Anchor Brewing Company can trace its history all the way back to the California gold rush of 1849, when German brewer Gottlieb Brekle arrived in San Francisco with his family. Brekle later bought an old beer and billiards saloon on Pacific Street near Russian Hill for $3,500, transforming it into the brewery that, in 1871, would be renamed Anchor.Today, Anchor is located at 1705 Mariposa Street in San Francisco, California.
On this occasion, Bucky sample Anchor's Liberty Ale, first introduced in 1975 and brewed according to traditional brewing methods using only natural ingredients - pale malted barley, whole-cone Cascade hops, a special top-fermenting yeast, and water. Liberty Ale was first brewed to celebrate the bicentennial of Paul Revere's historic ride, an episode during that war in which our misguided American cousins broke away from the loving embrace of the Empire. Bucky found Liberty Ale ("Liberty") on the shelves of his local LCBO in a brown, 355 ml bottle with a best before date of July 2014 printed on the rear label. Liberty was 5.9% alcohol by volume.
Liberty poured a slightly hazy yellow/gold colour, with plenty of fine, fast rising bubbles visible despite the haze. Pouring produced about 1/2" of white head which lasted for about 2 minutes, leaving some modest spotting and lacing down the glass. The beer's aroma was primarily of grapefruit, with some other unidentified tropical fruits present...a bit subdued but nice all the same. Its taste was again dominated by the grapefruit, but with an increasingly noticeable orange flavour as the beer warmed...much more enjoyable through the second half of the bottle with a better balance between the bitterness of the grapefruit and sweetness of the orange. Liberty had a dry, bitter finish and the bitter grapefruit lingered for several seconds as an aftertaste. The carbonation was perhaps a bit prickly in the back of the throat to begin with, but mellowed as the beer warmed. I would describe Liberty as light bodied, and at $2.00 per 355 ml is quite reasonably priced. A refreshing beer that I would go to again, but next time I'll let is sit for 10-15 minutes after I take it out of the fridge.
Andersen Valley Brewing Company
Stocking up on stouts and porters to make it through another cold Canadian winter, Bucky selected a bottle of Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout (“BFOS”), produced by Andersen Valley Brewing Company of Boonville, California. BFOS came in a 650 ml brown bottle and was 5.8% alcohol by volume. The brewer's description sounds promising enough: “the deep ebony color, voluptuous mahogany head and bold, roasty flavors in our Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout are what serious beer drinkers expect from this style. Aromas of freshly baked bread, espresso, and dried cherries meld seamlessly with rich toffee flavors and a creamy mouth feel to create an unparalleled drinking experience.” Let's see if BFOS can deliver on its promises…
The beer poured an opaque deep brown/black colour with a huge beige head that left plenty of lacing down the glass…certainly a beautiful looking beer. The nose was of dark roasted coffee and semi-sweet chocolate, both of which followed through into the taste. I'm not getting the other notes described by the brewer though; specifically the rich toffee flavours. The mouth feel was creamy, smooth and thin at the same time, and the beer had the mild carbonation typical of a stout. All in all, I was expecting much more from this beer given its solid reputation. A bit tame when it came to the taste, but full marks for its visuals. Maybe Bucky shouldn't have had this beer with memories of Midtfyns Bryghus flavourful Imperial Stout still in his head from the night before? Selling for a pricey $8.00 per bottle at the time of writing. Not a bad beer by any stretch of the imagination, but there are better stouts out there for your hard earned beer money.
Thanks to a couple of Bucky's roaming minions, he was able to sample a 16 fl. oz. can of Two Hearted Ale (“THA”) from Bell's Brewery Inc. of Comstock, MI. THA was 7.0% alcohol by volume.
