Tasting Notes

Year End Review Part 1

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We cover some brews we missed from our local breweries, Highlands, Foothills, Unknown, and Brueprint.

Highlands Imperium Imperial Stout

Good stout head with a nice cocoa color that lingers along the glass edge goes great with this black as night beer. Robust coffee tones on the nose with some lingering coconut tones make the aroma of this beer. Flavor-wise all of the flavors, vanilla, coconut, coffee, come through with the coffee flavors providing a nice finish and body.

Foothills Seeing Double IPA

This big, bold imperial IPA has a heavy citrus nose, mostly orange peel and grapefruit, with a touch of pine resin for good measure. The citrus does not fully translate into the flavor but the pine does, and there is a touch of pineapple to this beer. Unlike many imperial IPAs we have tasted, the Seeing Double is not particularly sweet and lacks the cloying mouthfeel.

Foothills BBA People’s Porter

Heavy toffee nose on this porter and not particularly boozy on the nose either. The flavor though is almost pure neat bourbon. The Buffalo Trace flavors overpower any flavors of the people’s porter, making this beer a very good bourbon porter, but sadly lacking any of what makes the people’s porter good. It is still a good beer, just not what we were expecting.

Unknown Pew Pew Pew

Not overly hoppy or sour nose, with a touch of funk and oak in the aroma. Nice sour front end with a clean finish, more like a farmhouse than a true sour. If you are looking to try sours this is a good first sour.

Brueprint Brewing Imperial Sour IPA

The aroma is mostly lemon and melon, with very few pine or grapefruit tones. This starts out very tart and lemony with a fairly good sweetness to balance out the sour from the lemon. This hopped sour ale is very good and reminds us of a lemonhead candy.

Brueprint Cab Sauv Barrel Aged Edinbrue

The nose is heavy red wine and fig, with a touch of black currants. The fig and currants continue on the palate, giving heavy fruit notes and mostly masking the Edinbrue’s natural flavors. The barrel aging seems to impart more jammy-wine flavors and smells compared to oak or barrel flavors. Like the BBA People’s Porter, the beer is lost in the flavors of the barrel.

Beer of the Tasting

Travis’s vote was split between the Imperium and the Cab Sauv Edinbrue, whereas Andrew was partial to the Imperium and the BBA People’s Porter. Pew Pew Pew was our least favorite by far.

 

Episode 24: Winter Warmers

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Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale

This beer was not what we were expecting as it smells less like a traditional winter ale, but instead like an Oktoberfest/Marzen lager. Tasting more like a lager than an ale, we noticed lots of malt tones with a touch of skunk and an odd hop water flavor.

Anchor Brewing Our Special Ale

The nose has a nice malty and resiny characteristic with a slight sugary sweetness. The palate has a slight hop spice to it and seems to lack traditional warming spices. Travis felt this beer had a lingering nutmeg that dried out his mouth, and the banana bread was subtle to missing.

Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Ale

The heavy toffee nose drew us in on first sniff with hints of licorice and an overall sweetness. On the palate we continue to taste toffee, but also pick up some currant notes, however the overall flavor is similar to the crystalized sugar found on a homemade sugar cookie with a touch of caramel stuck in the cookie.

Sierra Nevada Winter Warmer

The nose is mostly a light Anderson Valley Winter Solstice with very slight smoke. The smoke is not noticable in the flavor, but this reminds us of a watered down Anderson Valley with a touch more cinnamon. The spices linger in a way that is not altogether pleasant.

Great Lakes Brewing Christmas Ale

Ginger greets your nose right off the bat, masking most other aromas. Flavorwise, freshly grated ginger is the dominant flavor with slight honey on the backend and touch of cinnamon heat.

Highlands Brewing Cold Mountain

Chocolate and vanilla aromas are strong with this beer with only the slightest hint of hazelnut. Vanilla hits the tongue first with cinnamon, hazelnut, and slight chocolate. This beer is a bit thinner than expected, however it comes in many variants would be great to try.

Final Thoughts and Beer of the Night

Because the style is ill-defined there is a great variety within winter warmers. We do think they are great for the colder months without the heaviness of a stout or porter, but would be terrible in the summer months. We highly recommend trying a variety of breweries versions, as they will all be different. Our beer of the night was the Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Ale.

