journal of a self proclaimed beer connoisseur

3 Pints

Half Pints – Stir Stick Stout

Date: Thursday, February 3, 2011
Brewery: Half Pints
Beer: Stir Stick Stout
Category: American Stout
ABV: 5.60%
Brewed in: Canada (Winnipeg, MB)

Stir Stick Stout poured a dark and murky black – almost no light was penetrating the beer. The head was one finger thick and a nice tan color. Pretty characteristic of stouts brewed with coffee. Head retention was moderate and left lots of impressive lacing on the pint.

The aroma will tell you that this beer was brewed with coffee (if you didn’t read the label and see that it was locally roasted Ethiopian beans). Coffee is prominent in the nose but is also accompanied by bitter chocolate and roasted malts.

The first sip brings initial flavors of coffee, chocolate, and faint smoke to the tongue. The faint smoke taste dissipates quickly and allows the roasted malts and other notes to really come through. I found that the carbonation – though not ridiculous – was high enough to subtract from your ability to really taste all the nuances of the beer. A very tasty stout though.

The mouthfeel was a little thin but acceptable for the ABV. Carbonation is on the high side for a stout but not so much that it wrecks the beer, it just masks some of the characteristics they have managed to instill in the beer.

As in interesting side note, this bottle cap was wax-dipped it seems. When I popped it off little pieces of white stuff fell onto the counter and upon closer examination – were wax!

Rating:



Next Act Cask Night – Alley Kat Bananas Foster Dunkelweizen

Date: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Venue: Next Act
Brewery: Alley Kat
Beer: Bananas Foster Dunkelweizen
Category: Dunkelweizen
ABV: estimated 5.00% (they didn’t tell us!)
Brewed in: Canada (Edmonton, AB)

The beer was given a lovely introduction by Jeff from Sherbrooke who was the brain behind the bananas foster idea.

It came straight from the cask tap to our table with a few potential stops on the way for it’s brethren to be delivered to their new homes. No more than a minute or two.

It arrived with a very thin layer of head so I can only assume that retention wasn’t very long. The beer was a hazy milk chocolate brown with tan head. I can see the color better in my picture as there was limited lighting at the pub.

I had a hard time identifying much in the aroma given the setting. I really just smelt some generic graininess. There is a sweet touch to it.

The taste was initially sweet up front with hints of banana. I presume this is the effect of the wheat and/or yeast used in the beer. The sweetness was balanced nicely by some bitter hops. The overall taste was quite sweet and I believe it is brown sugar I am picking up on. It is quite tasty and the hops do well to balance this out. Otherwise it might have been just too sweet.

Mouthfeel was smooth and carbonation was moderate. Even with agitation the carbonation wasn’t producing any head to speak of.

A tasty treat at cask night but I wouldn’t be drinking it regularly as I wouldn’t be able to handle the sweetness.

Rating:



Dogfish Head – Chicory Stout

Date: Sunday, January 30, 2011
Brewery: Dogfish Head
Beer: Chicory Stout
Category: Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer
ABV: 5.20%
Brewed in: United States

I am on a bit of a Dogfish Head kick here after watching some TV and documentaries that featured the brewery. I decided I should try some of their beers and support them as they seemed like a cool group. I decided to start with a stout – familiar territory.

Chicory Stout pours a very dark brown, almost black, color. I poured aggressive and barely 1 cm of head developed. I was actually quite unimpressed by the lack of head. What did develop was an appealing tan color. I could barely comment on the length of retention because I started with so little and it was gone by the time I finished taking a picture. Carbonation seems fine though.

The aroma is of loads of dark roasted malts followed by a distinct coffee (I guess Chicory) and some more understated dark chocolate. The aroma is extremely reminiscent of Russian Imperial Stouts (RIS) but toned down a few degrees. The smells have made some big promises…

The taste is dominated by dark malts and dark chocolate flavors. The coffee completes the combination and comes closer to the finish. The coffee fades quickly and the aftertaste is again of chocolate. Hops are present but hard to detect. They provide a good balance to the sweetness in the beer.

The body is moderate and the mouthfeel is smooth. This beer is extremely easy to drink.

To be brutally honest I find the beer a little watery and weak for my liking. I think I would appreciate the flavors more if they were a bit more bold. This is almost certainly my RIS bias coming through and not necessarily the fault of the beer.

This beer offers the closest flavor profile to a RIS stout I have yet seen from a Stout with the lower ABV. This makes for a very drinkable combination and could be valuable if you are looking for a sessionable Stout.