THA poured a slightly hazy amber/orange colour topped by 2” of orange-tinged off-white head. The head gradually faded to a central blob of foam, leaving some sporadic lacing down the glass. Its aroma was a mix of grapefruit, lemon, orange and, caramel. The taste was a good balance between the sweetness of the caramel malts, and the combination of sweet tropic fruits (papaya, orange) and bitter citrus flavours from the hops (lemon, grapefruit). THA had a mildly bitter finish and a short-lived aftertaste that did not overstay its welcome. The beer had a soft carbonation, fell on the light side of light/medium bodied and had a creamy mouthfeel. Good work minions! A refreshing beer that I would certainly quaff again.
Rating: 8.30 / 10
In the mood for a seasonal Thanksgiving beer, Bucky picked up a bottle of Post Road Pumpkin Ale ("PRPA") from his local LCBO. PRPA is produced by Brooklyn Brewery, and came in a brown, 355 ml bottle. The beer was 5.0% alcohol by volume.
Brooklyn Brewery was officially opened on May 28, 1996 when Mayor Rudy Giuliani cut the ribbon and poured the first official glasses of a Bavarian style wheat beer known as Brooklyner Weisse. The brewery went on to develop several new beers, including Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Brooklyn East India Pale Ale, Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55 and a list of seasonal and special beers. Brooklyn Brewery has grown over the years to the point where its beers can be enjoyed in 25 U.S. states and 20 countries.
PRPA poured a translucent orange/brown colour, taking on more of an amber hue when backlit. A steady stream of small, fast rising bubbles was visible, and pouring produced about 1" of off-white head, which settled down after four minutes to a thin, foamy cap that left some modest lacing down the glass. Its aroma was of pumpkin pie spices and hops, with the pumpkin spices being a little understated for me. The beer's flavour was of sweet malts with a hint of brown sugar up front, transitioning to the pumpkin pie spices, and finishing with a mild hop bitterness that lingered for a few seconds after swallowing the beer. Again, I found the pie spices to be too subtle for my taste. PRPA had a medium carbonation that suited it well, and I would describe it as light to medium bodied. Overall, this is a decent pumpkin beer, but simply not in the same class as say, Southern Tier's Pumking Ale. PRPA sells for $2.45 per 355 ml bottle, and is reasonably priced.The beer is available from August through November.
While traveling in the Charlotte area, Bucky happened upon an Ommegang (Cooperstown, NY) “Three Philosophers” Quadruple Ale. Viewing the tag rating and the impressive bottle, it was hard to pass this one by.
On the bottle, it mentions that it is comprised of 98% Ale and 2% Ale with Cherries added. Adding a “Unique Belgian style blend of Ommegang Quadruple ale and Liefmans Kriek.” 9.7% Alcohol. Interesting combination.
Since this was my first Ommegang beer, I was excited to give it a try. The beer came in a corked, 750ML, dark brown bottle, with nice features as well as impressive labeling. Their label mentioned that Ommegang is based in Cooperstown, NY. I tried to visit their website for more information but only the home page worked. A little disappointing.
In any event, the beer uncorked with a loud pop. A slightly vigorous pour (recommended on the bottle to release aromas) provided a nice head of foam. The beer poured a beautiful amber color with brownish red tinges throughout the body and topped with a decent sized, foamy beige head. Sadly, it did not hold all that well, turning to a thin layer on the surface in less than a minute.
The beer tasted sweet with a fruity aroma that was dominated by cherries, spice notes and hints of darker, ripe fruits (possibly dates and figs). There was a general sweetness to the beer and the high alcohol content was not apparent. As the beer warmed, one could pick up the lambic style cherries, spice, malts plus a touch of yeast. The alcohol came through a little stronger as it warmed, but was not overpowering.
The beer was light and had a slightly creamy mouth feel. The finish was not overly dry, and carbonation was moderate. A very easy beer to drink, but I suspect would be better paired with cheese or other foods.
Overall, it starts off well and becomes more aromatic as it settles. Three Philosophers was smooth, well balanced and flavourful. The $9.99 price tag seemed a little steep for the brew, so there might be better choices for the money.