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Episode 23: Prairie Artisan Ales

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Standard

Slight lime and spice nose leads this beer with a good clean spiciness to the flavor as well. This beer is slightly funky, with a good farmhouse funk and is slightly yeasty and quite bright with a slight peppery finish.

Ape Snake

The first thing you notice with this beer is the dark color and brown head. The aroma is fairly funky but has an odd characteristic to it. This beer itself is odd in the color, taste, and smell with lemon and Brett fighting on the nose and on the tongue and a chalky aftertaste. This was a hard pass for Travis and not a particularly good beer in our opinions.

Funky Gold Simcoe

A much funkier aroma than the Ape Snake, with clear notes of Brett and hints of lime. This tastes more like a standard sour than the Ape Snake, while maintaining a lot of the funky qualities from the Standard. The hop itself lends some herb notes such as thyme and rosemary to the beer.

Birthday Bomb

Strong coffee and chili nose with hints of chocolate and vanilla. Travis was able to pick up on the caramel using a beer sniffing technique he had heard about. Flavor wise, this beer is all about the caramel and chocolate, with hints of chilis and coffee. Andrew did not pick up any chili flavor, but the backend had a touch of chili heat.

Final Thoughts and Beer of the Night

Prairie has an excellent stout program, but the farmhouse and saison program is not our favorite. This is a niche brewery with few true styles, but a ton of variants on each of these. However we did find some fault with a solid half of their offering and while we highly recommend the stouts, the saisons and farmhouses are nowhere near our favorites. Our beer of the night was unquestionably the Birthday Bomb, with the Funky Gold Simcoe and Standard also being good beers. Ape Snake is a hard pass from Travis, and is not one of Andrew’s favorites.

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Episode 22: Green Man Brewing

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Lager

The aroma of this beer is simple college beer, or what you think of when you had cheap beers in college, specifically American Lager style beers. Flavor wise, this reminded us of Coors Banquet and definitely seems like a high-end college beer, similar but inferior to, the Zambrueni from Brueprint.

ESB

The nose does contain a roasty slightly nutty and caramel aroma. The flavor is a bit meatier than expected with strong nut tones, such as walnuts and almonds. There is a very faint bitter chocolate flavor backed in.

IPA

There is a significantly more floral nose, like orange blossoms, than we were expecting as English IPAs tend to be very malty on the nose, and it was very bright and light. The beer itself has a slightly bitter front end, with a bright citrusy middle, followed by a delicate hop bitterness on the backend. Not really an English IPA, but really good.

Porter

Aroma wise this beer is roasty with hints of chocolate and a slight smokeyness to it that we were not expecting. However, the baker’s chocolate and bitter coffee flavors dominate on the tongue with slight hints of green pepper.

The Dweller

Coffee, coffee, and oak barrel are the aromas of this beer. The barrel smell is not like a bourbon barrel, but instead more of a sweet irish whiskey. This beer is extremely coffee forward and has good oak tones with a hint of booze and chocolate in the flavor.

Whiskey Sour

As long as you like lemons you will love this beer. It smells like lemon juice (with a slight honey aroma) from the top and this aroma translates onto the palate as well. A bit sweeter than expected, however it is extremely lemon forward and whiskey sour mix, with a touch of char to it.

Final Thought and Beer of the Night for Green Man Brewing

We enjoyed everything (except the Whiskey Sour) and truly respect Green Man’s dedication to sustainability. If you are in Asheville, swing by the Green Mansion, and buy some Green Man if it is distributed to your area. While we loved the ESB, our beer of the night is the Dweller, but you cannot go wrong with any of the porter, IPA, ESB, or Dweller.

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Episode 21: Yuengling

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Golden Pilsner

A little hoppy for a pilsner, but is very close to their regular lager in both smell and aroma. It is a bit lighter color and does not remind us of any of the pilsners we have profiled before.

Oktoberfest

Heavy caramel nose, for a Marzen style lager, with a touch of sweetness. The flavor clearly has roasted malts, but the caramel from the nose does not translate onto the palate, however the sweetness does, making this beer a bit sweet without much body, however we did think this reminded us of a pumpkin beer.

