What time is it? Beer o'clock.

Our mission at The BeerFathers is to teach you to stop worrying and love the beer. Our secondary mission is to drink a lot of beer. Our tertiary mission is to give you ratings on those beers - objective, unbiased, opinionated, prejudiced ratings based on what we find good about beer. Take it with a grain of salt or preferably one of those big beer pretzels they sell in Munich. Those things are great.

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Aventinus Wheat Doppelbock

By John & Dad on July 22, 2008 (17 Comments)

It’s Thursday Father and Son Beer review time again! This time we’re hitting the Aventinus Wheat Doppelbock, and we were primed for it by several of our beer peers who said this one was an absolute treat. You know what? They were right. This is one of our new favorite beers. Not only is it a new favorite but it seems to be pretty readily available in most places. We must be close to achieving beer nirvana.

The Aventinus is brewed by G. Schneider & Sohn in Germany. The 500 ml bottle is a terrific size for this 8.2% ABV bock bock. We served ours up in a weizen glass and got an insanely huge 4″ frothy light brown head that dissipated slowly and didn’t leave any head lacing to speak of. There was a medium amount of carbonation and the color was light brown to medium brown with a murky haze to it.

The smells in this thing pop – chocolate, lightly toasted malts, wheat, banana, brown sugar, bubble gum, clove and dark fruits, with plum standing out most in the pack. The aroma has a really nice sweetness to it.

The taste though is where this thing really stands out with just as much variety as the aroma – chocolate, vanilla, wheat, alcohol, light banana, brown sugar, bubble gum, cola and plum. The sweetness from the aromas continue on in the taste and it’s just a great touch. The chocolate and vanilla notes really harmonize with each other to create a great beer experience. The initial flavor notes come through as a moderate sweet. The finish duration is long and the finish notes evolve a little to stay moderately sweet with very light bitter and light tart. There’s not much body lacing as you gulp it down but the mouthfeel is delicious and creamy – really one of the best mouthfeels of any beer – rich, smooth and strong with a good flavor profile. On our malt to hop scale it comes in about 2 1/2 clicks to the left of balanced on the malty side – that is fairly heavy malts.

For the bottom line test – we got a yes for everything – drinkable, repeatable, balance, harmony, memorable, wow factor and buy again – yes to all. You get some nice warming action with the beer as you drink it thanks to the 8.2% ABV and the extra couple of ounces (16.9 oz). It tastes a lot like a Belgian ale with candy sugar and less like a doppelbock (which is technically a lager). The Aventinus website says it’s “streaked with fine top-fermenting yeast” which means it’s got ale yeast in it. So again we have a bit of a hybrid beer that’s hard to classify as a lager or an ale. Our advice? Stop worrying and love the beer – it’s one of the best beers you’ll ever try. I bought two and after this test cellared the second one so I could try it again in a year or so after reading several bloggers note that it cellared quite well (Update: cellar experiment status: Failed. I drank it in less than a month).

It’s as good as a strong Belgian ale like a Chimay Blue or a Trappistes Rochefort 8 – but it has a deceptive lightness to it. We struggled with how to phrase it but we settled on “a nice overstated subtleness.” We think that sums it up nicely. This is an absolute must try beer. Buy it in large batches and enjoy this as one of the top beers in the land.

Aventinus Wheat Doppelbock Rating: 9 out of 10 (?)

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Sam Adams Summer Ale

By John & Dad on July 16, 2008 (9 Comments)

Sam Adams Seasonal LabelWe can be a little hard on the Sam Adams beers here at The BeerFathers and we know that. Their regular lineup hits the hops really hard and we’re admittedly not hop heads like some of the Beer Love community. Also their Sam Adams Cherry Wheat is hands down one of the worst beer experiences we’ve been through. Despite all this, we do have a soft spot for their seasonals – which are generally spot on. Starting in the spring the seasonals go: Sam Adams White Ale, Sam Adams Summer Ale, Sam Adams Octoberfest and Sam Adams Winter Lager. Though we haven’t reviewed them officially for the site we’ve enjoyed the OctoberFest, Winter Lager and White Ale several times over. We hope to get those added here in the coming seasons.

For now we’ll focus on the Sam Adams Summer Ale, which is another in our regular Father and Son Thursday night beer reviews. Why Thursday? Why not? Actually it’s because Father Beer Love has Friday off so it’s a good night for us to not worry if we experiment a little too much with the brews. Drink responsibly, that’s what we say. Well, we’ve never actually said it, but I’m sure we think it. Not really consciously think it, but it’s probably back there in the id or the superego or superid or some other part of the brain that works without being told what to do. Anyway, the Sam Adams Summer Ale is an American wheat ale that comes to us from the Boston Beer Company, makers of well, you know. For this scientific review we used an American pint glass and our 12 oz bottle of Summer Ale registered a 5.3% ABV at 41.9 F.

