

I take it back, there is something wonderfully complex to this beer that is very interesting. I could and will try to get this beer again and hold it until I am in the coldest night of the winter.  Then I’ll crack it open and sip on it until the sun comes up the next morning.

Porter/Stout Tasting Series: Left Hand Wake Up Dead Russian Imperial Stout Nitro

Here are the other two reviews in the series so far.

Goin to leave this Broke-down Palace
On my hands and my knees I will roll roll roll
— Grateful Dead, Broke Down Palace

I have no idea what made me think of that song while drinking this beer, but it works.  This should also give you a bright shiny clue as to what the Spotify Playlist will be to accompany this beer and review.

Nitro beers are growing in popularity as well as diversity.  Until recently the only beers you could find on nitro taps in a bar were Guinness or some other stout.  Today, you can find anything from stouts to IPAs to fruit beers with varying results.  For instance the Founder’s Rubaeus works really well as a nitro because the nitro takes some of the sweetness out of the bottle or regular draft version.  On the other hand, most IPAs I’ve tasted as nitro beers don’t have enough of a malt presence to stand up the additional nitrogen for my tastes.

One of the brewers who have been on the forefront of making nitro beers a regular part of their lineup is Left Hand Brewing.  Their Milk Stout Nitro is one of my favorite beers to drink anytime, anywhere.  They now have added a Russian Imperial Stout to their nitro lineup.

20150811_220456The Wake Up Dead Russian Imperial Stout Nitro pours in the classic nitro fashion.  Vigorously pouring it from the bottle produces the cascading waterfall everyone likes to watch as their beer settles.  It produces a healthy off-white head that hangs around for the duration of the beer.  It has the aroma of cocoa or semi-sweet dark chocolate with hints of cinnamon and dark fruits.

When you taste it, initially you get the dark chocolate with a distinct but not overwhelming alcohol presence.  As you drink it the dark chocolate begins to remind you more of cocoa and then you start tasting the dark fruit near the end.  It finishes with a pleasant roasty bitterness.  Being a nitro it has a smoothness that helps belie its high ABV.  Again, the nitro keeps it from becoming too clingy and cloying on the palate.

This is a beer that I liked better with each sip.  It is a well put together beer that you should seek out on nitro tap or in your local bottle shop.

I present the Grateful Dead.

Porter/Stout Tasting Series: Red Brick Brewing Thick Silky Double Chocolate Oatmeal Porter

“He think he’s bad and ain’t got no class! I’m gon’ rock this shotgun up his muthafuckin’ ass!” – Dolemite in The Human Tornado

This is the second in a week long series of reviews of porters and stouts.  Here is the review from yesterday.  

There is a thin line between offensive mockery and creative imitation.  Brewers and their beer names and labels have come under fire recently for names and labels that are borderline offensive.

I went through a wonderful period just out of college where I watched a lot of Blaxploitation movies.  The allure in part was due to the ironic detachment I fancied myself having, but I really started to like the movies and what many of them were trying to say.  The movies went from the sublime to the ridiculous and where a movie sat on that spectrum depended upon the day I watched it.  Needless to say the movies either celebrated blackness in the 1970s or were half-assed attempts to exploit blackness in the 1970s to make a quick dollar.

My two personal favorites from the era, depending on how you define Blaxploitation are The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings and Uptown Saturday Night.  Bingo Long has some of my favorite Richard Pryor movie work and Uptown is in my favorite crime movie sub-genre, the conman/heist movie.

20150810_151253Red Brick Brewing out of Atlanta has a beer that is on the sublime end of the beer spectrum.  Thick Silky also has a bottle label wonderfully reminiscent of the movie poster of Dolemite and many other Blaxploitation movies.  It also happens to be a really good beer.

Thick Silky pours in a nice dark chestnut brown color and has a good, but interrupted off-white/tan head.  It has the nice aroma of chocolate with a touch of vanilla.

It has pronounced chocolate taste.  It isn’t an overly sweet taste leaning more on the semi-sweet end of chocolate with a bit of vanilla to set a great taste.  The smoothness of the oatmeal holds until the back end of the beer making it a very easy drinking beer.

