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Green's Quest

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I admit, I've always been curious about these Green's beers. Never curious enough to pull the trigger, but one of the consequences of being a huge beer nerd is that when my birthday rolls around, people give me beer that I normally wouldn't buy (just to be clear, this is not something I'm complaining about). In this case, I got a rather awesome six-pack, picked out by my nieces and Brother (who had steered them towards the Belgian aisle, bless him). I got some Chimay and a Westmalle Tripel, and a few others, including this beer - a gluten free "Tripel Blonde Ale". Yep, no barley in this at all. In it's place, we've got Millet (whatever that is), Buckwheat (Ohhhh Tay!), Rice (I know what that is!), and Sorghum (does not sound like a foodstuff, but let's go with it). That doesn't sound too appetizing. On the other hand, it clocks in at 8.5% ABV, so maybe there's some hope? Ehh, not so much:

Greens Quest Tripel

Green's Quest Tripel Blonde Ale - Pours a golden yellow color with lots of fizzy, big bubbled head. Smells of sweet green apple and not a whole lot else. The taste kinda leans towards that green apple character too, with a light tartness and big, cloying sweetness. Mouthfeel is actually kinda heavy, highly carbonated (which does help cut the sweetness), but not quite what you want out of a tripel. Overall, it's not an outright abomination, but it's not really that good either. C-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a goblet on 9/22/12. Label sez: "Best Before 05/01/17"

Yeah, so I can't say as though I'm going to run out to try more gluten-free beer. I'm just going to be thankful that I don't have a gluten problem. Let's just chalk this up as a loss in the great game of Belgian Beer Roulette. And such loses only make the wins that much sweeter.

Swing and a Miss

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Sometimes I'm a little dismayed at how often I rate things a B+ or higher. Ratings are ultimately a fickle, subjective thing, but lately, it seems like I've been handing out an awful lot of A- scores. I'm still pretty strict with the A and A+ ratings (maybe even too strict when it comes to that most hallowed of rating), though I certainly encounter my fair share of those as well. Conversely, it's pretty rare that a beer ever gets anything in the C range, let alone lower.

Now, obviously I don't go out of my way to drink bad beers or things I know I won't like, but I also don't want to succumb to the hype machine or get locked into poor heuristics. So when I encounter a beer that I assume I'll love, but don't, I'm actually a little reassured. I mean, it sucks, but they can't all be home runs. So here's a couple beers I was very disappointed with recently.

Boulevard Double Wide IPA

Boulevard Double Wide IPA - I kept hearing good things about about these Boulevard Smokestack Series beers, so on a recent beer hunt, I picked up a couple. Pours a golden amber color with tons of fluffy head. Smells of big, juicy American hops, plenty of citrus and pine. Taste also smacks of citrus and pine hops, with a well matched malt backbone and a bitter finish. Actually, that finish also has a bit of a boozy bite to it too. It's not huge, but it definitely detracts from the experience... The mouthfeel is highly carbonated with a medium body and plenty of that booze. Overall, a rather straightforward DIPA, but far from world beater. It's not bad, per say, and I'm sure I would enjoy sucking a few of these back, but it's not something I'd ever really go out of my way for. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/4/12. Bottle sez: Best By 01/27/13.

Not a terrible first at bat for Boulevard, but not a particularly impressive one either. On my scale, it's not that hard to get to that B+ rating with a DIPA. I've got their Sixth Glass quad sitting around too, so we'll see what that one does for me.

Dolii Raptor

Birrificio Montegioco Dolii Raptor - Calvados Barrel Aged - If you read this blog, you know my affinity for barrel aged beers. This one, a Belgian style aged in Calvados (apple brandy) barrels made by one of them up-and-coming Italian craft brewers seemed right up my alley. Plus, look at the cute little raptor on the bottle. Who doesn't love raptors? Alas, it was not to be: Pours a pale orangish brown color with minimal head. Smells of barrel aged booze (obviously the Calvados coming through), with perhaps some musty, funky Belgian yeast as well. There is, perhaps, a hint of a sour twang in the nose, and that hint of funk appears in the taste as well. It's not that pronounced, which makes me wonder if it was intentional. The taste is sweet and very boozy, presumably due to the Calvados aging. The twangy tartness becomes a little more prominent as I drink, and not in a particularly good way. Mouthfeel is surprisingly light for such a beer, reasonably well carbonated to start, but fading off into slickness in the finish. This beer feels a little... sloppy and unbalanced. There's definitely some sort of infection going on here. Some brewers do this intentionally with their barrel aged stuff, but let's just say that these guys ain't no Vinnie Cilurzo. Somehow, I'd rather drink this than most macros, but that's a pretty low bar to clear. I finished the bottle, but I wasn't too happy about it. C-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.5% ABV bottled (11.2 oz.) Drank out of a snifter on 8/4/12. Bottle sez: Brewed in 2009 (so perhaps this was just past its shelf life?)

Yeah, so let's just say that 8/4 wasn't the most exciting of nights for me when it came to my beer selection. I did have a second bottle of Dolii Raptor that was apparently aged in different kinds of barrels, but it was pretty much the same thing. Maybe a little more sour, but just as sloppy and unbalanced. I'm not really sure what the difference really was - Beer Advocate has one classed as a Belgian Strong Dark, and the other as Belgian Strong Pale, but they were pretty much identical in appearance. So who the heck knows with those things. Not a particularly good first impression of the nascent Italian craft brewing scene, though obviously I can't hold a single example up as indicative of the whole movement. I'm sure I'll try a few others soon enough...

Anywho, don't you worry about me. I'll be back to posting A-level scortchers in no time.

Polishing Off Christmas Beer Season

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Did I say I only had 2 Christmas beers left? Turns out there were more. Rather than belabor the holiday beers, I figured I'd just finish them off, all in one post.

  • Mikkeller Red/White Christmas - Inspired by the colors of Christmas, red and white, Mikkeller made this combination between an Imperial Red Ale (i.e. the Red) Belgian Wit (i.e. the White). Is this anything more than a gimmick? Well, I'll tell you, if there's wheat in this beer, I couldn't detect it (and only found out about it after the fact), but there are spices added. Of course, the spices are subtle, but there's definitely something going on here. Whatever the case, it's a pretty great beer:

    Mikkeller Red White Christmas

    Pours a dark reddish brown color with fluffy head and tons of lacing on the glass afterwards. Smell is fully of earthy hops and citrus, maybe a little pine. The taste is sweet with a spicy bite and a well balanced hop bitterness in the finish. The hoppiness trends towards the citrus and pine, and as the beer warms, some complexities emerge in the taste as well. Mouthfeel is great, smooth and eminently drinkable. I was taking pretty big swigs of this one. Surprisingly medium to full bodied, with lots of complexity. It's not quite Yule Smith, but it was quite enjoyable. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/29/11.)
  • Ridgeway Reindeer's Revolt - A Christmas gift from my brother (apparently picked out by my nieces, as they liked the funny looking reindeer on the label). As it turns out, I've sampled this before, but neglected to rate it. I was pretty middle of the road on it in that context (a larger tasting with lots of other beers), but by itself, well, it just didn't stand up. Pours a clear orange amber color with a very small amount of bubbly head. Aroma is very English pale ale to me - bready, a little citrus, maybe even some raisins... but there's also some buttery diacetyl notes (typically something that doesn't go over well with me). Taste is sweet, a little bready, with some light caramel/toffee flavors there, but I can never seem to get past the prominent buttery diacetyl in these beers. Mouthfeel is ok, maybe a little light on carbonation, but smooth and drinkable. The beer gets slightly better as it warms up, but this was still disappointing. C- (Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/29/11.)
  • Ridgeway Pickled Santa - Another Christmas gift from my brother. Ridgeway is a brewery that makes 22 beers, and I swear, half of them are Christmas beers. 11 Christmas beers. And most of them seem to be mediocre at best, this one not being an exception. It's definitely better than the Reindeer's Revolt - more spicy, more head, less diacetyl - but there's nothing particularly special about this beer either. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (500 ml capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 12/29/11.)
So there you have it. That wraps up this year's Christmas beer blogging extravaganza. Regular beer blogging will resume next week, and boy did I have a doozy to start the new year off right!

Octobeer Club

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Tonight's beer club was most excellent. Good turnout, really good beer, and an overall good time. For the uninitiated, the beer club is basically just a bunch of folks from my work who get together once a month to enjoy a nice dinner together... along with lots of different beers and wines and other alcoholic wonders. The past few months have been sparsely attended, so the beer selection was somewhat sparse, but tonight we had so many beers that we didn't even get to them all. As you might expect, lots of seasonal beers were brought, and we had a couple of quite excellent brews:

octobeerclub.jpg
(Click for bigger image)

For reference, here are some brief thoughts on most of the pictured beers (some we did not get to, though at least two of those I will review separately). As usual, this isn't exactly ideal tasting conditions, so take them with a grain of salt. In order of tasting (not necessarily the order in the picture):