The initial pour generated a large 2 1/2″ fizzy white head the dissipated quickly and left virtually no lacing. The beer itself has a really lively amount of carbonation and the color is a slightly cloudy gold. Good pour and good start. The smell strikes you as fairly hoppy, not surprising since it’s a Sam Adams, but a little surprising since their other seasonals aren’t overly hopped like their main lineup is. It’s not a terribly complex smell but a fairly clean one – hay, citrus (grapefruit and lemon for sure, but maybe some others) and ginger are the main aromas we pick up.

The taste continues with the citrus theme – it’s a lemony taste with grapefruit and ginger notes. There is also a touch of wheat taste to the finish. Though it lacks complexity it goes down quickly. The initial flavor notes are a light sweet and a light tart. The finish moves a little and gives you a light sweet and a moderate bitter and a light to moderate tart. The finish is about average in duration, the mouthfeel is a bit on the dry side and there’s no body lacing to speak of. On our patented malt to hop scale (original patent application circa 1879) it comes in guess what – fairly hoppy. We marked it 2 1/2 clicks to the right of balanced – not the hoppiest thing in the world but it’s right on up there.

Though it’s drinkable, we wouldn’t really want to drink another one. It’s not so good for the rest of our bottom line notes – it’s not quite balanced, doesn’t have much harmony, isn’t particularly memorable and we probably wouldn’t buy it again. Sam Adams can do so much better with their seasonals and all the other ones definitely prove it. The OctoberFest and Winter Lager especially are much better examples of what they can really do with their seasonal lineup.

So then what is the saving grace for the Sam Adams Summer Ale? It’s a great bar beer. Throw in some salty snacks and this thing really hums. What was originally a 2 became a 3 with some mixed nuts or salty chips. We’ve heard many people say they’re disappointed when they try a wheat beer that isn’t a hefeweizen, I guess because they’re expecting that hefe experience. I know we say it. Our take is there’s lot of other good summer beers (including several hefes), so give them a shot and revisit the Sam Adams Seasonals for OctoberFest.

Sam Adams Summer Ale Rating: 3 out of 10 (?)

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Beereaucracy

By John on July 14, 2008 (No Comments)

It’s time for the craft beer SATs here at The BeerFathers! Read the following list and tell us which one of these things doesn’t logically belong:

  • Bass
  • Beck’s
  • Boddingtons
  • Budweiser
  • Franziskaner
  • Hoegaarden
  • Lowenbrau
  • Spaten
  • St. Pauli Girl
  • Stella Artois

If you guessed Budweiser, you are correct.

In the “huh?” deal of the year, Anheuser-Busch and InBev (maker of many of the fine brands listed above) officially reached an agreement to combine the two companies. The new name will be Anheuser-Busch InBev, apparently because they decided not to involve the marketing department or any creative people in the naming process. The quick details:

  • The deal obviously still needs shareholder and regulatory approval
  • AB shareholders will get $70 per share in cash
  • The combined equity value of the new entity will be $52 billion based on the share price above ($36.4 billion in actual revenue in 2007 combined)
  • They will be the largest beer company in the world
  • They will be one of the world’s five largest consumer products companies (Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson are now “peers”)
  • St. Louis will be the North American headquarters
  • They won’t close any US breweries

Read the full 8 page press release here. There’s been some talk in the beer community about the deal and what it means but for the most part we don’t care too much – the stuff we drink will mostly be unaffected. See some of my fellow beer bloggers:

Of course it would be short sided to say it won’t have any affect at all – they will have a ton of power and could go on a craft brewery buying binge, Supermarket Sweep style, if they so desired. To say it can’t have an affect would be like a mom and pop store saying “We’re not worried about Wal-Mart” or my local coffee shop (this actually happened) saying “We’re not worried about Starbucks.” Time will tell, but for now I’m going to try to get my head around the fact that my beloved Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Dunkel will essentially be an AB beer.

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Duck Rabbit Baltic Porter

By John & Dad on July 9, 2008 (3 Comments)

In our ongoing Father and Son Beer Love Thursday night review series, we decided it was time to test a “local” beer – the Duck Rabbit Baltic Porter. A mere 4 hour drive from the home base of The BeerFathers (East) is the The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, located in Farmville, NC. Duck Rabbit touts themselves as “The Dark Beer Specialist” and trust us when we say it’s not bragging if you can do it. They make some terrific beers – ales, porters and stouts – and we’ve yet to have one we didn’t love. They’re new to the game (they sold their first beer in August 2004) but really are one of the new gems of the craft beer market. By the way, here’s a great back story on their logo, for those interested.

