12oz brown bottle purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a clear deep golden colour, maybe with a tinge of orange in the deeper regions of the glass. Head is fine, minimal and white, leaving good tight specks of lace. Body is lightweight, but the carbonation is fine. Looks pretty decent all up.
Nose is surprisingly good. There's a very nice firm sweetness permeating this, which allows the well-balanced spices to express themselves without seeming too intense. The mixture is pleasant as well, balanced between hot, spicy clove and more delicate earthy tones of cinnamon and nutmeg. There is a slight lagery tone that comes through as it warms, but if you keep it relatively cold, it's actually rather good.
Taste is also pretty solid. Here, the flavour is clove-heavy, but again there's enough mild cushioning from the malt to stop it getting too sharp or spicy. The back is pretty thin, which is often the Achilles Heel of a pumpkin beer, but the malt does linger enough to keep the flavours persisting at least.
Feel is light—it is the weakest part of the beer, but also probably helps if (god help you) you want to drink many in one sitting.
Overall, this is actually a reasonably solid pumpkin beer. It's a style that's often done in a very perfunctory manner, but here at least there seems to have been some thought into its structure and balance. That's a pretty positive thing.
60 / 100
750ml caged and corked (and oddly tapered bottle), shared with Rich and Sam.
Uncorks with a sucking thunk, and pours a pleasantly clear but deep, dark golden colour, with a massive head fed by lots of carbonation. Body is pretty heavy, but fluid, and the carbonation, while slightly static when tilted, it pretty coarse. Some streaking lace. Looks okay.
Nose is odd. Some estery notes, but a rather pronounced wort character as well, and a suggestion of solvent.Yeast notes are rather muted overall, and the sweetness is higher than I expected. There's also a hint of wood, which actually doesn't work all that well with the other things going on. Okay, but not great.
Taste is a little better: here the extra sweetness at least gives a bit of body to hide the booziness. Mild chewing gum flavours on the mid palate with a suggestion of bright hops or spices—perhaps a touch of feijoa. Finish is mild: the spicy note of booze never gets to be too much. In the end, it's pretty tasty, although not as complex or impressive as all the fanfare and packaging makes it out to be.
Feel is pretty good: slick but light, while supporting the booziness so it doesn't get too intense.
Overall, this is fairly solid stuff. I've had Tripels that are almost undrinkable because of the solvent booze, and this is certainly better crafted than they are. This is smooth for the most part, and relatively drinkable. Not something I'd particular go out of my way to try again, but certainly something worth trying once.
77 / 100
12oz bottle purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a dull, slightly translucent but rather oily brown colour, with a minimal flat futz of beige foam that becomes a static ring. Body looks quite thick, but the beer itself looks dead and lifeless. It's not overly impressive.
Nose is pleasant, though. Mild chocolate and toasty grain, with some boozy undertones which give vanilla and banana aromas. There's some deep caramel and toffee as well, providing a pleasant sweetness to provide body and structure. It's nice stuff.
Taste is similarly smooth and structured. Solid, pleasant dark malt sweetness, spiked with vanilla and aniseed. Some spicy booze comes out on the back, giving more of a prickly feel than anything else. Finish is surprisingly light, evaporating almost towards the end, with just a lingering roast character.
Feel is smooth but light and supple. It's very good.
Overall, this is a nice beer. A very nice beer, in fact. It's not an imperial stout that redefines the genre, but it's well made and well-structured. I like it.
72 / 100
22oz bottle purchased from BevMo in Menlo Park, CA.
Pours a lovely clear deep amber-gold colour, with a full, fine and persistent head of creamy-white. Lacing is steady, thick and rich. Body has some weight behind it, very pleasantly, with some large-bubbled carbonation. It looks very good indeed, what a good DIPA should look like.
Nose is a little weak: soft, leafy hop characters cradling a structured malt presence, reasonably well put together, but not particularly strong or aromatic. There's some baked bread aromas, some lemon and rosewater from the hops and a faintly sharper herbal or peppery note. It's all quite pleasant, and reasonably well balanced, but it's just not that exciting.
Taste is similar. Very nicely balanced malt and hop characters are nonetheless muted, leaving a ghostly impression of bitterness and richness without actually creating much in the way of true full flavours. Light, biscuity tones, oily bitterness that fades quickly, some leafy, slightly herbal vapours on the finish. Feel is smooth and light: pleasant.
Look, this is a nice beer, and maybe I'm just an idiot for wanting a Double IPA to punch me in the face from start to finish—but I do believe that's what a DIPA should do. This is well-structured, pleasant and easy drinking, but compared to the most flavoursome examples, this feels a little banal.
86 / 100
I was very fortunate to have my brewing lecturer share a bottle of this and the Sam Adams Triple Bock recently on our residential week. This bottle was the 2009 edition, which weighs in at 27% ABV.
Pours a rather light reddish brown colour, thick, spiritous and volatile in the glass. The head is, unsurprisingly, nowhere to be seen, leaving the beer looking rather dormant or dead. Huge legs from the thickness in the body, however, leaving sticky syrup trails when the beer is swirled. Colour changes to a slightly translucent yellow at the edges when tilted. It looks very exciting.
The aroma is all based around the booze, which, again, is not surprising. Big heady aromas of port and spirits surround everything. The aroma is rather sharp, however, and actually doesn't subside into a strong sweetness. There are some chocolate and coconut notes, possibly more from the oaking than any intrinsic sweetness. But otherwise, it's boozy, redolent, heady and just full of ethanol. It's an intense experience.
The sharp booze continues on the palate. Spicy heat on the front, mellowing to let stacks of oak character come through towards the back. The spicy alcohol releases other sharp characters: orange peel, a little lemon and ground allspice, along with a feeling like burning sinuses. The wood holds it together and stops it from being too violent. It's big and unapologetic, but maintains a sense of civility despite this.
Feel, unsurprisingly, is also hot and spicy, with a burn and stab approach to negotiation.
This is hot and difficult, but very powerful as a result. It's certainly an exciting and unique beer: one which is worthy of all the respect you can manage to muster for it.
97 / 100
(Best of the Best)
Small blue bottle of the 1994 vintage, shared very kindly by our brewing lecturer with his class after a long brew day. My guess is that this was a particularly well-stored bottle, because this was still a very excellent beer when I drank it.
Pours dark and viscous, but, unsurprisingly given it was 19 years old, completely dead, with no head, no bubbling, no retention. Yeah. Pretty much nothing going on here. The colour is in fact a slight reddish brown hue, as seen when the glass is tilted. It looks thick and dangerous, but certainly dead.
Nose is gorgeous, despite of, or perhaps because of its age. Sweet/savoury combinations of kecap manis, smoked fish, dusty, oxidised chocolate mingle with the true characters of dusky oak and maple syrup, which still smells sweet after all this time. It all blends into a magnificent wholeness, a huge fragrant intensity still coiled up and dormant. It's insane.
Flavour is amazing. Big characters of cherry chocolate, stacks of booze, and a rich, juicy sweetness that tastes almost exactly like chocolate mudcake. More booze, sultana booze, kirsch soaked soft doughy cookies, booze, sweetness, booze. Holy moly. What an intense and insane experience. This is so complex and lovely. So rich and full even after 19 years sitting in its little blue bottle. Wow.
Feel is smooth and thick. This doesn't need any damn carbonation—this is perfectly happy as it is.
Overall, this is insane. It's big, boozy and rich, but with structure that stands the test of time. This was truly phenomenal stuff, and I'm not ashamed to say that this was one of the best beers I've ever had the pleasure to taste.
69 / 100
500ml bottle given to me by my brewing lecturer, nice guy that he is. Shared with Sam.
Pours a solid deep brown, quite consistent throughout its length, and genuinely brown. Head forms a full frothy crown of silky pale brown that stays around quite persistently. Nice fine carbonation and fine lacing around the edge. The body looks a little lighter than I expected, but otherwise it's a very nice looking beer.
Nose is sweet and chocolatey, with a slight spicy character that says "cinnamon" more than "chilli" to me. Indeed, it smells like churros dipping sauce. There's a light peppery character to it as well. It's quite pleasant, without being particularly big or complex.
Taste is a bit flat, but has some interest to it at least. There's certainly a persistent flat cocoa character throughout the beer, with a musty Mexican chocolate molé flavour. Some sharpness on the back suggests a hint of the booze, but the beer itself is a little flat and a little thin. The sweetness is omnipresent, but muted, meaning that it never really coats the tongue, or expresses everything I feel it has to express.
Feel is pretty good. Smooth but soft, with a lightness that stops it from being too heavy.
Despite this pleasant lightness, I feel like the beer could be richer and more exciting overall. It's still pretty solid, but it doesn't really run with the potential it shows. It could use more of something: chilli, chocolate, goat? Whatever it needs, bring it in the next iteration please.
79 / 100
Bottle purchased from Whole Foods in Soma, San Francisco.
Pours a very deep amber colour, probably overshooting red by a few degrees. Head is full, solid and fine, a lovely creamy yellow-white hue. Lacing is exceptional. Oh, the colour is so closeâit's a shame because otherwise this is a damn fine looking beer.