  • Ithaca Flower Power IPA - While not popular with some folks (i.e. non-hopheads), I thought it was quite a good beer. Very floral, so much so that it does tend to differentiate itself from the throngs of other IPAs. Quite enjoyable and something I'd like to try again at some point. B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • The Bruery Autumn Maple - Wow! This was a really fantastic beer. Full of Belgian yeast character and full bodied, this was a dream to drink. Perhaps it was just the power of suggestion, but I felt like the molasses and maple syrup flavors were very apparent, along with the general spiciness. It doesn't taste like a pumpkin beer, but it's definitely got a fall seasonal feel to it, which is a nice change of pace. The Bruery never ceases to amaze me with their beers. I loved this one and will need to find myself a bottle to try out by itself, but for now I'll give it the A it surely deserves. (Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Shmaltz Coney Island Freaktoberfest - Perhaps the weirdest beer of the night. It pours an odd blood red color with a pink head, but it tastes more along the lines of an Oktoberfest beer, though there was something distinctive and odd about the taste that was throwing things off. As a gimmick beer, it's certainly successful. The appearance is certainly a hoot, and the fact that it's 6.66% ABV is pretty funny as well. Ultimately, it's got some neat gimmicks, but it's an average beer. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6.66% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Otter Creek Oktoberfest - A not particularly accomplished version of the Octoberfest style. In discussion, someone mentioned that it tasted a bit like rotting otter, which is perhaps an exaggeration, but this isn't a particularly good beer. Maybe drinkable, but not something I'm rushing to try again. My least favorite of the night. C- (Beer Nerd Details: 4.8% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Blue Point's Mother Pumpkin Ale - Another of the more subdued pummpkin ales that I've had this year. Certainly not a bad beer, but the pumpkin and spice flavors were somewhat faint here. That's not necessarily a horrible thing, but it also doesn't really make the beer stand out either. It's an ok beer, worth trying, but not something I see myself seeking out at any point. C+ (Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Post Road Pumpkin Ale - I didn't realize it when I tried it, but this is actually Brooklyn Brewing's take on a pumpkin ale. It's yet another of the more sessionable pumpkin ales, perhaps slightly better than Blue Point's entry (see above), but not nearly as good as some of the other pumpkin ales I've had this year. Well crafted and worth a try, probably something I could drink again, but also not particularly special. B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Dundee Oktoberfest - Ah, a stealth macro! Not bad, but I'm also not sure if I'd identify this as having that distinctive Oktoberfest character either. It tastes fine, and it maybe has a hint of the typical flavors associated with the style, but it's certainly not an eye-opener either. I don't see myself seeking this out again, but I wouldn't turn it down either. B- (Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Victory Otto - This is one of my most anticipated beers of the year; a smoked Belgian style dubbel from my favorite local brewery. Unfortunately, it didn't quite live up to expectations. It's got a nice smoky character and it doesn't seem like that would overwhelm the rest of the beer, but I would have liked to have tasted some sort of Belgian yeast flavors here as well, and they were just absent. This makes it somewhat one-dimensional. I will say that it seemed to get better as I drank, and it certainly isn't bad, but as Belgian dubbels are one of my favorite styles, I wish this had more of that sort of style going for it. I'll probably try this again at some point, as it did end up being enjoyable, but I did find it a bit disappointing as well. B (Beer Nerd Details: 8.1% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked.) Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
  • Cape Ann Fisherman's Imperial Pumpkin Stout - Wow, this is really fantastic beer from a brewery I've never even heard of... It's basically an imperial pumpkin stout. It's got the typical pumpkin pie flavors and spices, but it's all very well balanced. The stoutness is downplayed and not very roasty, but that's the way I like it, and the pumpkin pie character fits well with the dark style. It's full bodied but smooth, and it definitely hides the 11% ABV well. Dangerously drinkable stuff, and perhaps the most flavorful beer of the night - certainly the only beer that even came close to comparing with the Bruery Autumn Maple. I'm not sure where I can get this, but I need to find myself another bottle of this stuff. Really wonderful beer. A (Beer Nerd Details: 11% ABV bottled (22 oz. bomber). Drank out of my mini English tulip pint glass thingy.)
Well, that covers most of the beer we drank. We also had another of my homebrewed saisons (which, again, I should review, but not now) and some of the less beer inclined folks had a Leinenkugel Berry Weiss, but I kinda knew that's not for me, so I didn't try any of that. Of the unopened bottles, I'm sure I'll be trying the Warsteiner Oktoberfest this weekend, and I'll get to Founders Centennial IPA at some point as well.

Flying Dog

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A little while ago I picked up Flying Dog's variety pack and in between all of the holiday beers and whatnot, I've been working my way through them and their awesome Ralph Steadman artwork.

Flying Dog Logo
  • In Heat Wheat: Sweet, light, crisp and wheaty - a rather typical wheat beer. More details here. B-
  • Tire Bite Golden Ale: Light and crisp, perhaps a small step above crappy "fizzy yellow stuff", but not by much. C-
  • Old Scratch Amber Lager: Nice amber color, medium body, a little sticky and overall, it's a very drinkable session beer along the lines of Yuengling lager (maybe even a little better, but that's hard for me to admit!). B
  • Snake Dog India Pale Ale: A nice west-coast style hoppy, earthy IPA. It does well on its own, but pales (pun intended!) when compared to other good IPAs (including Flying Dog's own Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA). B
  • Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale: Solid hoppy pale ale, a little darker than the IPA, but a nice quality session beer and maybe the best overall beer in this pack. B
  • Road Dog Porter: Dark and a bit roasty, it wasn't quite as complex as I'd have hoped. I've never been a big fan of the style though, so that's probably part of my distaste. It's not bad, but definitely not my thing. C+

Overall, while most of them are quite drinkable and solid beers, none are really all that exceptional. This isn't to say that they don't make exceptional beers though: Raging Bitch IPA is actually a big step up from the Snake Dog IPA, and I've heard good things about the Gonzo Imperial Porter.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

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