Traditional Lager

The nose is slightly skunky, think Heineken, but otherwise is a Vienna lager aroma. The flavor is also a more standard flavor we would find in a Vienna lager, with a slight skunk to it. As an aside, the beer we drank was in the green bottle, the can Yuengling has a slightly less skunky aroma and flavor.

Light Lager

The aroma is nearly identical to the pilsner, but is more or less the regular Yuengling sans skunky aroma. The flavor is like a watered-down non-skunked version of the Yuengling lager.

Black & Tan

Much darker color than the other beers and has a robust coffee nose. Unfortunately it is a lot thinner than we were expecting. It has a bit of bready-ness to it, but really it is a porter lite, with thin coffee flavor and an odd malt mixture that leaves us wanting more robustness.

Final Thoughts on Yuengling and our Beers of the Night

This is beer, plain and simple. It is your grandfather’s lager and the lack of variety really hurts them. As the beer is cheap (for East Coast dwellers), then we would recommend giving it a try, but do not expect your life to be changed by Yuengling. Our beer of the night comes as a shocker, in that we both agreed on the pilsner, despite Andrew’s general disdain for the style.

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Episode 20: Lagunitas

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Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale

The nose is very light with a touch of wheat ale tones and slight lemony hops. Nice citrusy wheat ale with good body and pale color. Dangerously smooth, this is a beer that would sneak up on you if you drank multiples of them.

DayTime

A fairly mild nose, but a bit more citrus than the Little Sumpin and a touch of malt sweetness. The color is more Berliner Weiss with a touch of cloudiness. There is some citrus to this beer, but not a lot and the flavor is very muted. Everything is so subtle, that the beer lacks a real character.

IPA

Much more malty nose with a slight breadyness to it compared to the Day Time, but like the other two, this had a mild aroma in general. More pine and floral tones with a touch of bitterness on the backend round out this IPAs flavor.

IPA Maximus

This beer has a very strong nose, which is not really a good thing as it is a bit like nail polish and pine. This beer is heavy on the pine but little floral or citrus to balance out the pine and there is little that is subtle about this beer. The flavor is quite astringent and reminded us of Hoptimum from Sierra Nevada.

Hop Stoopid

The aroma of this beer is similar to the Maximus, but the flavor could not be more different. More fruit flavors in this beer, like dried tropical fruit, gives this beer a better all around flavor and mouthfeel than the Maximus. The pine plays well with the papaya and mango and makes it quite easy to drink, like a boozy Triple Tail from Sweetwater.

Sucks

The nose is a bit fruity like dried tropical fruit such as papaya. Flavorwise, this beer has a touch of pine which plays well with the grapefruit and papaya. As you drink a Sucks, the tropical fruit will be the first flavor you taste, but will transition to pine, and finish with grapefruit pith on the backend.

Brown Shugga

The nose is reminiscent of a Belgian strong ale, but is more sweet than we would expect. This beer is sweet and boozy. You know when you drink it that it is high in alcohol and has a lot of sugary sweetness.

Final Thoughts on Lagunitas and our Beers of the Night

While not a brewery we go out of our way to buy, it was good beer, except for the Maximus, and we would encourage folks to try them. The IPAs are clearly their go to style and the fact that they are owned by Heineken makes them readily available. The Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ was a nice surprise and all in all the beers were good. Andrew’s beer of the night was the Sucks and Travis’ was the Hop Stoopid.

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Episode 19: Pumpkin Beer

Pumpkin BlogRogue Pumpkin Patch Ale

Rogue’s whole pumpkin ale has a nice spice to it. There is a good cinnamon, clove, vanilla, nose and all these flavors are on the palate as well, but mostly on the backend. The finish is a touch odd with a dry spice feel that dries out the mouth.

Shipyard Pumpkinhead

This wheat pumpkin ale has the nose of a wheat ale with a light color and effervescent pumpkin ale. Allspice, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and pumpkin flavor all come through creating a nicely balanced pumpkin ale that we enjoyed.

Foothills Pumpkin Ale

More pumpkin spice notes than the Shipyard pumpkin on the nose. Has a relatively clean flavor but has the same spicy backend as the Rogue pumpkin. The flavor profile is very similar to the Rogue.