You may also be wondering how a Baltic Porter differs from a regular Porter. To help you out just visit our esteemed beer colleagues at All About Beer for their great write-up on Baltic Porters. In short, the story is a bit like that of the IPA – it has to do with shipping and these porters of over 200 years ago were stronger and more robust than standard porters and could be shipped across the Baltic and North Seas, hence a Baltic Porter. It actually shares quite a bit in common with an Imperial Stout.

For this review we poured our 12 oz, 9% ABV Baltic Porter into a tulip glass and got an initial beer temperature of 52.5 F. The pour produced a small 3/4″ frothy medium to dark brown head that dissipated quickly and left virtually no lacing. There was little carbonation to speak of and the body was an opaque black.

The aromas were dark chocolate, espresso, molasses, roasted malts, earth, alcohol, black licorice, dark cherry, pepper, smoke and soy sauce. It’s a nice grouping of smells that really works nicely together. The great smoke smell gets stronger as it warms. I had this beer in the home office with the door closed during the review and when my wife walked in she noted the potent smell – this sucker is strong.

The taste has a great sweet edge to it that is unbelievably smooth. We were able to taste all the malt aromas – dark chocolate, espresso, molasses and roasted malts (that are almost burnt). We also tasted some of the the other aromas – alcohol, black licorice, smoke and soy sauce and also got one note we didn’t get in the smell – plum. The dark fruits start to come out a bit more in the taste as it warms up. The initial flavor notes came in as a moderate to heavy sweet and the finish flavor evolves to a heavy sweet, moderate bitter and light saltiness. There’s no body lacing to speak of, surprising considering the mouthfeel is somewhat syrupy.

One of the best parts of this beer is the finish. This is the longest aftertaste of any beer we’ve had – it’s very long and hangs around forever. And drinking water lessens it, but doesn’t make it go away completely. The initial malts slide with the aftertaste towards a little bit of hoppiness that results in a pretty well balanced beer. On our patented malt to hop scale (patent number 15,824,193.5) , it comes in at a derived 4 – just a bit on the malty side of balanced. The initial notes comes in at a 3 and the finish comes in right at a 5, perfectly balanced, so we gave it the composite score of 4. This is one beer where you really feel the slide from initial taste to finish.

For our bottom line notes – it’s highly drinkable, balanced, has a beautiful harmony to it, is memorable, has a wow factor and we’d love to buy it again. The only thing we marked no for is repeatability and that is because though we would gladly drink another one, it would almost be a waste of such a fine beer as your palate couldn’t fully appreciate it as much on the second go. Save it for when it can be your first beer of the day and you can fully enjoy it for it’s great complexity and smoothness.

The bottle says that it’s “Proudly hand made in small batches” and this approach to brewing really shows in a top quality end product. Compared to one of our other favorites – the Foothills Sexual Chocolate – the Duck Rabbit has more coffee notes, less chocolate notes and more smokiness. Remember we mentioned that the Baltic Porters share a lot in common with the Imperial Stouts? Well the Foothills Sexual Chocolate is an Imperial Stout, also made here in North Carolina.

The only real down side to the Duck Rabbit Baltic Porter is availability – which tends to occur in the fall in a relatively small regional area. It is a world class example of not only a Baltic Porter, but the entire porter class. This one should be purchased any time it is found. I got this at Brawley’s Beverage here in Charlotte and at the time he was limiting purchases to one six pack per customer. Don a Groucho Marx mask if you need to and trust me when I say get as many as you can.

Duck Rabbit Baltic Porter Rating: 10 out of 10 (?)

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St. Bernardus Abt 12

By John & Dad on July 7, 2008 (7 Comments)

Currently the 29th best beer in the world overall at RateBeer.com, the St. Bernardus Abt 12 is a very interesting Abbey ale. This is another in our father and son Thursday night beer reviews and for this one we used a goblet, as recommended. This is a quadrupel and the bottle is 11.2 oz with a 10.5% ABV. We got a beer temperature of 56 F.

The initial pour gave us an average one inch frothy light brown head that dissipated slowly and laced a good amount in the process. The carbonation is soft and the body color was an opaque brown.

The initial aromas were numerous in sheer quantity: Roasted malts, nutty, light floral, light alcohol, brown sugar, cola, sherry, smoke, spices and dark fruits galore – dates, plums, prunes and raisins. The dark fruits really jump out in the aroma. What’s really surprising is the lack of coffee and chocolate notes that we’ve usually found in these types of beers that tend to dominate the top of the Rate Beer 100.

The tastes echo a lot of the aromas – brown sugar, prominent alcohol, cola, spices, soy sauce, sherry and once again dark fruits galore – dates, plums, prunes, raisins and now some dark cherry. It’s got a terrific, creamy mouthfeel and the body laces a good amount in the glass as the beer level disappears. The spices in the taste are quite nice and bring some pepperiness to the equation. The alcohol isn’t too bold in the smell but is quite noticeable in the taste. The initial flavor notes strike with a moderate sweet, moderate bitter and light saltiness. The finish is long in duration and the finish notes hit with a moderate sweet, heavy bitter, light sour and moderate saltiness. On our malt to hop scale it comes in almost balanced, just ever so slightly on the malty side.

