Midnight Brett (Allagash Brewing Company)

Style: Dark Brett/Brett Stout

7.3% ABV

From: Portland, ME

Brewery’s Note: “Midnight Brett is chocolate brown in color, brewed with 2-Row, Midnight wheat, raw wheat and rye malt. It was hopped with a blend of Perle, Glacier and Simcoe hops. The beer was fermented with our house strain of Brettanomyces in stainless tanks. The finished beer has the aroma and flavor of fresh berries, sour cherries and a slight roasted character. The finish is pleasantly tart and fruity making this beer very drinkable.”

The beer pours a dark maroon with brown sugar highlights, it forms a small head of fizzing lightly yellowed, tan bubbles with mild retention. In body, the beer is a dark, opaque murk. On the nose, the beer smells of bristling tannic oak with raisin and dark cherry accents and a hint of plums and chocolate. Subtle brown sugar softens the edges of the nose, as well. The beer unfurls more and more as it warms in the glass, and is full of quite a few layers of complexity. On the tongue, the beer begins as tart, nearly sour with fruity accents that unfurl and then are coated in thick roasted malt bitters. The finish is lightly dry and bitter. In flavor, the beer begins as tart dark cherry pie coated in dark sugar with hints of plum. These flavors unfurl into dark, caramelly bread with roasted coffee and burnt toast character. Slight bitter, herbal hops and oak tannin enter on the finish to give structure and further complexity to the sip. The aftertaste is of bitter roast and cherries. As the beer warms, the tart cherry flavors begin to blend in with the middle and finish of the sip, which is lovely. In the mouth, the beer feels on the light side of medium in body, with a strong carbonation that scrubs the tongue. Mouthfeel is luxurious and smooth, with a crisp bite from the carbonation. After the beer leaves, the mouth is left slightly dry, but with plenty of saliva on the edges of the tongue, and a slightly bitter stick to the tongue. Overall, this is a lovely dark sour with phenomenal funk and roast. If I had to label it, I would say more sour brown porter than sour stout, but honestly this beer defies modern categories; it’s a new style that needs to be further explored. This is a lovely sipper that could pair superbly with darker meats or chocolate raspberry desserts. This is a beer to try.

Space Cake (Clown Shoes Brewing Company)

Style: Double India Pale Ale

9.0% ABV

From: Ipswich, MA

Brewery’s Note: “Why are Miracle Mike and this dog being chased by many evil laser beam shooting cupcakes and two giant layer cake mother ships? Because we’re straight up lunatic fools? Well, maybe, but with a few brain cells remaining we managed to craft space cake double IPA, utilizing citrusy mosaic hops and an immaculate west coast style malt backbone.”

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The beer pours a dark, caramel-orange-amber with a fat pillowy head of creamy yellow colored, tiny bubbles. The head has some decent retention and leaves fluffy strings of lacing on the glass. In body the beer is crystal clean and clear, but with a darker hue adding a touch of opacity to the overall look. On the nose, this beer is beautifully full of character. Unripe blueberries, strawberry skin, watermelon, mangoes, slight pine needle and dank weed, as well as the edges of catty scents. The malt backbone is subtle and well integrated into the nose, allowing for this beer to be a fruity fiesta of hop scents. Gotta love those mosaic hops. On the tongue, the beer tastes fruity sweet up front, with a delicate bitterness that builds into a nice strong bitter finish. Subtle acidity dances around the edges of the palate, as well. In flavor, the beer begins as sweet strawberry, watermelon, and slight sweet lemon, this blooms into bready caramel dosed in tropical fruit with a strong shiver of mellow bitter pine and grapefruit pith. The finish is of bitter grass and soft aspirin, which nicely balances out the sweeter hop character. The aftertaste is of soft bitter pine with a nice sweet resiny sense and definite caramel coating. As it warms I start to sense sticky, fruity caramel pudding. In the mouth, the beer feels medium plus bodied with superb smoothness, and a middling carbonation fluffs the tongue with a decadent pillow. The mouthfeel is superbly soft and luxurious, gelling across the tongue like a pillow. Overall, I am a fan. This is my first venture into Clown Shoes hoppy offerings (surprisingly) and I really enjoyed it. The mouthfeel is nicely smooth, velvety, and luxurious, and unique for my venture into DIPA’s. A fine beer from Clown Shoes.

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Roads 2 Ruin (Two Roads Brewing Company)

Style: Double India Pale Ale

7.6% ABV

From: Stratford, CT

Brewery’s Note: “A big, hoppy IPA with plenty of bite! Our assertive, hop-centric Double IPA has a lean malt backdrop and is brewed with four American hop varieties – Summit, Palisade, Cascade and Magnum. Piney, citrus, floral, not-for-the-timid!”

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The beer’s label is quirky and interesting. I like the fonts on the Two Roads label, but there seems to be a little too much clutter. Coloring is simple, but the yellow banner and rattlesnake still manage to catch the eye, which is nice. I like the Two Roads logo, though I am not crazy about it. It’s a decent year-round label I suppose. Do with it what you like.

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The beer pours a hazy, sunburst orange with a nice fat head of slightly off-white, creamy bubbles. When splashed against the glass, the head leaves sticky strands of lacing on the sides of the glass with a healthy lasting-time. In body, the beer is slightly hazy, but clean of any particles with some translucence. On the nose, the beer smells of a classic DIPA. Pine needles, sweet citrus, slight mango, distinct spicy booze, dank weed, and even some mellowing caramel malt which is helping to accentuate the tropical fruit notes. It’s a touch boozy in the nose for my tastes, but has some nice classic hop scents. This is not a game changer, but plays to the style well. On the tongue, the beer tastes initially sweet with citrus fruit, tropical fruit, and bready malt. This eventually is balanced out by a healthy shiver of hoppy bitters, which spike high and mellow into a smooth, balanced finish, carried along by a boozy bite that sometimes seems strong and sometimes is perfectly fine. Acidity makes a slight play in the mouth, but only around the edges of the hop notes. In flavor, the beer begins as sweet caramel bread, mango, and other indistinct tropical fruits. This is mellowed by the strong wash of aspirin, pine resin, and lighter dank weed, which roll into the middle of the sip and provide some nice balancing bitter wash. As the sip moves towards a close there is a huge fusel alcohol note that is quickly washed away in the rich hops and malt, but does briefly poke its head a little too far into the flavor. The aftertaste is of sweet pine and mango. As the beer warms I start to sense slight apricot and peach notes on the middle of the sip, along with golden raisins and sticky toffee malt. In the mouth, the beer feels medium bodied, with a middling carbonation that provides a nice pillow on the tongue. Mouthfeel for this beer is thicker, yet pillowy, which allows for a touch of crispness, and decent drinkability.  When the beer leaves, the mouth is left deceptively dry and resiny, begging for more sips. Overall, this is a DIPA of classic stock. Pine, citrus, and sticky sweet malt play a nice game on the tastebuds, though the booze is a little too pronounced in both the smell and the taste. It’s reminiscent of Donkey Hote from Throwback, for me, but with more booze and citrus, and less pine. A nice DIPA with year-round status, making it ideal to stock up fridges regularly. Easy drinking hop-wash that will not blow you away, but won’t disappoint either.

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Big Beer Series: Frankenlager (Smuttynose Brewing Company)

Style: India Pale Lager

6.1% ABV

60 IBU   

OG: 15° Plato

Malt: North American 2-Row

Hops: Bittering- Magnum, Flavor and Dry Hop- Saphir

Yeast: WLP-920 Old Bavarian Lager

Brewery’s Note: “When you pour Frankenlager into a glass, you’ll be struck by its deep golden color, clarity, a signature grapey aroma and clean malt character./ Our new, automated, German brewhouse gives us excellent controls over mash profiles, so we’ve decoction-mashed this beer, which helps with the extra clarity, but more importantly, adds the unique grape-like character. It’s a traditional German technique for lager brewing and we’re very excited to be able to use it here. A more efficient boil means a cleaner malt taste and a brighter, smoother beer. By automating, we control all the times and temperatures. On a brewhouse like this, it really is all about the recipe. Our new centrifuge spins out residual yeast and solids to the level we choose, which also means that we reduce waste, while cleaning up the visual appearance of our beer, another significant step forward.”

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The beer pours a paler, straw yellow with golden highlights, forming a lovely, eggshell white head above the beer with nice lasting power. When splashed against the sides of the glass, the beer leaves thin, sheet-like strands of lacing on the glass, reminiscent of Smutty’s Farmhouse Ale. In body, the beer is spotlessly clean and clear, with just a touch of haze. On the nose, the beer smells deliciously spicy, with a nice citrus/white grape character balancing out the spicy hops. Bready malt gives further finesse to the smell, lending it a balanced, Germen-esque twist that separates it from other IPL’s I’ve smelt. This beer has plenty of hops, but they are balanced and deliciously delicate. As it warms, I get a scent of nettles and a cool spring meadow. I like the scent. On the tongue, the beer tastes fruity up front, transitioning into a bready sweetness that is balanced by a healthy, herbal bitter bite that eventually dries out the finish. Slight acidity does begin the sip, and puts a vinous pop to the mouth. In flavor, the beer begins as sweet Riesling, swiftly gaining a bready, nearly rye-like spice that then plunges into grassy citrus with nuances of hay, and a faint kick of pale malt. The spice develops peppery hints, moving from green pepper flesh, to white pepper spice as the beer warms. In the mouth, the beer feels medium bodied, with a crisp-though-heavy mouthfeel and middling carbonation that gives the tongue a nice fluffing, and a slight prickle. When the beer leaves, the tongue is left with a resinous sheen of spittle, while the mouth feels dry and bitter. In all, despite its heavier mouthfeel, the beer goes down bizarrely easy, making it far too easy to drink (I’ve put that to the test…). This is a lovely variation from the IPA’s-with-Lager-Yeast trend that IPL’s have been following as of late, and it actually piques my interest as to continuation of this style. Look at the complexity and subtlety that can be squeezed from milder/non-American hops used in abundance!

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Working for Smutty, I’ve noticed this beer appeasing Hop Heads and Hop Haters alike, which is a pretty neat thing for a beer to do. It’s not something that will knock you out of the park, but it’s a damn fine easy drinker that is borderline day-drinkable, which is dangerous for its alcohol percentage. I think it should at least hit a 4-pack in the future… I suppose we shall wait and see.

(Also check out my food pairing review for this beer with Chicken Ramen here)

Big Beer Series: Farmhouse Ale (Smuttynose Brewing Company)

Style: American Farmhouse Ale brewed with Pineapple Sage

7.2% ABV

15 IBU’s

OG: 13° Plato

Hops: Saaz

Malt: North American 2-Row, Wheat

Yeast: White Labs WLP-565 Belgian Saison Yeast

Other Ingredients: Pineapple Sage

Brewery’s Note: “Our Farmhouse Ale is an homage to traditional European beers brewed for itinerant seasonal farm workers or “Saisonaires.” A unique Belgian Saison yeast is used to impart a mixture of spicy, fruity, & earthy notes along with lipsmacking palatability. We’ve tweaked the recipe for our Farmhouse Ale a little bit this year, adding a small amount of pineapple sage. The result is slightly amplified fruit character, that really adds to the flavor (but don’t be afraid that we’ve completely recreated the beer).

The beer pours a pale, copperish orange with hints of gold. The beer forms a thin head of eggshell-white bubbles that leave a thin, yet solid sheet of lacing on the sides of the glass. In body, the beer is oddly crystal clear. It has a decided transparency and cleanness of body that is odd for the style. On the nose, however, this beer screams farmhouse ale. Rustic toast meets dried hay, meets corn flake, and then meets spicy hops. When you really shove your nose in it, banana and clove enter the nose to add a slight hefe twist. When I dig further, I start to get some overripe pineapple and very faint peach. On the tongue, the beer tastes fruity, and slightly tart acidity, with a soft balancing bitterness that leads into a very dry finish. This bad boy was dried out to a near full attenuation that nicely pops the more rustic aspects. In flavor, the beer begins as peach and pineapple, mixing in with corn flakes and wheat bread crust. Things take a slight twist towards near-lemon fruit tartness in the middle and briefly with the finish, while spicy hops and peppery esters linger into the aftertaste from nearly the beginning of the sip. As it warms, some slightly unpleasant flavors do establish themselves with the finish, jumping from banana to mustier funk that could turn ugly if this aged. In the mouth, the beer feels on the light side of medium in body with lighter carbonation that still keeps the beer crisp on the tongue. In mouthfeel, the beer feels crisp, yet slightly oily with a decidedly dry/sticky finish. When the beer leaves, the mouth is left dry, but with plenty of saliva pouring from the edges. Overall, this is a rustic, funky saison, and my favorite of Smutty’s Farmhouse iterations. It’s got some really nice yeast character, though some things might hint at rougher musty flavors to come. I do wish the hops were a little more prevalent, but that is my personal taste in saison/farmhouse ales. As is, she’s a nice summer drink with plenty of complexity to interest the tongue.

Sorry for the Posting Loop

Some of you may have noticed that I reposted the "Stop, Collaborate, and Glisten" post about a hundred times… I apologize for that. Sometimes you turn on an auto-posting button on both blog sites and you are left in an endless loop of posting… Hopefully the problem is now fixed.

Stop, Collaborate, and Glisten (Night Shift Brewing Company and NoDa Brewing Company)

Style: American Wild Ale aged in Wine Barrels with Sauvignon Blanc grape must

8.9% ABV

Bottled on: 6/4/14

Brewery’s Note: “A sparkling golden ale fermented in wine barrels with sauvignon blanc grape must and a blend of wild yeast strains.”

The beer pours a copperish orange with a soda-pop head of bubbles. A scrim fizzles thinly around the edges of the glass. In body, the beer is a cloudy, opaque orange with subtle hints of the other side of the glass. When splashed against the sides of the glass, a very slick pair of legs slides up and down. On the nose, the beer smells thickly of lightly toasted oak, beneath which lies a touch of vinous grape, slight fusel alcohol, and subtle strawberry. On the tongue the beer is sharply tart with a balancing blast of fruity sweetness. By the middle and end of the sip bitter tannin comes in and dries out the mouth like a desert. Slight earthiness also dances in on the dry finish of the beer. In flavor, the beer begins as sharp chardonnay, mixed with a healthy dose of toasted oak, which stays on the tongue well after the finish. With the middle and finish comes fresh strawberry jam with touches of light horse blanket and dry grass. In the mouth, the beer feels medium bodied with a middling carbonation that provides a nice prickle. Mouthfeel is sharp, yet slightly gelling, with that distinctive, dirty Night Shift wild ale feel but with a dryer spin that cleans it up. The finish is long and dry with oak, leaving the mouth sticky dry, with a fine sheen running over the tongue. Overall, I enjoy this dry sipper quite a lot. It carries lots of subtlety, and unravels into more complexity as it opens up. It disappoints as far as the Sauvignon Blanc character goes (I’m a fan of those New Zealand blancs), and definitely carries more of a chardonnay character with the heavy oak and dryness that really coats the tongue. The nose is overpowered by the oak, in the beginning, and as far as sour goes, this beer is lacking character, especially since much of the funky brett is hidden beneath the vinous character, but I’m still a fan over all. Dry, vinous and interesting, definitely worth a taste and worthy of aging. 

Smuttlabs Satchmo (Smuttynose Brewing Company)

Style: English Brown Porter Brewed with foraged black trumpet mushrooms and aged in red wine barrels

4.9% ABV

25 IBU 

25 barrels brewed
Malt: North American 2-Row, Munich 10L, C-60, Brown, Chocolate
Hops: Willamette 
Yeast: American Ale Yeast
Other Ingredients: Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Red Wine Barrels

Bottle #357 of 836

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Brewer’s Note: “This is our second batch of Satchmo, Smutty’s first culinary collaboration beer. Initially conceived with Chef Evan Mallet, three time-James Beard semi-finalist of Portsmouth’s Black Trumpet Bistro and Newmarket’s The Joinery, Satchmo is a brown porter brewed with black trumpet mushrooms from New Hampshire’s forests. These unique mushrooms (below), also known as black chantrelles, can’t be cultivated, so we called the New Hampshire Mushroom Company in Tamworth, who sourced 36 pounds of dried fungus for the brew./The result is a 4.9% full-bodied, full-flavored beer that lacks the roasted astringency typically found in porters and instead highlights fudgy, chocolate notes and rich, but subtle earthiness from the mushrooms. The malt character is the perfect complement for the fungus. When we poured the beer at SAVOR in Washington DC, even self-professed “mushroom haters” surprised themselves by how much they enjoyed it.”

imageThe beer pours a deep, dark brown with a head of creamy bubbles that hint at sand-dune tan in color. The head dwindles to a fluffy scrim above the glass, leaving a thin, slightly drizzly string of lacing. In body the beer is dark and impenetrable to the eye, though it does show hints of dark maroon when held to the light. On the nose, the beer smells earthy, yet sweet. There is a lingering hint of rich, jammy strawberry beneath everything else, which must be due to the barrel treatment. Wet moss and fungal mushroom definitely dance as delicate scents on the nose, too. This is not an in-your-face scented beer, but is delicate and aromatic in a way that makes me think it would be perfect for food. On the tongue, the beer tastes roasty bitter with a bready/earthy sweetness. Very subtle tannic bitters dry out the finish. Beneath everything else, you can pick out faint hints of the fruity strawberry from the nose, but I may be stretching it to mention the taste. In flavor, the beer tastes of sweet, dark fruit coffee with an earthy, fungal must. The coffee roast tingles in the back and turns more towards a French roast, which is great. The finish is dry, earthy, and still carries a slight musty hint. The jammy strawberry flavors build in the mouth as you drink, and the beer opens up. In the mouth, the beer feels on the light side of medium with a soft carbonation that allows for a nice fluff to the tongue. The mouthfeel is a touch thin and watery for the style, and is really my only complaint for the beer. Even being watery however, it allows the beer to superbly pair with foods. Overall this beer is delicate and fantastically flavorful, with superb delicacies and unique quirks. This is a beer to make again, and bring out for beer dinners. I’d love to see what Evan Mallet can do with a pairing dinner with this.

Hell Yes! (Moat Mountain Brewing Company)

Style: Helles Lager

4.7% ABV

 

The beer pours a clean, crisp yellow, like dehydrated piss. A big, billowy head of eggshell white bubbles forms above the glass and mellows to a finger’s width above the glass. In body, the beer is crystal clear and translucent, giving a full image of the other side of the glass. On the nose, the beer smells of crisp, butter cracker malt, slight cider, and smooth spicy hops that tickle in the background. On the tongue, the beer tastes bready sweet, with a light bitterness that gently fights, but does not overcome the sweetness of the beer. Very faint acidity can be sensed on the sides of the tongue. In flavor, the beer begins as crisp crackers that plunge into dry cider notes that slowly work in crushed black pepper spice, light woodiness, and a faint hint of lemon juice. The finish is a brief crescendo of all the present flavors, while the aftertaste is of softly linger black pepper. In the mouth, the beer is light bodied with a mellow, fluffy carbonation, yet a crisp, smooth mouthfeel. Overall, this is a simple, delicate helles lager that drinks nicely and can be easily sessioned for hours. As the style goes, it’s a beautiful little beer, though it is a tad bland for what I am currently craving. A good drinking beer.

Practical Food Pairing: Sriracha Chicken Ramen Noodle and Frankenlager IPL

The Food: Top’s Chicken Flavored Ramen Noodles w/Sriracha hot sauce, sliced pepper, frozen chunks of chicken, sliced button mushrooms, and scallions

The Beer: Frankenlager Smuttynose Brewing Company’s IPL

The ramen was cooked with frozen bits of pre-cooked chicken, green peppers, onions, scallions, and button mushroom slices. All of this was blasted with a healthy punch of sriracha from a clogged bottle nozzle. On its own, it tastes softy spicy with blandly grainy noodle character. The chicken is tough and slightly freezer burned, but the mushrooms are nicely earthy and fungal, and the veggies add a light vegetal pop to the dish, especially the green peppers. The beer will be reviewed later, but suffice to say, it is a marriage of earthy/spicy European hops with the big citrus of American hops, all in a smooth IPL format that makes it easy to drink, crisp, and palate cleansing. I think the new German hop varietals (this beer has Saphir in it) are creating some supreme new flavors in beer.

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Together, the dish brings out a boozier note from the beer, allowing for rich, medicinal and citrus bitters to shine through while bolstering the spice of the broth and adding splashes of citrus fruit. With the chicken, the beer smoothes out the freezer-burned notes and allows for some nice, poultry flavors to come through. The beer also pops the green pepper flavors in the mouth, and allows the spices of the broth to mingle with the pepper to create some surprising heat. As a whole, the finished pairing bolsters the spice and accentuates some of the dish’s and the beer’s subtler notes, which is quite nice. This is not a perfect pairing, as the beer is a little too flavorful for the lackluster ramen I prepared, but I think it is a pairing worthy of experimentation with. IPL’s play well with spice, and the lack of heavier ale yeast flavor allows for the food to really shine.

Verdict: Yep, but experiment with heavier flavors and more fresh veggies in the ramen