Rating:



Alley Kat – Unity Brew (2010)

Date: Friday, January 28, 2011
Brewery: Alley Kat
Beer: Unity Brew
Category: American Amber Ale
ABV:
5.00%
Brewed in: Canada (Edmonton, AB)

Unity Brew is a collaborative project between several Alberta brewers to raise money for the Kidney Foundation and various smaller local charities. Eleven of the twelve brewers in the Province were a part of this brew. The brewing took place at Alley Kat but the recipe is cooperatively written by all eleven.

Unity Brew 2010 pours a deep copper color with a thick tan head. Retention was moderate and produced a large amount of lacing.

The aroma is predominantly of caramel and lots of hops. There is also a bit of fruity notes in it – dark fruit the malts are also apparent but overpowered by the other notes. There is definitely a nutty aspect to the smell.

The taste is sweet and malty and there is something that makes me want to say “dark fruits” here but I’m not sure that is exactly what it is. There is hint of citrus and spices present. You can taste something nutty – I say hazelnuts there. Overall the taste is great but it is difficult to pinpoint which may be a result of the collaborative effort on the recipe. Tough to pigeonhole this one but easy to enjoy it.

It is medium bodied and light to medium carbonation. It has a smooth feel going down and is very easy to drink. Tastes quite fresh. I was so busy sipping it to try and isolate the flavors that it was gone in no time.

Rating:



Coopers – Sparkling Ale

Date: Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Brewery: Coopers
Beer: Sparkling Ale
Category: Specialty Beer (Australian Sparkling Ale) 
ABV:
5.80%
Brewed in: Australia

Coopers Sparkling Ale is technically an “Australian Sparkling Ale” which is not a specifically recognized style of beer by the BJCP. We would hope the next official release of  BJCP guidelines would include this style. For the time being it is specifically referenced as falling under “Specialty Beer”.

In terms of what type of beer it is similar to? I have seen others refer to it as an “English Pale Ale” or EPA.

The beer pours a attractive golden and is cloudy which is a result of the beer being unfiltered and bottle conditioned. In fact, the yeast in the bottle has another distinct effect.

If you are wondering why it is called “Sparkling Ale” – check this out:

The head developed one finger thick and an almost pure white. Retention was very average and minimal lacing occurred.

The aroma I get it sweet malts, some bready yeast, and subtle hints of hops and citrus notes. I think it kind of smells like how it looks if that makes sense.

The taste begins a smooth with a crisp maltiness that gives way to the hops and a more bitter finish. There are definite fruits notes here with citrus being obvious. The other influence is harder to identify – maybe apples or pears. Again, the finish is hoppy. Very balanced overall.

The mouthfeel is light to medium. It is smooth but at the same time quite carbonated.

Overall, I found this beer to be extremely refreshing and thirst quenching possessing some very subtle complexities to keep me interested. I would have never tried this beer if I hadn’t been given that “Beer a Day” book. I am glad I did. This will surely be a staple of my warmer-season beer roster.

I would also add that this beer has the complexities and subtleness to it’s character that most beer geeks would enjoy it but, at the same time, it has the perfect blend of qualities (and price) to give to your non-beer geek friends to get the started on quality beer.

Last comment: next time you want to toast to Australia, put down the damn Foster’s and grab a Cooper’s. Aussie’s will notice and thank you.

Rating:


 

 


Dundalk – Smithwick’s Ale

Date: Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Brewery: Dundalk
Beer: Smithwick’s
Category: Irish Red Ale
ABV:
5.00%
Brewed in: Ireland

This Irish Ale is a clear amber with a rusty tint to it. It pours with a one finger white head. Head retention was moderate and lacing was present but not in huge amounts.

The nose is very subtle with a faint malty aroma. There are notes of caramel and hops but, again, very subtle.

The taste is clean and reminiscent of a lager. The malt leads the flavor march and tastes a bit more grainy than the aroma. Caramel is again present but understated. The yeast and hopes are present but very hard to detect. They taste very clean – almost fresh – but are quite understated.

The mouthfeel is soft and it drinks very clean and crisp with a somewhat dry finish. Medium carbonation.

This Ale seems to straddle a couple lines with lagers but is quite refreshing and very easy to drink. This is another beer to remember when you aren’t looking for something new or extremely interesting and just want a reasonably priced six pack for some event. In fact, if you have friends who aren’t big into the beer scene this might even be quite interesting for them.