Though it’s a bit too string to be repeatable it’s very drinkable, has a good balance and harmony to it, is memorable and even has a wow factor to it. We could definitely see ourselves buying it again. All told it’s a solid and respectable beer that is very unique and is justifiably the showcase beer in the St. Bernardus lineup. Personally we miss the chocolate and coffee notes of some of the other top strong beers, but for this style, it probably can’t be beat. If you love dark fruits prepare to meet your new favorite beer.

St. Bernardus Abt 12 Rating: 8 out of 10 (?)

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Krusovice Cerne

By John & Dad on July 3, 2008 (4 Comments)

This is our first ever schwarzbier, which is just a fancy German way to say black beer. It’s brewed in the lager style by Kralovsky Pivovar Krusovice (The Royal Brewery of Krusovice) in the Czech Republic. Dad picked this one up at Gomer’s in Lee’s Summit for $1.69 a bottle on a recent trip to see Grandmother and Uncle Beer Love. This was a 1/2 liter bottle – a great size for a beer bottle – and the born on date was 09/27/2006 – hopefully these things keep well.

We used a Weizen glass for the test, which was a good thing because we got a large 2 1/2″ foamy light brown head when we poured it. Beer temperature came in at 55.4 F and the ABV on this bad boy was a little on the light side at 3.8%. Nonetheless it’s an impressive pour and we even got a fair amount of head lacing as it dissipated slowly into the ruby brown body below. The carbonation was fairly soft and though the color was dark it wasn’t really cloudy like you’d expect.

Aromas came in as caramel, coffee, molasses, roasted malts, cola and dark fruits – dates, prunes, raisins and a possible dark cherry. Not a bad list of smells to kick off the schwarzbier opening day. The tastes are quite intriguing – the main two things that come through are the coffee and the roasted malts. The coffee isn’t just coffee though – it specifically tastes like coffee with real sugar in it. The bottle says that artificial sweetener is an ingredient – may it’s aspartame? Either way it’s good. Initial flavor notes are a light sweet and light bitter and on the finish it stays the same with the bitterness moving up ever so slightly to a light/moderate. No body lacing to speak of but it’s got a watery mouthfeel, a short to average finish and on our patent pending malt to hop scale it comes in a little to the left of balanced – meaning it’s slightly malty.

Krusovice Cerne is a pretty tough sounding name for a beer. You want to say it loudly in a Russian accent even if you aren’t quite sure how to pronounce it (and yes we know it’s Czech Republic and not Russia, but who can do a good Czech accent? Russian is much easier because we all saw Rocky 4). It’s a good beer, not as good as say an Amber Bock, but good in it’s own way. It’s pretty simple, not too complex, but nothing is overdone and it’s wildly drinkable.

We think this is probably a perfect example of a session beer (that is a beer you can drink multiples of in one session without falling down – see Beer Advocate for further explanation). We marked it as repeatable, drinkable and something we would buy again – perhaps that’s The BeerFathers litmus test for session beers. One recommendation would be to do it colder than we did (we were in the mid 50s). We’d recommend trying it in the lower 40s and seeing what you thought. We feel the need to reiterate that we loved the 1/2 liter size for this beer and we’re thinking all dark lagers should start to come in 1/2 liter sizes, mandatory in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. All in favor?

Krusovice Cerne Rating: 4 out of 10 (?)

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Ask The BeerFathers: So Just What Do the Ratings Mean?

By John & Dad on July 2, 2008 (No Comments)

A reader writes:

Q. I understand you have a 10 point rating system but what do the ratings really mean? Why is a 9 better than a 8 or a 4 better than a 3?

A. That’s a really great question and one that we had to do some soul searching to answer. As we’re closing in on 100 beers reviewed and rated, we figured we had a pretty good sample to try to data mine through, so we went back and looked at the beers we’ve imbibed and tried to put some rhyme and reason to it all. Here’s our best explanation of what the ratings really mean:

0 out of 10: Really bad.
Could easily pour it out and probably should. Don’t buy or serve to anyone you don’t want to run screaming from your house. These will burn in your memory, and not in a good way.

1 out of 10: Just bad.
Not bad enough to pour out but just by a little. Served to you by people who just don’t know beer. Serve to someone you don’t like.

2 out of 10: Kind of bad.
Has some points of interest but not many. If served to you try not to make a face. Serve to someone who doesn’t know what good beer is.

3 out of 10: Not too bad.
More points of interest and better balance. Could drink it again or not. Could take several and pretend to like if given to you. Serve to someone if they’re not too close of a friend.

4 out of 10: Not bad at all.
Could order at a restaurant or bar if it was the best available. Serve to someone you like a little.

5 out of 10: Good.
If you haven’t had it in a while you might pick some up if you’re in the mood. You could keep these on hand. Serve to someone you’re trying to convert to good beer.

6 out of 10: Pretty good.
Makes the cut as a good everyday beer. When you pull one from the fridge you grin knowing you won’t be disappointed. Not a “wow” but an “ahhh.” If you pulled this blindly from an ice chest at a tailgate you’d know it was going to be a good day and your team would probably win. You should keep these in the rotation or on hand. Serve to your good friends.

7 out of 10: Really good.
Pretty heady stuff. If these are served to you you are really liked and they probably know good beer. If a bar has these they know their beer too. Serve to your real friends.

8 out of 10: Great.
May be pricey or not. This is some exceptional stuff, some of the best you’ve found. Served to you by really good friends and you serve it to your really good friends. If a bar has this it’s a pretty outstanding bar.

9 out of 10: Really great.
These are pricey. They are also deep and complex. Some are special occasion beers. Most are high ABV and probably not very repeatable. If you had two you should save the second for another day so you could enjoy it as a first beer of the day again. These are rare.

10 out of 10: Holy crap!
These are extra special. These represent the best of the best we have found. Almost all are high ABV. If anyone served you one of these it would be an extra special occasion and you probably should ask for marriage or adoption into their family or just try to move in and never leave, ever. Serve to your best friend.

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Les Trois Mousquetaires Aramis Red Lager

By John & Dad on July 1, 2008 (No Comments)

In the ongoing father and son Thursday night beer review saga, we test drove the Aramis Red Lager from Les Trois Mousquetaires up in Quebec. It must be tough being a brewery in Quebec knowing that you’re going to always be compared to the gold standard for not only Quebec but for all of Canada – Unibroue. Our initial experience with Les Trois Mousquetaires was the Imperial Weizen that we enjoyed thoroughly, so we were anxious to see what else they had in store.

We used an American pint glass and got an initial temperature of 52.5 F. The pour yielded an average 1 inch fizzy off-white head that dissipated quickly and left a fair amount of head lacing in the process. It had about a medium carbonation and was a hazy orange/red in appearance.

The aromas were all over the place with this one – caramel, some toasted malts, citrus, broth and vegetables. A bit V-8 like and also a bit beef stewish. More specifically on the citrus we pulled mandarin orange and on the vegetables we pulled tomatoes. We also got an overall slightly metallic smell that wasn’t great.

There wound up being a lot fewer flavors than aromas – mostly the caramel and toasted malts. It actually had a pretty good balance – it leans a bit malty initially and then the finish gets a little hoppy. There is no body lacing to speak of and the mouthfeel is somewhat oily. The initial flavor notes are a light sweet, light acidic and light bitter. In the short finish everything dissolves but the bitter, which stays light. On our patent pending malt to hop scale it’s about a 4 – one click on the malty side of balanced.

Though it is drinkable we wouldn’t call this repeatable. It also wasn’t particularly memorable and we probably wouldn’t buy it again. If we were in a bar and had ordered this we’d finish it and then switch off to another beer.

Les Trois Mousquetaires Aramis Red Lager Rating: 3 out of 10 (?)

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Strawberry Beer Menage a Trois

By John & Dad on June 30, 2008 (1 Comment)

We were so smitten with the Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager that we said “Hey, why not try even more strawberry beers?” Then we took it to the next level and said “Hey, why not try the other strawberry beers at the same time, Pepsi Challenge style?” The end result – now we hate strawberries. Strawberry Overkill (which would be a good name for a band) – can’t even look at them. You know the old saying “Too much good, no good”? It’s true. Hopefully our newly found disdain for strawberries will dissipate quickly, so we can go back to making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the strawberry jam we used to love.

The Contenders
For this strawberry beer three way challenge, or strawberry beer menage a trois as we like to call it, we decided to put our favorite Louisiana strawberry beer versus a North Carolina strawberry beer in a battle of the Beer Love states. Son Beer Love now resides in NC and has for the last six years. Father Beer Love still lives in LA, where Son Beer Love spent his first 25 years. We also threw in a contender from Texas. Here’s the lineup, hometown, weight class, ABV and availability, WWF style:

  • From Abita Springs, LA, weighing in at 12 ounces, it’s a spring seasonal beer with an unknown ABV – give it up for Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager
  • From San Antonio, TX, weighing in at 12 ounces, it sports a 5% ABV and is available year round – ladies and gentlemen, Pete’s Wicked Strawberry Blonde Lager
  • And finally, from Mooresville, NC, also weighing in at 12 ounces, with year round availability and a 4.75% ABV – it’s Carolina Strawberry Ale

About the Test
We did this test over iChat, and we each had three pint glasses to go with the three beers. Starting beer temperatures were at 43 F, nice and cold, the way strawberry beer should be. It should be noted the Carolina beer is actually an ale and the others are lagers. We gave some thought to how this may affect the test and if we’d be able to tell a difference in the fermentation methods (we could – more details below). It’s worth noting that though we’re presenting these tests linearly below, we very much did not implore a linear method – we drank one, rinsed our mouths with water, then drank another ad nauseum.