This is a beer that lives up to its name.  It is a thick silky oatmeal porter perfect as a dessert beer or a good a beer you can relax and take your time sharing it with a friend.

Again, there will be a curated playlist for the whole series coming Friday, in the meantime, listen to this.

Porter/Stout Tasting Series: Boulevard Brewing Imperial Stout X – Aztec Chocolate

This is the first of daily porter and stout reviews this week.  I know, that is a lot of beer to drink, but I am willing to sacrifice for my art.

I think Mexican food has done one very important thing for American cuisine:  Made it OK to turn up the heat on any food you desire. We put chilies and sriracha on anything and everything right now.  So why not beer.

I have had beer with jalapenos, ghost chilies, and sriracha.  I can say some of them have been good, some of them have been bad, and some of them have been virtually undrinkable for me. The key to using chilies, sriracha, or any adjuncts, including fruit is to use them sparingly to keep the base flavor of the beer.  What you want is the flavor of the beer to complement the flavor of the adjunct you are adding.  Two good examples of this for the sake of this review are Birdsong Jalapeno Pale Ale and Ska Brewing’s Mole Stout.  For these beers it is more about the taste of jalapenos and the mole then the heat that is added.

20150810_133511You can say the same thing about the Boulevard Imperial Stout X – Aztec Chocolate.  This is one of those dark beers people tell me they won’t like because they are dark.  Anyway, it is a very deep dark brown.  It poured clear and had a nice foamy brown head.  The first thing you notice besides the color when you pour it is a chocolaty aroma.  On further inspection you not only get chocolate but a bit of cinnamon and an undercurrent of prune or dark fruit.

Looking at the ingredients I expected to get a lot of heat when I tasted it.  I did get heat, but it was mostly from the alcohol present.  What I did taste initially was chocolate with a bit of plum sweetness and hints of cinnamon.  As I’m drinking, I’m thinking, “Where is the heat?”  You get the heat as it slowly builds on the back of your tongue.  It is subtle at first, but it is very noticeable by the time you finish the bottle.  This stout is pretty thick and sticky on the palate, but it is well balanced and drinkable.  It is however a sipping with friends beer.

One sentence review:  This is a good sipping beer with a subtle but noticeable heat kicker at the end.

There is going to be one big Spotify list on Friday for this whole endeavor.  In the meantime, listen to Jason Isbell’s new album Something More Then Free.

Growler Taste Test: Railhouse Brewery KA-BAR Brown Ale

I like knives.  Other people like guns, but I like edged weapons better.  I’m never going to accidentally shoot myself in the foot with my knife.  Though I have sliced open a finger or two through carelessness with a really sharp blade.

While I am partial to folding blades the one fixed blade that I want is the old school USMC KA-BAR.  The KA-BAR is like blue jeans, specifically Levis.  Why?  They are not the flashiest or the newest product out there, but they have survived and become iconic because their simple design is timeless.  Say what you want but you put on a white dress shirt with a pair of good jeans and nice shoes and you can just about go anywhere.  Or I should say anywhere I really want to go.

The same is true of the KA-BAR.  Its simple design has not changed significantly since World War II because the design was so good and so simple as to be timeless.  Like Levis every other design by every other manufacture is based on that original.

The owners of Railhouse Brewery in Aberdeen, NC are all US military veterans so it seems fitting that they would name a beer after the KA-BAR and it is even more fitting that is of a classic English style.

20150722_183441The KA-BAR Brown Ale is an American interpretation of the southern English-style brown ale.  The Southern or London style brown is a darker, maltier, and stronger version then the Northern style whose primary exemplar was Newcastle until the classic recipe was changed.  The London style is still less hoppy and not quite as strong as its American counterparts.

The KA-BAR pours a deep dark brown color and develops a thick foamy off-white head.  The head has good lasting power and develops a malty chocolate/coffee aroma.  There is little hop aroma to be had.

There is also little hop taste evident.  The bitterness in the taste mostly comes from the bitterness of the chocolate and coffee malts.  The chocolate taste in particular has more in common with bakers chocolate then with any chocolate bar you will buy in the grocery store.  It has a quick soft feel on the palate.

The KA-BAR is a great interpretation of a London-style brown ale.  Incidentally, if you are lucky and find KA-BAR on tap, you might get to see the tap handle produced by KA-BAR Knives like this one here.  Apparently, this is one of those tap handles that manages to disappear when the wholesaler reps come to collect them.  I wonder why?

A classic knife and classic beer deserves a playlist of equally timeless and classic music.  I present The Man In Black, Johnny Cash.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/26/15

Today’s five articles are a lot about the explosion of craft beer outside places named Asheville, Portland, and Denver.

  • Will Gordon does a side by side comparison of the two main craft lagers sold in the US: Brooklyn Lager and Sam Adams Boston Lager.  They are both fine beers that will do in a pinch when you are at one of those chain restaurants or sports bars whose craft selection includes Shocktop and Blue Moon.  Gordon’s verdict:  They are essential the same quality, but Brooklyn Lager gets the slight edge in taste.
  • Quick name the place in North Carolina with great craft beer. OK, now name another one besides Asheville.  Let me save you the time:  Charlotte.   Fortune Magazine takes a look at Charlotte and its craft brewing scene.  I will say this Charlotte-centric pride can make Charlotte a bit of a closed shop when it comes to other beers from North Carolina.  I run into too many customers who can name their 4 favorite Charlotte beers and 3 favorite Asheville beers, but have not heard of Mystery Brewing or Fullsteam Brewing.
  • Richmond, VA is having its own brewing renaissance. Breweries are gaining national recognition and growing in size and distribution.
  • Here is the other side of some of that growth Richmond. This is an interesting question:  how much should states pay individual companies to stay in the state?  We in North Carolina are having this discussion now in the state legislature with many of the incentives ending.  What North Carolina found in many cases was that the amount of money given away in incentives was greater than the ancillary tax revenues created (jobs, other additional industries spurred, etc.).  Of course, many of the people who say that are the same ones who will tell you building a sports stadium will spur the economy when every economist will tell you that is at best a case by case argument.
  • We’ve come a long way. Now a public library in the South is holding home brewing classes.  The changing attitudes towards alcohol in the Bible Belt South is the part of the reason the region has some of the fastest growing craft beer areas in the country.  It is also why some of the biggest fights over changing alcohol laws related to craft beer are some of the fiercest as older elements fight to hold on to a quickly changing code.

Growler Taste Test: Blowing Rock Schwarz Bier

I had a customer from Philadelphia say the other day, in Philly she would go to a bar and ask for a lager.  They would hand her a Yuengling.  When she does that in Charlotte, they ask which one.

If you ever have the chance, you should go to the medal winners’ page on the Great American Beer Festival website. First, there is the sheer number of beers you’ve never heard of much less drank.  For our purposes today, there is also the mind boggling number of categories.

The Beer Judge Certification Program style guide is even more complicated with categories and subcategories and then different styles underneath. To make it even better, there are still styles of beer that aren’t categorized because they have been lost to history.

All of that is a preface to talk about schwarzbier.  This isn’t a style recently resurrected from history, but it is a style not too familiar to the general public. The name is German for “black beer” and it is best described as a dark brown lager.

20150713_170235The Blowing Rock Schwarz Bier has a pleasant dark brown look with a thick long lasting off-white head.  It has a good lager like aroma with hints of roasted chocolate and coffee. The hop aroma is very low with just a touch of herbal and floral hops.

For a dark beer, it has a light medium mouthfeel.  There isn’t a lot of alcohol feel and taste to it.  There is a heavy chocolate and roasted coffee taste with a hint of hops underneath.  It has a low carbonation that along with its chocolate taste makes this definition of a smooth beer.

Blowing Rock has created another well-constructed beer that isn’t trying to be anything other than a good drinkable beer experience.

When in doubt about what to listen to with beer, I usually go with The National.