Rating:



Traquair – House Ale

Date: Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Brewery: Traquair
Beer: House Ale
Category: Strong Scotch Ale
ABV:
7.20%
Brewed in: Scotland

Traquair House Ale pours a dark chestnut color that is virtually impenetrable by light. The head developed one finger thick even with an extremely aggressive pour. There was minimal lacing and short retention.

My nose is picking up on a handful of similar aromas: roasted malt, toffee, caramel, and molasses. They all balance each other out quite well.

The taste was not as loaded as the aroma. I only really notice roasted and nutty caramel and toffee. It is surely less complex then smelling the beer let on.

The mouthfeel is quite light and carbonation is low to medium. The alcohol content of 7.2% is not any more noticeable than a beer with 5%. It goes down quite easy.

The individual aspects of this beer are less than the sum of its parts. My general overall impression of this beer is quite positive. It has very complimentary flavors, smells, and mouthfeel that combine for a very enjoyable drink.

Rating:



Rogue – HazelNut Brown Nectar

Date: Monday, January 24, 2011
Brewery: Rogue
Beer: HazelNut Brown Nectar
Category: American Brown Ale
ABV:
6.22%
Brewed in: USA

Rogue HazelNut Brown Nectar (aka Bald Guy Brown) pours a hazy brown and develops a one finger foamy tan head. Retention was noticeably short and lacing was absent.

The aroma is dominated by hazelnut and general “nutiness”. I pick up on a mild chocolate smell and a bit of brown sugar which is likely the sweetness from the malts coming through. It is not a very complex nose but it is well balanced.

The taste echoes the aroma and is also dominated by hazelnut with an understated chocolate flavor. The beer is very sweet (maybe too sweet for some tastes?). The taste is great but the sheer power of the hazelnut is distracting and makes isolating other flavors difficult. I found as the beer warmed slightly that the hazelnut became less overpowering. At this point the beer was revealed to have a definite quality brown ale base.

The mouthfeel is creamy but with high carbonation. When holding the beer in the mouth longer to pick up on the flavors you get a pretty tingly tongue.

This was a fairly one-dimensional beer albeit a very enjoyable one.

Rating:




Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout

Date: Thursday, January 20, 2011
Brewery: Kiuchi
Beer: Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout
Category: American Stout
ABV:
7.50%
Brewed in: Japan

Pours clean black resembling a dark cup of coffee with a cappucino colored head. The head was thick and about two fingers in the glass provided at the Sugar Bowl. It faded rather quickly and left decent lacing on the glass.

The aroma is of espresso beans and dark chocolate. There is a distinct burnt smell. The coffee notes smell like a fresh espresso.

The taste is of strong and old coffee. The freshness you would hope for in the espresso flavor is lacking. Something is off about it (a bit of research has shown me this is probably because they add espresso beans directly to the boil). There is a nice taste of dark chocolate and roasted malts. There are not hints of hops in the beer.

The mouthfeel is smooth and velvety with gentle carbonation. The mouthfeel was one of the more impressive parts of this beer.

This beer was not terrible but I consider this type of beer one of my favorites and can name at least three direct competitors that are clearly superior. Don’t shy away from giving this one a try but you will likely find yourself lead away permanently by better coffee/espresso stouts.

I should point out that my choice of category of “American Stout” doesn’t fit the BJCP guidelines. It should technically go into category 21 or 23 for specialty or coffee beers. But in reality it is a stout. It isn’t really an Imperial but it is 0.5% stronger than the range for American Stout. Many would call this a “double American Stout”. So I decided to put it in American Stout.

Rating:




Anchor Steam Beer

Date: Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Brewery: Anchor
Beer: Anchor Steam Beer
Category: California Common
ABV:
4.90%
Brewed in: United States

Anchor Steam is a nice medium amber color – even a little tint of orange. The beer pours with a fluffy one finger head with a very long retention that leaves some impressive sticky lacing on the glass.

The aroma is of malted barley with some slight hop notes. There is not a lot of complexity to the aroma and I can’t tell if I am “forcing” a smell but there may be hints of some fruits and other grains I can’t identify.

The taste is similar to the aroma consisting mostly of malted barley with the hops taking a stronger presence in comparison. The taste is a little sweet with the fruit notes and a bit of nuttiness coming through. A very enjoyable flavor that is not too heavy. This could easily be a session beer.

The beer is moderately carbonated and the moutfeel is tingly but smooth. Light to medium body.

A very pleasant beer and I would recommend it when you aren’t looking to find something new and crazy but just want a straight up beer with a little class.

Rating: