Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA is truly one of my favorite IPAs. Dogfish Head makes three IPAs, the 60 Minute, 90 Minute and 120 Minute IPA. The minutes referring to the amount of time the wort is boiled with the grains, hops and other flavorings. Typically wort is boiled for 60 minutes. In the 90 minute hops are added multiple times throughout the boil and at other points after the boil and even once fermentation has begun. Surprisingly is not as brightly hoppy as some West Coast style IPAs like Green Flash West Coast IPA or Stone Ruination IPA. It does have 90 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), but the hop bite is masked with a slight malty sweetness. This is an incredibly smooth drinking IPA and goes fantastically with pizza. It does have a relatively high ABV of 9%, so consume wisely. I give it a 5 out of 5 proper pints.

Widmer Brothers SXNW

Lately I’ve been trying out beers flavored with pecans to see what that might be like. This one jumped out at me as being flavored not only with pecans but also cocoa nibs, cinnamon and green chiles. I wasn’t sure how the green chiles would fit in. As it turned out, I really didn’t taste the green chiles. This beer was brewed as an American Strong Ale as a base and the flavors added in. It poured a dark brown with a small off white head The chocolate from the cocoa nibs was pronounced. I’m guessing they also used a chocolate malt in the wort. The pecans were also noticeable and gave the beer a nice smooth flavor and a creamy texture. The cinnamon was also noticeable, but not overpowering. I would give this one 4 out of 5 proper pints.

Dogfish Head Immort Ale

I went with the family to the Dogfish Head Alehouse after a long day of hiking along the Potomac. There is nothing like pub food and beer after a long day of hiking. Anyway, I saw that they had Immort Ale on draft. That being an unusual find, I decided to get it. I’ve had it before, but it had been a long time. I thought it was a Barley Wine, but it is actually an English Strong Ale. Strong it is at 11%. As you can see they just serve it in 12 oz. snifters. It pours a nice dark brown with a small off white head. I thought it might be sweeter than it is. It was on sweet side, but not overly so. Of course being Dogfish Head, they add some different flavorings. This has vanilla, brown sugar and juniper berries. You can definitely detect the vanilla and somewhat the brown sugar. I sensed a different flavor, which must have been the juniper berries. I didn’t know what they taste like, but it was a nice addition. I definitely recommend this one if you see it. I rate it 4 out of 5 proper pints.

Genghis Pecan Pecan Pie Porter

I have recently been thinking about making a beer with pecans in it. It seems to me they would add a nutty, creamy flavor. Well, I took a trip out to Norm’s Beer and Wine in Vienna, VA. They always seem to have things you can’t find anywhere else. I walked around looking for things, not necessarily, pecan, but anything and they really did have a smorgasbord. I really could spend a lot of time in that store. It’s a good thing it’s a 25 minute drive away. Anyway, I came across Genghis Pecan along with another pecan flavored beer I will review soon and decided to try it. As you can see in the photo, it pours an opaque black with an off white head. It has medium carbonation. The body is creamy as I expected, and very smooth. The pecans were not distinguishable to me, though I did notice chocolate and roasted malt. At 7% ABV, this is not really a session beer, but it is smooth without being overly heavy. I give it a 4 out of 5 proper pints.

Harpoon Winter Warmer

A friend gave me this one to try. I had seen it before, but wasn’t sure. I’d tried their UFO Pumpkin a couple of months ago and wasn’t crazy about it. I didn’t have high hopes. However, I was pleasantly surprised. This beer was light-ish for a winter ale at 5.9% ABV. It poured a nice clear copper color with a medium white head. As soon as you open the bottle you can smell the spices. The initial aroma indicates nutmeg and clove, but the label says it is a mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg. Once I tasted it a couple of times, the cinnamon came forward, but I still tasted some clove. The spices were not overpowering, but were the most distinctive thing about the beer. It did remind a little of Southern Tier 2XMas and maybe a little of Great Lakes Christmas Ale. It was also very malty, but not syrupy and not overly sweet. It was nicely balanced, but the hops were not really distinguishable. I would have this one again. I would rate it 3 out of 5 proper pints.