Deschutes Brewery & Public House
Deschutes Brewery & Public House was established by Gary Fish as a small brew pub in 1988 in Bend, Oregon. Selling 310 barrels of beer in its first year, by 1992, sales were up to 3,954 barrels. With demand for its products increasing, the brewery expanded to a 16,000-square-foot production facility in 1993 with the ability to brew in 50-barrel batches. A Deschutes brew pub opened in the Pearl District of Portland, Oregon in May 2008. In 2012, the brewery expanded its facility by 6,750 square feet, allowing an additional 105,000 barrels to be brewed per annum.
Bucky sampled Deschutes first and flagship brand, Black Butte Porter ("BBP"). BBP came in a brown, 650 ml bottle with a best before date of Feb. 11, 2014 printed on the label. The beer was 5.2% alcohol by volume. BBP poured a very dark brown, bordering on black, with about 1" of creamy tan coloured head that lasted for quite some time before settling down to a 1/4" cap which left some attractive lacing down the glass. Its aroma was much stronger in the bottle than in the glass, with coffee, dark chocolate, dark cherries and a touch of hops detectable. The flavour was a little weak up front but much bolder thereafter, with dark roast coffee dominating notes of dark cocoa and sweet milk chocolate, with a slightly bitter black coffee finish that lingered as an aftertaste. Its mouthfeel was surprisingly light for a porter, especially considering the creamy cap on top of the beer, and BBP had a moderate level of carbonation. I would describe BBP as light bodied for a porter, and though this is certainly an enjoyable beer the word "light" kept popping into my head throughout the drinking experience. Black Butte was selling for $5.20 per 650 ml bottle at the date of this review.
Goose Island Beer Company
Bucky never would have tried this beer if it hadn't been reduced to $8.00 a bottle from the original $10.00 at the LCBO. LCBO seems to have a talent for over-pricing imported beers and then having to reduce the price to clear inventory. How about just charging us a reasonable price to begin with? But I digress. Sofie came in a 756 ml brown bottle from the Goose Island Beer Company of Chicago, Illinois. ‘Bottled on' date of March 19,2015, and 6.5% alcohol by volume.
Sofie poured a cloudy straw yellow colour with plenty of small champagne-like bubbles visible through the haze. Pouring produced about 1” of fluffy white head that faded after a few minutes to a thin collar and film, leaving a decent amount of lacing down the glass. Its aroma was a pleasant mixture of lemon zest, banana, yeast and white pepper. The taste was even better…lemon zest, yeast, banana, just the right amount of white pepper, and vanilla with a very mild sourness and bitterness in the finish. My complaint about Saisons in the past has been that the spiciness tends to obscure or overpower the other flavours, but that's not the case here. All the best flavours of a good wheat beer are here and seem to be enhanced, plus a couple more. Sofie is light bodied with a crisp mouthfeel and a fairly soft, but well-suited carbonation. Glad I took a flier on this one. Worth $8.00 per bottle, but not $10.00.
Hoppin' Frog Island Brewing Company
Thanks to T.S. and C.H. for a bottle of Barrel Aged Oatmeal Russian Imperial Stout (“BORIS”) from Hoppin' Frog Brewing Company of Akron, OH. BORIS came in a 6 fl. oz. brown bottle with no visible production or ‘best before' date, and was 9.4% alcohol by volume.
BORIS poured as black as night with a viscosity that reminded me of 10W30 motor oil, and lightened up very little even when backlit by a strong light. An aggressive pour was required to raise a thin crema coloured head that quickly fizzed itself out of existence, with the remaining thin collar leaving some modest, intermittent lacing down the glass. Its aroma was dominated by bourbon, oak and vanilla…pretty appetizing stuff. The flavour surpassed the potential of the aroma with a sweet bourbon, vanilla and oak up front, followed by dark chocolate, and finishing with a distinct dark roast coffee bitterness which lingered for a few seconds as an aftertaste. The barrel flavours dominate the front end but aren't so strong as to overpower everything else. BORIS was full bodied with a soft carbonation and smooth mouth feel. The below-average head and retention cost this beer a few points, but if you come across a bottle in your travels through the U.S. of A, pick it up.