Southern Tier Pumking

High alcohol imperial pumpkin ale with a lovely color and a buttery crust nose that reminds us of shortbread and vanilla. The buttery crust nose continues on the palate with a cloying sweetness that we did not enjoy. The pumpkin flavors themselves are very muted, leaving us wanting.

Elysian Dark Knife

The nose has a very slightly coffee bitterness, and is a very mild schwarzbier aroma. The pumpkin flavors are not really there with this beer. It tastes almost exclusively like a schwarzbier with no pumpkin flavors.

Elysian Punkuccino

The aroma is a spot on pumpkin cappuccino or latte with a nice sweet aroma with spices and coffee. Just like the Dark Knife, we could not find the pumpkin flavor, but the beer itself is excellent with good coffee and lactose flavors. The sweetness is balanced with the coffee bitterness, all in all this is a good coffee stout.

New Belgium Atomic Pumpkin

This beer has a nice spicy nose with habanero and cinnamon aromas. There is a good cinnamon and pumpkin flavors upfront, but the backend is a bit spicy due to the habanero. Our thoughts on this beer differ with Andrew not being very keen on this beer.

Final Thoughts on Pumpkin Beer

These are a good seasonal treat, that have become very pumpkin spice forward. This is a style we like trying as the variety is very broad for a single style, but is not one of our favorite styles overall. Because the style is so broad we recommend buying singles and trying a bunch of new things. Our favorites of the evening: Shipyard for a true pumpkin ale, but we both thought the Elysian Punkuccino was the best beer we had, even though there was no pumpkin flavor.

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Episode 18: Sam Adams

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Tasting Notes from Boston Beer Company/Sam Adams

Octoberfest

Smells like we expected a Marzen to smell, with subtle notes and a slight hoppiness. The beer itself has a nice smooth flavor with a nice subtle caramel backend. This is a very good, and easy to get, Marzen that tastes like a bigger body Boston Lager.

Boston Lager

The German hops added give this beer a lovely hoppy nose that we were not expecting, with floral and herb notes. Excellent Vienna Lager with a nice spiciness to it. Easy to find and easy to drink.

Spruce Lager

For all the spruce hype, the nose is not spruce heavy, and we smelled more standard lager notes on this clean nose. There is spruce in the flavor, however do not expect the same level of pop as the Dogfish Head Pennsylvania Tuxedo.

Black Lager

The nose has wonderful roasted coffee tones with just a hint of cocoa. Coffee really steals the show for this Schwarzbier, with slight hints of chocolate on the backend. This is a fairly thick Schwarzbier as well. If you enjoy black coffee you will enjoy this lager.

Coffee Pale Ale

Latte aromas meet you at the top of the glass with this beer. Heavy coffee smells, similar to a light version of the Founder’s Sumatra Brown Ale. The sweetness in this beer does lend itself to taste like coffee ice cream, and we really enjoyed this beer.

Pumpkin Ale

If the smell of a fresh pumpkin pie is your idea of fall, then this is a perfect fall beer for you. Aromas of allspice, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg waft off this beer in droves. The beer itself is very sweet and tastes like liquid pumpkin pie, and the individual flavors mimic the nose with a touch of ginger heat.

Final Thoughts on Sam Adams

The corporate structure of Boston Beer Company is extremely impressive, as is the size of Sam Adams. We recommend grabbing a seasonal mix pack and cracking open a few Sam Adams beers, as most of their beers are good and the sheer variety of beer means you can always find one you can enjoy.

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Episode 17: Ballast Point

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Tasting Notes from Ballast Point Brewery

Dead Ringer – Marzen/Oktoberfest

Good caramel color, light clean nose, and malty flavor. A pretty standard marzen lager with a hint of backend bitterness. There are better marzen’s even though this is an ok example of the style.

Homework Series Batch 7 – Session Saison

Smells like a standard saison based on the yeast used with a slight sour note. Unique flavor with a nice peppery flavor from the rye and sweetness from the wheat. Very good saison beer that is different compared to other saisons we have had.

Mango Even Keel – Session IPA

Once you crack one open you smell fresh mangos, and that nose stays with you. The flavor is strong mango flavors that give way to fresh savory herbs and a lemony backend that is extremely refreshing. This was a delightful session IPA.