Bell’s Amber Ale vs. Stone Levitation Ale

After reading some of Garrett Oliver’s book “The Brewmaster’s Table” I was inspired to try some Amber Ales, which I have not had in recent memory. According to Oliver they pair well with pasta with red sauce. Traditionally, I’ve enjoyed that meal with red wine, but Oliver says “no,” beer is better. I bought a few different samples of Amber Ale to go with the meal – Bell’s Amber, Stone Levitation Ale and Full Sail Amber. I didn’t get to all three, only the Bell’s and the Stone. I have to say this is a difficult choice. Bell’s and Stone are both powerhouse breweries. Neither of these beers are the ones that catch the headlines and get featured time on beer blogs. These are both every day craft beers. Nevertheless, they are both excellent choices. Stone clearly wins the “session” beer contest coming in at only 4.4% ABV. Stone does not sacrifice flavor, though, to have a low ABV. If you were watching a game and hanging out for a long night, this would be one to consider over the standard American pilseners. It was surprisingly bright and hoppy. It is rated at 45 IBUs. Not as high as a Stone IPA, but enough to notice a hop bite. It pours a copper to light brown color with a large white head that lingers. There is a distinct grassy/citrusy aroma from the hops. However, this is balanced against a caramelly malt aroma and flavor as well. I like this beer a lot and would rate it a solid 4 out of 5 proper pints. Bell’s was very nice. In fact, between the two, I would choose Bell’s over Stone even though I love Stone beers. Bell’s was also relatively “sessionable” at 5.6%. It was also a little less bitter at 30 IBUs. However, it also had the look and aroma of an IPA. The color was orange, like an IPA with a decent size white head that lingered. There was also a distinct grassy to citrusy hop aroma, but this one was considerably smoother than the Stone. It actually did pair nicely with the pasta and red sauce with Italian sausage. I would rate this one a 5 out of 5 proper pints.

Newcastle Winter IPA

A friend of mine from my vacation to Afghanistan brought me this beer today wondering what I thought about it. Well, I gave it a try and here is what I thought. I read a couple of reviews on other sites before I tried it to get a sense of what to expect. I knew going in it was not like an American IPA. It is British after all. OK, the start…it poured a clear light brown color (about a 13 on the SRM color scale). It had a small white head that dissipated quickly. It was lightly carbonated. Here is where it was interesting. It doesn’t smell like an IPA. You don’t get the blast of florals that you get from a West Coast IPA. There was a mild hop aroma, but the more dominant aroma was caramel with a little cinnamon. It also did not drink like a West Coast IPA. The flavor was also mild. It was on the malty side, with a light body. It also has a relatively light alcohol content at 5.2%. It was very drinkable. I could have several of these in a night. I really liked this beer, but it did not seem like a true IPA. I would give it 4 out of 5 proper pints. Only removing one because I think it might not be a true IPA.

Goose Island gives in to big beer

I like quite a few Goose Island beers. Most recently I’ve had the Christmas Ale and I’ve had the Sofie, the Pere Jacques and the Nut Brown Ale in the past. I’ve always been pleased with it, but I recently learned that Goose Island sold out to “big beer.” I’ve never tried their Urban Wheat before, but it is weird that it is named for the area code for Chicago and it will now be brewed in Upstate New York. http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/food/stew/chi-goose-island-312-goose-island-moves-production-of-312-to-new-york-20110729,0,6702143.story

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

Gold Medalist in the World Beer Cup in 2010, ratings of 100 and 98 on Ratebeer.com and Beeradvocate.com caused me to think I really should try this beer. I have to admit I’m not crazy about the name. A Sculpin is a kind of fish that has poisonous spikes that give a strong sting…kind of like the bite of hops in a hoppy IPA. That makes a certain amount of sense, but I’m not sure it makes me think beer. Anyway, to the beer. It poured a nice darkish golden color with a medium sized white head that dissipated fairly quick. The aroma was strongly floral, slightly piney, as I would expect. There was a certain amount of malt that fought back the hops from being totally overpowering. This gave the beer a nice balanced smoothness that is sometimes missing from the punishingly hopped west coast IPAs. The alcohol was still relatively mild for an IPA at 7%. I would rate this one 5 out of 5 proper pints. I would have this almost anytime. I happened to have it with a curry chicken and it complimented the spice nicely without either flavor overcoming the other.