Rating: 9.05 / 10
Ipswitch Ale Brewery
From the US of A through Bucky's roaming minions, came a 12 fl. oz. bottle of Ipswich Oatmeal Stout (“IOS”), produced by the Ipswich Ale Brewery of Ipswich, MA. ‘Bottled On' date of October 7, 2015 printed on the neck of the bottle, no visible ABV% which is a first! The internet to the rescue though…I see that it's 7.0% ABV on the brewery's website.
IOS poured a very dark brown colour verging on black, with dark cola edges when backlit. Pouring produced about ½” of tan coloured head which left some intermittent lacing and spotting down the glass. Its aroma was mainly dark-roast coffee, with herbal hops and a hint of black licorice. The taste was dark-roast coffee up front, dark chocolate, and a mild black licorice with a lingering herbal hop bitterness in the finish. IOS had a soft carbonation, was on the medium side of medium/full bodied and had a smooth mouthfeel. A solid and enjoyable brew, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how this beer rates in the 90s on most sites. It's good, but it's not brilliant.
Rating: 8.00 / 10
Left Hand Brewing
From the Left Hand Brewing Company of Longmont, Colorado comes their Milk Stout, 6.0% alcohol by volume in a 12 fl. oz. bottle with a best before date of July 12, 2015. Purchased from a Florida wine and beer store about twice the size of the largest LCBO you've ever seen.
An aggressive pour was needed to raise 1 cm of tan coloured head which faded quickly to a collar and partial film, leaving a decent amount of lacing down the glass. The beer poured a very dark cola brown with plenty of static carbonation bubbles stuck to the side of the glass. Its aroma was a mixture of caramel, coffee and dark chocolate…pleasant enough. Milk Stout's taste began with a mild caramel and lactose sweetness up front, followed by dark roast coffee with a modest bitterness in the finish. The dark roast coffee/bitterness lingers on the palate for a few seconds as an aftertaste. We note that the beer does become a bit sweeter and creamier as it warms. Milk Stout has the soft carbonation typical of the style, but is a bit thin bodied for a milk stout, or a stout of any description for that matter. Overall, a respectable brew and worth a try.
Rating: 7.90 / 10
Another purchase from a huge liquor store in Orlando, FL, Milk Stout Nitro (“Nitro”) came in a 12 fl. oz. bottle with a ‘best before' date of July 4, 2015. Alcohol content was 6.0%.
As recommended, pouring hard out of the bottle, Nitro produced a beautiful Guinness-like cascade building 1” of tan coloured head, initially bubbly, but transitioning to dense after the cascade settles. The beer retained a 1 cm. cap all the way down the glass leaving some respectable lacing in its wake. The beer itself was an opaque cola brown with plenty of carbonation bubbles visible on the inside of the glass. Due to the ever-present cap of foam, the aroma was fairly muted, but dark-roast coffee and vanilla were detectable. Nitro's taste did not disappoint; vanilla, sweet lactose and dark-roast coffee with a mild hop and roast bitterness to the finish. If this beer has a weakness, it would be the contrast between its creamy head and the relatively thin body of the beer itself. Nitro had the mild carbonation characteristic of a stout. Worth a try, though you may have to sample it in the U.S. due to lack of availability in Ontario.
Rating: 7.99 / 10
Lost Coast Brewery
The Lost Coast Brewery and Café was conceived in 1986 when Barbara Groom, a pharmacist, and Wendy Pound, a family counsellor, wondered what it would take to start their own brewpub. After years of experimental home brewing, planning and studying, Barbara and Wendy were ready to begin. With the 1989 purchase of the Pythian Castle, a 100-year-old building in Eureka, California, the café was ready to open. The building, a restored wood frame structure built in 1892, was purchased from its original owners, The Fraternal Order of the Knights of Pythias. After some extensive remodelling, the Lost Coast Brewery and Café began operation in July of 1990. The brewery outgrew its original home in the Pythian Castle and moved production to a larger site down the street. After a record breaking year in 2005, producing over 24,000 barrels, Lost Coast Brewery had expectations of breaking the 30,000-barrel mark. In 2009, it broke that record producing over 50,000 barrels, making Lost Coast Brewery the 33rd largest in the United States. Lost Coast distributes its ales in 22 states, Puerto Rico, and three Canadian Provinces.
