The Beer Savant

July 1, 2012


Filed under: Ale,American — hikingsandiego @ 9:15 pm
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Date: June 16, 2012
Brewer: New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colorado
Alcohol content: 7.8%
Served: Cold in chilled glasses

With the exception of Fat Tire, I’ve been a devotee of New Belgium’s beers, so I was thrilled when I came across a bottle of Trippel at my local BevMo. The label states this ale is “brewed with coriander.” Sounded intriguing…but would it be as interesting as it appeared?

As I swallowed my first sip, the first thought that came to my mind was, “This is a beautiful beer!”  It’s a light yellow color with continuous trails of bubbles rising from the bottom. The taste is exotic; the loveliness of an ale accentuated with herbs. Nothing bitter here, no weird aftertaste, just sweet, smooth flavor. Oh, yes, I will buy this ale again! Another triumph for New Belgium!


November 4, 2011

Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale

Filed under: American,Pumpkin — hikingsandiego @ 7:55 pm
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Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin AleCost: $7.99/six-pack at Vons
Brewer:  Blue Moon/Coors Brewing Company, Golden, Colorado
Alcohol content:  5.7%
Served: Cold in chilled glasses

With trepidation, I tried my first pumpkin ale at a brew pub in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, in October 1994. The combination of pumpkin and beer sounded like the stuff nightmares are made of to me. But I was hooked on my first sip and have since developed a Pavlov’s dogs’ response to the words “pumpkin ale.” So when I heard a six-pack of Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale calling me from the beer cooler at Vons, I answered the siren song with relish.

The ale poured a deep copper with a slight frothy head. The aroma of spices and wheat swirled inside my nose, and I anticipated that first mouthful of pumpkin wonder with delight. But…no pumpkin. Now, I’m not saying this is a bad beer, because it isn’t. Blue Moon did a good job with the spices and wheat—they’re just right—but I couldn’t for the life of me taste the pumpkin.  This aspect of Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale was a disappointment; however, I did enjoy the beer itself. It was tasty and refreshing with just the right carbonation. I would recommend relabeling this ale as an Oktoberfest and keeping it as is. If it wants to be a true pumpkin ale, I’m going to have to taste more than allspice and nutmeg.

I would buy this beer again, but only when I’m in the mood for an Oktoberfest.

November 1, 2011

Yuengling Oktoberfest

Filed under: American,Oktoberfest — hikingsandiego @ 7:40 pm
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Yuengling OktoberfestDate: October 22, 2011
Cost: NA
Brewer:  D.G. Yuengling & Son, Pottsville, Pennsylvania
Alcohol content: NA
Served: By the glass at Brixx Pizza in Knoxville, TN

Yuengling had always been a treat for me when I’ve visited friends in New Jersey. Until recently, it was only distributed in a few states, mainly in the Northeast. So imagine my surprise to not only see Yuengling on the menu south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but to learn that America’s oldest brewery was now producing an Oktoberfest! Was Halloween around the corner, or Christmas?

It poured a deep orange with a slight cream head and minimal lacing. The aroma was sweet and biscuity. I tasted the underlying Yuengling lager with a hint of spice and caramel. Nice! Carbonation was appropriate.

I have to admit that I like my Oktoberfests with a bit more spice and a fuller body, but Yuengling’s was good and made a nice accompaniment with dinner. I could picture myself enjoying this beer again while sitting in front of a warm fire on a chilly, wet autumn evening. It’s not the best Oktoberfest on the market, but it’s a solid beer that’s worth trying and enjoying.

Here’s more on Yuengling’s Oktoberfest.

October 9, 2011

Tastes of Autumn

Filed under: Uncategorized — hikingsandiego @ 4:15 pm
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Autumn is my favorite season for many reasons, including the excellent seasonal beers offered by many breweries: Oktoberfests, autumn beers, and pumpkin ales. I’ll be reviewing many of these, I hope, in the coming weeks.

Speaking of pumpkin ales, the gold standard for my taste is Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale. However, I’ve sought a six-pack of this liquid nirvana at BevMo, Ralphs, Vons, and Cost Plus with no luck. Has anyone out there found this beer at a San Diego-area store? If so, please leave me a note in the comments.

October 7, 2011

Eye of the Hawk

Filed under: Ale,American,Strong — hikingsandiego @ 9:12 pm
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Eye of the HawkCost: $3.99/1 pt. 6 fl. Oz. bottle
Brewer:  Mendocino Brewing Company, Ukiah, California
Alcohol content: 8.0%
Served: Cold in chilled glasses

The first time I tried a Mendocino Brewing Company ale, it was pure happenstance; it was in easy grabbing distance from where I was standing in line. This time, I sought their label on purpose. My experience with Red Tail Ale was a delight. But was it a one-hit wonder for the folks in Mendocino? There was only one thing to do: pop the cap and find out.

Eye of the hawk is a strong ale that pours a reddish amber with a nice head and lacing. Before you sip, take a whiff and savor the aroma of ripe fruit. Nice! For a beer of its strength, it felt smooth in my mouth. Evident were rich malts, caramel, and a light biscuit flavor. The hops give it a slight bitter aftertaste, which so many beers overdue, leaving my mouth puckered like I’ve been swilling vinegar.  Eye of the Hawk got it right; you get the bite, but it disappears quickly. At 8.0% alcohol, this ale packs a punch, so don’t plan on driving for a while after imbibing. Sit back, relax, and enjoy where the hawk takes you!