Test 1: Pete’s Wicked Strawberry Blonde Lager
Pete’s Wicked Strawberry gave us the best head of the bunch – almost 1 3/4″. It was the second darkest in terms of color and was also the clearest of the bunch – no haze at all. Of the three it had the most subdued smell. The aromas came out as biscuit, strawberry and a light cream. The taste was actually quite bitter – the bitterness jumped out at us and was almost acidic. It’s a very harsh flavor that leans well towards the hoppy side of our patent-pending malt to hop scale.

Test 2: Carolina Strawberry Ale
The Carolina Strawberry gave us the darkest color of the three and also gave us the most potent strawberry smell – very sweet. The aromas were biscuit, strawberry and cream, the same smells as the other beers, just with different levels – the strawberry really jumps out of this one – like a Strawberry Shortcake doll. The taste has a sharpness to it that is a little unsettling. On the malt to hop scale it comes in a little hoppy and just a little to the right of balanced. The strawberry tastes very artificial. Perhaps it’s the ale yeast that just needs some bolder flavors with it. So there’s lesson 1: Strawberry beer is best done in a lager style.

Test 3: Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager
Our old friend. The Abita Strawberry came in with the lightest color of the three. On the flip side it was the most carbonated of the bunch. The aromas were biscuit, strawberry and cream and this one had the least strawberry smell of the three. You also get a smell that really reminds you of white cake for some reason – must be the way the cream plays off the biscuit. It’s more complex than the other beers. It’s very light on hops – this is by far the most balanced beer of the bunch and by far the best smelling. The taste is incredibly smooth. Nothing not to like in this one.

The Final Results
Not surprisingly, Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager was the clear cut winner. It’s just a solid beer and it’s a shame it’s only a seasonal. As for the other two, it was toyed with that maybe we should give them a tie for third and not even have a number two, but after much debate we gave the number two rating to the Carolina Strawberry Ale. This means Pete’s Wicked Strawberry Blonde Lager comes in at number three. The difference was the Carolina Strawberry was just bad, while Pete’s Wicked Strawberry was damn bad.

Just for grins we decided to give the Carolina Strawberry and Pete’s Wicked Strawberry a little Vay-ner-chuk action, ala Episode #439. We mixed the two together to try to form some type of super beer but we pretty much just got a cup of yuck. Mind you they were better together than they were individually, but when you mix just bad with damn bad to get kind of bad, it’s still bad.

In conclusion we hate strawberries and don’t recommend assaulting your mouth like this. There’s actually a note on one of our review forms I must have written at the end of it all that reads “I fucking hate strawberries.” That about sums it up.

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Beer Pairings: Beer and Poker Night

By John on June 27, 2008 (1 Comment)

So I posed a question recently on Twitter asking for some ideas on a good craft beer for me and the boys to consume massive amounts of at an upcoming poker night. The rules were simple – no high ABV and no high price tag.

A quick note – the Twitter beer community is fantastic – a great group of beer aficionados. I got some nice feedback from them (many thanks to those who responded) – Anchor Small Beer, Full Sail Session Lager, Goose Island Honker’s Ale, New Belgium Fat Tire, Lancaster Milk Stout and more. All beers that I’d either love to try or have had and enjoyed in the past. Only one problem – none of these are readily available here at any of my beer stores.

So Father Beer Love threw out a suggestion – we’d seen some mini kegs of a certain fantastic summer beer at World Market recently and couldn’t think of an occasion to justify the purchase. Well, we solved that problem last night.

Paulaner Mini Keg

That’s a Paulaner Hefe-Weizen 5 liter mini keg who also happened to come home with his twin brother. 10 liters of one of the best hefes on the market – $40 total. Do the math there – I don’t care if I lose at poker night, I came home a winner last night.

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Three Floyds Brian Boru

By John on June 26, 2008 (No Comments)

Fellow beer lover Dave took a trip to Three Floyds Brewery recently and was gracious enough to send me a care package containing a Brian Boru and a six pack of Gumballhead. These were my first two 3F beers and they’ve only left me clamoring for more. Thanks Dave! Also worth noting was this was the first beer I tried from my dedicated beer fridge.

First off, I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of Irish red ales. Secondly, I’ll admit my only experience with Irish reds is Killian’s, which I’ve tried several times. And yes I know this probably isn’t the best sample size and that there’s even some debate as to whether that’s really an “Irish Red” so my point is I’ve formed an opinion without much empirical data to support it. Plus Killian’s is made by Coors so that really clouds up the issue, as claiming craft beer experience based on a mass market beer isn’t really grounds for anything, other than getting thrown out of the finer things beer club.

Back to the beer – Brian Boru Old Irish Red Ale. I did, somewhat appropriately, drink this on St. Patrick’s Day for an added kick of properness. The bottle was 1 pint 6 oz and I poured it into an American pint glass and registered a temperature of 53.6 F. ABV came in at 5.9%. The pour yielded an average 1 inch frothy off-white head that left virtually no lacing as it dissipated quickly. There was a soft carbonation to the beer and the body was ruby brown in color and fairly clear in the body clarity department.

I got some fairly unique aromas – caramel, citrus, grapefruit and pineapple were the ones that jumped out at me along with some roasted malts. Quite a sharp smell to it – something “red” does stand out, maybe it’s just me thinking back to the Killian’s experience.

The tastes echoed all of the aromas except for the citrus and grapefruit. It also added several new notes – a slightly burnt edge, honey, toffee and vegetables. Initial flavor was a moderate sweet and a light bitter that turned to a light sweet and moderate bitter on the finish. The finish duration was average, the mouthfeel was oily and there was a fair amount of body lacing.

The pineapple aromas and taste are an interesting edge to the malt flavors. Though it’s a bit hoppy, the taste is actually very good and balanced. The finish is where the hoppiness comes through, especially as it warms. I wouldn’t call it repeatable because I wouldn’t want to drink another one right away, but it is drinkable and the extra six ounces round off the pint nicely. It was slightly memorable with what they did with pineapple, but didn’t sport the undefinable wow factor of some of our other beers. Ultimately I’d probably not seek it out to buy again, but this would suit lots of people just fine. It would be better with food – probably beef and a stew or a roast. Overall it’s nothing special but it’s not bad. Obviously not the best of what 3F has to offer, but a solid beer nonetheless and the best Irish Red I’ve ever had.

Three Floyds Brian Boru Rating: 5 out of 10 (?)

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Chimay Blue

By John & Dad on June 24, 2008 (6 Comments)

In our ongoing Thursday night father and son beer review campaign, we ventured into Belgium to have a visit with the star in the Bieres de Chimay lineup. Chimay Bleue, or Chimay Grand Reserve, is a 9% ABV treat. Always a good go-to beer, it ventures in a much different direction from many of the other top rated beers on our site. Namely it’s less about the coffee and chocolate and more about the dark fruits. Possibly one of the best balanced beers we’ve had, it’s a nice change of pace.

We served ours up in a goblet and our 11.2 ounces of goodness came in at 53.1 F. The pour gave us an average 1″ fizzy light brown head that dissipated quickly and left very little head lacing. It has little carbonation and the body is a murky ruby/copper brown.

The initial aromas – and there are a lot of them – are hay, toasted, toffee, yeast, alcohol, black currant, brown sugar, bubble gum, cola, plum, port, prune, raisin, spices and a host of other unidentified dark fruits. This is a top smelling beer.

Though the smells are great, the taste is what makes this beer such a treat. Not quite as numerous as the aromas, you pull some nice notes – alcohol, cola and loads of the dark fruits. There’s also a possible hint of bittersweet chocolate. The initial flavor hits you with a heavy sweet and a light bitter and evolves in the finish to a moderate sweet with a moderate bitter. The finish clings to your mouth and lasts a long time and the mouthfeel is quite creamy. There is virtually no body lacing as you drink, proving that it doesn’t have to lace well to be a top beer. On the malt to hop scale it comes in about a 4 out of 9 – just to the left of balanced on the malty side.

Though it’s not repeatable (we couldn’t drink another one due to the alcohol level, though we’d be willing to try, you know, for science), it is quite drinkable, quite memorable, sports a great wow factor due to it’s complexity, has balance, has harmony and we would of course buy it again.

This is ultimately a very drinkable beer – so very complex with so much balance to it. The dark fruits jump at you and you get the alcohol notes pretty well. It’s so complex that it’s hard to isolate all that’s going on and pull it all out. Eventually you’ll get tired of trying and just sit back and enjoy it. As with other good beers, 11.2 oz just isn’t quite enough – those other 0.8 oz would be nice. It’s refermented in the bottle and we think the well water the abbey uses for the beer is probably a big difference maker in the solid rating we gave it. It is said that Chimay Blue can be aged for upwards of fifteen years.

Drinking this out of a goblet feels like drinking from a holy grail in the 3rd Indiana Jones film, and knowing you choose wisely.