With the Canadian winter coming on, Bucky decided to stock up on stouts, including a 650 ml bottle of Lost Coast's 8 Ball Stout ("8 Ball"). Oddly, there was no production or best before date on the bottle. 8 Ball was 5.8% alcohol by volume.
8 Ball poured a very deep brown colour verging on black, with about 1/2" of creamy tan coloured head produced. The head faded to a thin cap of foam after 3 minutes, and left considerable spotting and some modest lacing all down the glass. Its aroma was of dark coffee, dark European chocolate and earthy/herbal hops. 8 Ball's taste very much followed the aroma, with the addition of a certain sweetness which gave way to a mildly bitter dark coffee finish and aftertaste. As the beer warmed there was a bit of booze in the finish...which was surprising given its 5.8% alcohol content, but by no means unpleasant. The only weakness of this beer was its slightly thin mouthfeel, which contrasted noticeable with the creaminess of the head. Carbonation level was moderate, fully in keeping with the style. Overall this is a solid, flavourful stout and not overly hoppy in the finish...well worth a try. Currently selling for $4.80 per 650 ml bottle.
New Holland Brewery
While perusing a local grocery store in Charlotte, NC, Bucky could not help but notice a New Holland Dragon's Milk Stout stuffed behind a rack of smoked almonds. Harris Teeter (Grocer) should train their stockers to be a little more forgiving to the more relevant and desirable products for the masses. Feeling the need to rescue said brew, it quickly made its way into Bucky's shopping basket along with a couple of sirloin steaks. Bucky is not a vegetarian, but understands the importance of pairing fine brews.
The dark brown bottle came nicely labeled, calling out New Holland Brewery in Holland, Michigan. Continuing, the label described the beer as “ A barrel-aged Imperial Stout with roasty malt character intermingled with deep vanilla tones, all dancing in an oak bath.” The label came with a date “vintage 2014”, 11% alcohol by volume (ABV). Bucky was excited to give it a try.
Dragon's Milk poured a dark brown with ruby hints. A vigorous pour created a two fingered, light brown foam head that lasted several minutes and then settled to about 1mm thick. The beer had little carbonation which made it easy to sip while the foam head retained enough to leave a nice lacing pattern. Its aromas of roasted malt, vanilla and oak were readily apparent. The beer's taste was of roasted malts, chocolate, bourbon and vanilla with the bourbon a little more apparent. The body was light to medium and the mouthfeel was surprisingly dry. T he beer finishes with a bit of heat, probably from the 11% ABV.
Bucky visited New Holland Brewery's website and was quite impressed with the organization. They not only brew beers, but other liquors as well (Whiskeys, Gins, Rums, etc.). I'm personally not a fan of the hard liquors, but found their span of expertise interesting. I would bet they are able to use their expertise to develop new and unusual flavours, especially with the barrel mixed usage. From the website, it looks like they have a nice restaurant business to complement their beverages. Since Bucky will be in the area for a while, he will be picking up some of their other choices and looks forward to trying their other brews.
Overall, a decent value at $7.99 U.S. for 22 ozs.
From his winged minions, Bucky gratefully received a 16 fl. oz. can of Hop Drop ‘N Roll India Pale Ale (“HDNR”) brewed by N.o.D.a Brewing Company of Charlotte, North Carolina. 7.2% alcohol by volume with a production date of December 16, 2014 printed on the bottom of the can.