Fathom IPA

A malty sweet nose that reminds Andrew of Tang (it’s a kick in a glass). This beer is extremely malt forward and is much sweeter than we would expect from an IPA. With such light malts, this IPA tastes more like a marzen than IPA.

Sculpin IPA

The nose was fairly piney with notes of stone fruit, specifically apricots and peaches. The beer itself was bitter, in the vain of a typical American IPA. The flavors are also more pine and stone fruit, giving a heft to the mouthfeel, but not a lot of robust flavor. All in all, this is a standard if uninspired West Coast IPA.

Grapefruit Sculpin IPA

This is the beer for grapefruit lovers. The nose is heavy citrus, specifically grapefruit, and this carries over to the flavor. Best described as grapefruit juice, this beer is slightly bitter and tangy, with a lovely grapefruit finish. Our preferred Sculpin.

Final Thoughts on Ballast Point

Sadly, the creative elements have left the company and we are genuinely nervous that Ballast Point will not be creating new beers moving forward. Their current portfolio is fine, and while we would recommend the Grapefruit Sculpin, nothing is particularly noteworthy. As more and more regional breweries are bought out, this is an end result that may become the new normal. Give Ballast Point a try, but do not expect it to be the best beer you have ever had.

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Episode 16: Oktoberfestbier

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Marzen Beer Tasting Notes

Spaten Oktoberfest – Spaten Brewery; Munich, Germany

Nice amber color gives way to a smooth beer. A nice touch of hop bitterness on the backend balances the heavy malt bill. A very clean beer that is quite tasty.

Warsteiner Oktoberfest – Warsteiner Brewery; Warstein, Germany

Similar to the Spaten, but with a bit less flavor. Still a good beer, but not nearly as robust on the palate.

Brooklyn Lager – Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn, NY, USA

We were not big fans of this. It is slightly bitter, but really there is a spice we did not care for on the backend.

Vienna Lager – Devils Backbone Brewery (Subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch); Roseland, VA, USA

Sweet with almost no hop bitterness. A better representative of the style compared to the Brooklyn, but still not as good as the other beers we had for this episode.

Clawhammer Oktoberfest – Highland Brewing; Asheville, NC, USA

Nice, smooth, with a touch a caramel. This is a great version of an American Oktoberfest.

Great Lakes Oktoberfest – Great Lakes Brewing Company; Cleveland, OH, USA

Sweeter than the Clawhammer, with a nice caramel body and backend. One of Andrew’s favorites.

Final Thoughts on the Marzen Style

This style is highly variable once you get American brewers involved. Most of the beers are extremely smooth and delightful, but the style could also be boring as there is a lack of big bold flavors. Ultimately we enjoyed the tasting and recommend the style, if nothing else it makes a wonderful fall treat while watching football!

History of Marzen

Marzen AKA Oktoberfest, Vienna Lager, Amber Lager, is a very easy drinking beer with an amber color, middle to low alcohol, and little bitterness. It is considered one of the best beer for food pairings due to the lack of strong flavors. Marzenbier literally translates into March beer, and was originally a term for beers brewed in March to avoid wild yeast strains that were predominant in April-September. Created independently in Munich and Vienna by, Gabriel Sedlmayr – Munich, Spaten Brewery and Anton Dreher – Vienna, Klein-Schwechat Brewery. Both men traveled Europe in the 1830’s and in 1833 they arrived in Britain together and learned (some might say stole) the method to create pale malts. As lager brewers they did not care for the yeast or wort of British ale brewers, however the malting process Brits used for pale, bitter, and IPAs was unique and not common on the continent. Ultimately the malts they produced are still the standard malts for this beer type, Munich and Vienna malt. Both Beers were introduced in 1841, and called them “Marzen”. Sedlmayr introduced his beer at the 1841 Oktoberfest – German harvest festival, and started calling it Oktoberfestbier in 1872. It was not a huge local success as the Bavarian beer drinkers preferred Dunkel-lager. Dreher’s beer was a huge success overnight as it was the palest lager brewed to date. 1870’s the Schwechat brewery was the biggest in Continental Europe (Bass was the largest in the world) due to the popularity of the Vienna Lager. Modern Vienna Lagers are not as commonly brewed in Vienna, but instead North America. Brews such as Sam Adams Boston Lager and Dos Equis Amber are the current standard bearers for Vienna Lager.

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