September 16, 2011

Mirror Pond Pale Ale

Filed under: Ale,American — hikingsandiego @ 8:45 pm
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Mirror Pond Pale aleDate: September 3, 2011
Cost:  NA
Brewer:  Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Oregon
Alcohol content: 5.0%
Served: Cold in the bottle

I’m going to admit from the get-go that pale ales aren’t among my favorites, so take that into consideration as you read this review.  Maybe someday I’ll meet a pale that changes my mind, but Mirror Pond Pale Ale wasn’t that beer.

The beer is a light copper color with a rather ordinary fragrance. Some people rave about the hints of fruit or caramel…frankly, all I could taste were malt and yeast. I’m fine with a beer that tastes great and has a slight bitter aftertaste, but bitter was the overriding sensation with this beer, and the bitterness lingered on my palate and lips long after each swallow. If you’re a fan of bitter beers, this is the ale for you.

Deschutes has an interesting selection of brews, and I’m game for sampling the remainder of their line. But for me, Mirror Pond was a one-night stand.

August 27, 2011

Purple Haze

Purple HazeDate: August 25, 2011
Cost: NA
Brewer:  Abita Brewing Company, Abita Springs, Louisiana
Alcohol content: 4.2%
Served: Cold by the bottle at Bud’s Louisiana Cafe

There are two things that make my heart sing, and that’s Cajun food and fruit beers. The shrimp and crawfish pasta dish I ate at Bud’s made my heart belt out opera; the Purple Haze beer I had with my meal…not so much.

The beer pours a slightly cloudy dark yellow/orange with almost no head. I could smell the delicious raspberries right away. When I took a sip, I also could immediately taste the raspberries…but that was about all I could taste. No grain flavors, no hops, no yeast; if I hadn’t uncapped the bottle myself, I would have sworn I was drinking watered-down Kool-Aid. The texture was thin with little carbonation, and the aftertaste nonexistent. If Miller Lite and Hawaiian Punch had an offspring, it would taste like Purple Haze. I’m sorry to say that the best thing this beer has going for it is its name.

Abita brews a number of tempting-sounding beers, and I do plan to overlook this weak sister and try more of their products. If there’s an Abita brew that you recommend, leave me a comment about it.

August 13, 2011

Red Tail Ale

Filed under: Ale,Amber,American — hikingsandiego @ 9:06 pm
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Red Tail aleCost: $3.99/22 fl. Oz. bottle at Henry’s
Brewer:  Mendocino Brewing Company, Ukiah, California
Alcohol content: 6.1%
Served: Cold in chilled glasses

As fortune would have it, I was waiting in a long line near the beer cooler at Henry’s Market. Slipping out of line for a moment, I grabbed a bottle of Red Tail and slunk back to my spot. That night, we popped the top and gave it a try.

Red Tail pours a light red/orange with nice lacing and slight foam. The scent is enticing. It’s pleasantly malty and hoppy with just a hint of yeast and a dash of caramel. It tastes a little sweet at first but leaves just a slight bitter aftertaste when swallowed.  The carbonation is just right for an amber ale.

If you’re looking for a solid, tasty, no-frills beer with some zing, Red Tail is an excellent selection. I will definitely buy this beer again. If Red Tail is indicative of the beers created by Mendocino Brewing Company, then I’m anxious to try more of their product.

August 4, 2011

Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat

Filed under: Ale,American,Wheat,Witbier — hikingsandiego @ 9:31 pm
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Leinenkugel Sunset WheatDate: July 21, 2011
Cost: NA
Brewery: Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
Alcohol content: 4.8%
Served: Cold by the glass at the Spaghetti Factory in San Diego

It was a day of adventures. We spent the morning and afternoon at Comic-Con, where we took in a lifetime of weirdness in one day. It was grand! I listened to one of my favorite authors, Christopher Moore, speak on a panel. I learned how a steampunk proton pack works. And I watched as the entire cast of “The Big Bang Theory” walked across the sidewalk in front of me and entered their hotel. Whew! All that excitement works up an appetite and a thirst. We decided to take care of both at the Spaghetti Factory.

A day of adventures shouldn’t end with a mundane order such as spaghetti and red wine, so I ordered the crab ravioli and a Leinenkungel’s Sunset Wheat. Let me tell you, my choices were spot on.

Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat pours a hazy golden yellow, and indeed, it does look like a summer sunset. I could smell the rich fruity and floral fragrances before the glass touched my lips. And the taste followed through. The beer was served with a slice of orange, and I squeezed it into the glass, enhancing the already citrus taste of the beer. Orange, lemon, wheat, and a little spice made this an interesting and rich beer to savor. The carbonation was just right. I felt refreshed down to the soles of my very tired, sore feet.

July 15, 2011

Fat Tire

Filed under: Ale,Amber,American — hikingsandiego @ 8:39 pm
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Fat TireDate:  July 1, 2011
Cost: $2.99/22 fl. oz. at Vons
Brewery: New Belgium Brewery, Fort Collins, Colorado
Alcohol content: 5.2%
Served: Cold in a chilled glass

New Belgium’s winning streak has come to an end, and with their best-known beer, no less. Fat Tire poured a clear, amber color with decent foam on top. And there’s the key word…decent.

I was expecting a lot from Fat Tire:  Other beer enthusiasts give it rave reviews, and I thoroughly enjoy New Belgium’s Mothership Wit and Ranger IPA, but I found it only satisfactory, only…decent. There’s a slight malt flavor, a bubbly lightness, but that’s about all I can say for this beer. Drink it if it’s offered, but if you have other ambers to choose from, give something else a try.

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