HDNR poured a murky golden orange colour with about ½” of short-lived fine white head which left a surprising amount of lacing down the glass considering its size. Its aroma was dominated by grapefruit, but with notes of lemon and sweet light malts in the background. Bitter grapefruit again led the way when it came to the taste, but was nicely balanced by a sweet malt backbone, sweet lemon citrus and juicy tropical fruits. The bitter grapefruit was strong enough to make a comeback in the finish, however, and lingered as an aftertaste. HDNR was relatively light bodied, and would benefit from a bit more carbonation than its subdued level. Overall I'd have to call this one a winner and look forward to possibly trying some of N.o.D.a's other brews.
Olde Hickory Brewing
Thanks to T.S. and C.H., Bucky was able to sample a 22 fl. oz. bottle of Lindley Park Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout (“LPIS”) from Olde Hickory Brewing of Hickory, NC. 10.0% alcohol by volume with a bottling date of October 13, 2015 printed on the label.
LPIS poured a completely opaque very dark brown/black colour with a viscosity approaching that of motor oil. Its aroma was dominated by a boozy bourbon with undertones of dark-roast coffee, vanilla and the occasional whiff of sweet honey. Not really picking up any of the added raspberries, but when a beer smells this tempting, that's not a big issue. An aggressive pour was required to raise ½” of short-lived crema coloured head, which left behind a thin ring of foam and some minor spotting as the beer retreated down the glass. The barrel flavours are the first to appear; boozy bourbon and vanilla; followed by dark roast coffee, a mild dark coffee bitterness, and occasionally…a delayed impact honey sweetness. LPIS is full bodied with a very subdued carbonation and smooth mouthfeel. If you're lucky enough to find a bottle of this barrel-aged brew, give it a try.
Rating: 8.75 / 10
Pluto's Moon Beer Company
One of Bucky's roving minions snagged him a 473 ml can of Star Trek themed Vulcan Ale which was 5.4% alcohol by volume. Though the label says that the beer is brewed by Pluto's Moon Beer Co. of Calgary Alberta, apparently it was created by Harvest Moon Brewing of Montana to celebrate the centennial of Vulcan, Alberta. This likely explains the otherwise confusing “Product of USA” printed on the can. Love the graphics on this one…but let's see if this gimmick beer has any substance.
Vulcan Ale poured a dark red/brown colour with plenty of slow rising carbonation bubbles, taking on a beautiful ruby tint when backlit. Pouring produced about 1.5” of yellow-tinged off-white head which lasted for about 3 minutes before retreating to a thin collar and film of foam, leaving some moderate lacing down the glass. Its aroma was a combination of caramel sweetness, earthy notes, and a distinct hop presence. The beer's flavour began with an earthy, caramelized malt sweetness with perhaps a touch of molasses, followed quickly by a mild hop bitterness which lingered as an aftertaste. It was light-medium bodied with a modest carbonation level, yet for some reason left me feeling thirsty. Quite respectable overall and a Star Trek theme certainly can't hurt sales, but not something that I would actively seek out.
From Newport, Oregon via the LCBO came a 650 ml bottle of Dead Guy Ale brewed by Rogue Ales. Production date of May 9, 2015 and 6.5% alcohol by volume. Love the “Day of the Dead” motif on the label!
Dead Guy poured a slightly hazy copper/amber colour with plenty of visible carbonation bubbles. Pouring produced about ¼” of orange-tinged, light tan head that faded away in a couple of minutes, leaving some modest spotting and intermittent lacing down the glass as the beer level dropped. Its aroma was an all-malt affair with notes of caramel, plus that wonderful smell of malt that you get while walking past a brewery with a batch in-process. The taste was all malts up front, sweet caramel and once again that sweet in-process malt that reminds me of the taste of Maltesers. There are obviously a few different malts at play here, and their sweetness is balanced in the finish by a mild hop bitterness. Medium bodied with a crisp mouthfeel imparted by the active carbonation. Overall, a solid brew for malt lovers.