Chimay Blue Rating: 9 out of 10 (?)

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Flying Dog Road Dog Scottish Porter

By Dad on June 11, 2008 (No Comments)

This selection came from BOTMC (Thanks John) and comes from the Flying Dog brewery of course. It isn’t available here so it was a rare treat for me.

Beer temp. 53.0F-11.4C 5.3% ABV. The beer was ruby brown in color with a 2 inch foamy head which was light brown in color. The head dissipated slowly and laced fairly well. Carbonation was soft and the body clarity although dark was clear. Aromas were caramel, coffee, molasses, nutty, toasted, citrus and black licorice. Taste were nutty, mild black licorice, dark brown sugar, and smoke. Initial flavors were light sweet and light bitter. Finish was moderate sweet, moderate bitter and light salty. Finish duration was average, mouthfeel was oily and had fair body lacing. On the malt to hop scale I put it at a 4 or just to the malt side of balanced. 5 of the 7 aromas came from the malts. Repeatable yes, drinkable yes, balance yes, harmony yes, memorable no, wow factor no, buy again yes.

I liked the nice smoked taste and the mild anise. I found it uncommonly smooth. I wish I could find it here. This is just a great everyday porter. I also appreciate the low ABV. It is fairly complex but still has a simpleness to it and I mean that in a good way. Great balance. Would keep in the rotation if I could. It’s like a pair of shoes that we all have, not good enough to wear to a fancy outing but one step ahead of “Are you going to wear those ratty old things?” They just fit and are so comfortable. However I would only drink this on a day of the week that had a “Y” in it — isn’t that a lucky coincidence?

Flying Dog Road Dog Scottish Porter Rating: 6 out of 10 (?)

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Wild Blue

By Dad on June 10, 2008 (13 Comments)

I saw this in a local store but waited till I could find it as a single after my experience with AB craft type beers.

Beer temp. 47.6F – 9.4C at 8% ABV. It poured a magenta-purple body with an 1 1/2 inch frothy head that I can only say was the color of a strawberry milkshake that dissipated quickly with fair head lacing. There was little carbonation and the body clarity had a dark, sparkling to normal look. The aromas were blueberry, cream, vanilla and (this one is kind of a stretch) pie (more on this later). The taste were the same all the way through. The initial flavors were moderate sweet and a light tart. The finish flavors were a harsh sweetness and a light tart. I could not find any bitterness from hops so must guess that there was little to none in it or were overpowered by the sweet. The mouthfeel was creamy, finish was short to medium and had a fair body lacing. On our malt to hop scale I gave it a 1 as I couldn’t find any hop bitterness. Repeatable yes, drinkable yes, balance no, harmony so-so, memorable yes (more later) wow factor no, buy again yes.

I must admit I liked it. The lovely Mrs. Beer Love did too. This bad boy needs to be drunk pretty cold though. The sweet part gets a little annoying as it warms. This is more like a wine cooler than a beer which is right up Sister Beer Love’s alley. In the Beer Love family about half of the birthday cakes were blueberry pie with Blue Bell (their motto: “We eat all we can and sell the rest”) vanilla ice cream on top. How many blueberry pies ala mode have an 8% ABV? Huh! I must admit I gave it a bonus point for nostalgia and maybe a half for ABV.

Wild Blue Rating: 5 out of 10 (?)

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Redhook Long Hammer IPA

By Dad on June 9, 2008 (No Comments)

This is just my second IPA. My first was a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA and was a great intro to the style. The style seems to be popping up like mushrooms after a three day rain.

Beer temp. 40.2 F -4.8 C. Used a pint glass and got a 1 1/2 inch off white frothy head that dissipated slowly with fair head lacing. The color was gold-amber and was mostly clear but had a slight haze. Carbonation was soft. The aromas were honey, citrus, grapefruit, lemon, pine, resin and spices. Taste were pretty thin malts and a whole pot full of bitter. Initial flavor was light sweet, heavy bitter and a light tart. Finish was light acidic and heavy bitter. The finish was long, the mouthfeel was dry and the body lacing was good. On our malt to hop scale I gave it an 8 out of 9. I didn’t find it repeatable, barely drinkable, not memorable, no wow factor and wouldn’t buy it again.

Although this was just my second IPA I found that it lacked the great malty depth of the DFH 90 MIN IPA to balance the hops which gave me the 8 of 9 on the malt to hop scale while the DFH was a 6 which is just to the right of balanced. The aromas I pulled out were 7 with 5 of them hop aromas. I have to admit that after about 1/3 of a bottle the finish never left my mouth completely but abated somewhat, it kicked in hard and high with every new sip and lasted well into the next two beers which were mildly hopped. That’s way too long a finish for me.

Redhook Long Hammer IPA Rating: 2 out of 10 (?)

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