Rating: 7.74 / 10
Being the flagship brand of the Boston Brewing Company of Massachusetts, Bucky couldn't resist adding a can of Samuel Adams Boston Lager to his basket full o' beer. This was one of the beers that kicked off the American craft beer movement in 1984, and Bucky found it in a 473 ml can with a ‘best before' date of September 2014 printed on the bottom.
An attractive, relatively clear orange/amber coloured brew, Boston Lager poured with about 2” of rocky, off-white head with excellent retention. The ever-present head left some beautiful lacing all down the glass. Full marks on the visuals! From the can its aroma was all hops…yet curiously from the glass it was wonderfully malty, that smell you get from walking by a brewery while the beer is in process. Its taste began with a rich maltiness, and finished with a distinct, but not overpowering hop bitterness. A simple beer, but tasty. Boston Lager was medium to full bodied, with a level of carbonation well suited to the brew and a creamy mouth feel from the never-say-die head. A pleasant surprise and selling for $2.75 per 473 ml can.
Smuttnose Tier Brewing Company
A 650 ml bottle of Imperial Stout purchased from Bucky's local liquor store, with a best before date of Oct 28 2015 printed on the bottle, 10.0% alcohol by volume. Imported from the Smuttynose Brewing Company of New Hampshire in the U.S.A.
Pours a deep chestnut brown bordering on black, with about 1” of frothy, crema-coloured head. The head slowly fades to a thin cap and collar which leaves some respectable, sticky lacing down the glass. Certainly a good looking beer. Its aroma is dominated by black licorice, with notes of herbal hops, dark chocolate, dark-roasted coffee and booze in the background. The flavor is quite rich, beginning with a brief flash of molasses sweetness followed by a strong black licorice, with notes of cocoa, dark-roast coffee, and a distinctly bitter finish. A dark-roasted coffee/herbal bitterness/black licorice aftertaste seriously overstays its welcome. At least the 10.0% alcohol is not detectable. The beer is full-bodied, with its modest carbonation level contributing to a smooth, creamy mouthfeel.
Not a badly brewed beer, but I'm just not fond of black licorice and aftertastes that never clear, and as a result I struggled to finish this one. Quite pricey at $9.00 per 650 ml bottle, which is almost twice the price at which it sells in the U.S.
Southern Tier Brewing Company
Looking for a good Thanksgiving beer, Bucky was pointed in the direction of Southern Tier Brewing Company's Imperial Pumking ("Pumking") by a fellow craft beer enthusiast. In operation since late 2002, Southern Tier Brewing of Lakewood, New York, has grown to produce around 50,000 barrels of beer annually. Its hand crafted ales are now available in more than half of the United States, as well as parts of Australia, Denmark, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Ontario, British Columbia, and the United Kingdom.
Founders Phineas DeMink and Allen Yahn started the brewery with equipment purchased from the Old Saddleback Brewing Co. in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Southern Tier began production in the Stoneman Business Park just outside of Lakewood, New York, and by 2003, select varieties of small batch ales were distributed locally. By 2005, sales covered the majority of New York State and Pennsylvania, and in 2009 a new 20,000 square foot facility was built for the purpose of brewing innovative, high-quality beer to accommodate an expanding customer base. Throughout 2010, it became clear that more beer needed to be produced, and 800 barrels of fermentation vessels were added to the production area and a 7,500 square foot addition was added for use as a conditioning room. The constantly running brew house was also expanded and updated.
Bucky purchased Pumking from his local LCBO in a brown, 650 ml bottle with a bottling date of July 11, 2012. Pumking has been brewed since 2007, and is 8.6% alcohol by volume. Pumking poured a hazy dark orange colour, with the orange becoming much brighter when backlit. A fairly aggressive pour produced about 1" of fizzy white head, which burned itself out within 3 minutes, leaving no spotting or lacing. The beer's aroma was wonderful; pumpkin pie spices and graham cracker pie crust...I swear! Its taste was sweet and dominated by the graham cracker pie crust, with distinct pumpkin pie spice flavours and maybe just a hint of vanilla. No bitterness here at all. Pumking was characterized by a medium level of carbonation, just right for its type, and a smooth mouth feel. It is light to medium bodied, but actually feels a bit heavier than it is due to the rich flavours. At $8.95 per 650 ml bottle the price tag is fairly steep, but a few bottles as a seasonal indulgence won't break the bank. Overall, I can't wait until next fall for the new seasonal batch!
Bucky has wanted to try this beer for a couple of years, and finally found some in an Orlando liquor store with a huge selection of craft and imported beers. 9.5% alcohol by volume, Crème Brulee came in a 650 ml bottle with no ‘best before' or production date. The lack of a date on the bottle is a concern in light of past experience, but Bucky decided to take a chance.
Crème Brulee poured a very dark, opaque brown with about 1” of bubbly tan coloured head with good staying power. The slowly retreating head left no lacing but some spotting down the glass. Its aroma was exactly as advertised; a strong vanilla with distinct notes of custard cream. The taste was rich and instantly sweet with vanilla and custard cream followed by a bit of booziness in the middle, finishing with a mild bitterness that keeps the sweetness in some sort of check. The mild bitterness in the finish lingers on the palate. The beer's mouthfeel is creamy and I would describe it as medium-to-full bodied, with a soft carbonation. What we have here is essentially dessert in a bottle. My only complaint would be the absence of the burnt caramel flavour characteristic of the actual dessert..if present, it would have boosted this beer from the ranks of the ‘good' into the elite company of the extraordinary.
Rating: 8.05 / 10
On the strength of Southern Tier's Pumking seasonal which Bucky really enjoyed, he decided to pick up a bottle of their Imperial Choklat Stout ("ICS") at his local LCBO. ICS came in a brown, 650 ml bottle with a bottling date of September 5, 2012. It was a hefty 10.0% alcohol by volume.
Would ICS be able to live up to the glory that is Pumking? Early signs were not encouraging...after opening the bottle the first detectable aroma was metallic. ICS poured an opaque black with 2" of crema coloured head which lasted for over 5 minutes before receding to a 1/8" cap, leaving sheets of tan coloured lacing down the glass. This is certainly a beautiful looking beer! The aroma was dominated by a wonderful dark chocolate...but there's that intermittent metallic smell again. The taste started off with a sweet milk chocolate, giving way to dark chocolate with hints of coffee...wonderful so far. Sadly, the taste experience ended with a very bitter, long lasting aftertaste that kicks in after swallowing the beer. The mouth feel is very creamy, with the subdued carbonation typical of a stout, and I would describe the beer as full bodied. The 10% alcohol is well hidden, with little trace in either the aroma or the taste. If they could lose the metallic aroma that comes and goes, and seriously dampen down the bitterness in the finish, Southern Tier would have a winner here. At $9.85 per 650 ml bottle though, ICS was an expensive disappointment and I won't be buying any more of this beer. I will still be looking to fill up with fridge with Southern Tier's Pumking come October, though.
Triple C Brewing Company
Thanks to his roaming minions, Bucky was able to sample a bottle of 3C Indian Pale Ale (“3C”) from the Triple C Brewing Company of Charlotte, NC. No visible production or ‘best before' date on the 1 pint bottle, 3C was 6.2% alcohol by volume.
3C poured a hazy apricot/orange colour with about 1.5” of off-white head with considerable staying power. As the head receded, it left sheets of attractive lacing down the glass. Its aroma was a big grapefruit punch in the face with notes of pine and sweeter tropical fruits. The taste began with a distinct grapefruit bitterness, moving on to pine, with notes of sweet orange citrus. The bitterness lingered as an aftertaste but was not ‘over the top' as it was mellowed somewhat by the more subtle notes of sweeter tropical fruits. Not much of a malt presence in the taste…hops are front and centre. Light-to-medium bodied with a fairly active carbonation that gives it a crisp mouthfeel, this is a solid brew that I would drink again. Good work Triple C.