Nose is sharp and spicy, with excruciatingly direct hop characters which mingle with an underlying bitter roast character to give a piquancy like Sichuan pepper. Hooee! Love those Aussie hops. It's a sharpness that still hints at fruity, giving that peppery sting. Great stuff!
Taste is a bit of a let down, to be honest. It's still robust enough, with a good hop flavour on the front of the palate, and insinuations of pepper flowing through to the back. But there's an extremely noticeable lack of bitterness to it, and I feel like this beer craves it more than most. The roundness from the extra and deeper coloured malts seems to take over just too much on the back, and the hops are so damn good that you want them to stake their claim, to assert dominance over the whole palate. It's as though the whole basis of this beer is its hops, but they let you down at the crucial moment.
Feel is also a touch flat. Surprisingly, I feel as though it could use a little more carbonationâalthough an additional bite of bitterness would probably help in this regard as well.
Argh! This beer could have been phenomenal! And it *is* extremely good. But I'm just saddened by what could have been.
(Also, great use of Topaz, something of a unique hopâbest usage I've seen since Bright's Harvest Lager).
Another in the current trend of White IPAs. Single bottle purchased from Whole Foods in Soma, San Francisco.
Pours a very hazy yellow golden colour, with a firm, solid and meringue-like head of white. Lacing is solid. Rather light bodied, but that's not unexpected. Carbonation is fine and vibrant. Looks decent.
Nose is herbal and slightly rubbery, with a hint of pepper and a touch of oddly conceptual fruitiness. There's not a lot to it, and the hops are strained at best. Not much hint of the witbier progenitor either.
Taste is, not to be ungracious, unpleasant. Funky, chalky and savoury character lends a meaty bite to the palate. No body, and the bitterness strikes through unpleasantly towards the back, making it feel empty and painful. Bitter, harsh aspirin character finishes it off.
Overall, poor effort. It resembled neither a wit or an IPA particularly well, and doesn't strike a new path with any success either. Instead, we get a jumbled, unpleasant, harsh and pointless beer. Really, I'm surprised.
Bottle purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA.
Pours a deep dark colour, appropriately enough. Pretty fully opaque black, with a frothy, and majestic head of palte brown. Lacing is excellent. Body is a little light, but otherwise, it's a damn-fine looking beer.
Really interesting nose. Roasted, but oddly sweet, almost with a hint of dark fruit like you'd get from Belgian yeast fermentation. Some light crushed green hop characters come through, some pepper, and a pleasant dark spicy note. Really complex and very interesting.
Taste is a bit more disappointing. There's an emptiness through the centre of the palate, that leaves a touch of estery fruit, but not much real sweetness. INstead, the roast nibbles around the edges, and a pronounced bitterness comes through on the back. There's not enough fullness to it, not enough genuine hop flavour for a really nice IPA, and the flavours don't mesh all that well together.
Don't get me wrong. It's a decent beer, and a pretty interesting one as wellâbut it's a little bit like an experiment that doesn't quite work. Very pleased to have tried it once, but I'm not sure I'll keep drinking it.
46 / 100
Pours a golden shiny colour with slow bead. Head is white, fairly large bubbles but retains a thin crown. Lace is decent, could be stickier. Looks alright.
Smells massively strong, but without nuance. Huge honey and nutty malt with dandelion and a hint of yeast extract. Yeah, yeasty and sweet. Can't say I'm a huge fan.
Taste is big and yeast extracty as well with some stinky cheese flavour on the mid, massive malt hit that gets slightly nutty and honey just behind it. Some vegemite, with brie rind, pumpkin and rich dark chocolate backing up. It's weird, it's like a big complex beer that's accidentally been separated out into its component parts. As a nicely blended conglomerate it might work nicely but separately the flavours are intense and off-putting. There's too much of each flavour at a time. Yeah, not a big fan.
Big, massive fizz from the carbonation. Body is big, but carbonation is much, much bigger. Sizzly.
Yeah, a bit polarised myself on this polarising beer. Feel like it might have been great if the flavours got along better. But they don't.
4 / 100
(Bottom of the Barrel)
Served to me blind by @LaitueGonflable.
Clear, rather pinkish golden colour, with a fine but insubstantial
head of white bubbles. Body is extremely light and weak, meaning the head has no chance to form any lacing. Looks a bit lacklustre.
Nose is insane, and rather unpleasant, to be honest. Big biscuity
malt, with funky sweetness and crushed toffee praline. It's all
overlaid with a slightly odd generic yeasty hop character. Savoury characters come through as well, with ketchup and baked beans. It's robust, but genuinely unpleasant.
Taste is similar, although the sweetness is even more prominent here. Big vegetative sweet characters, like tomato juice mixed with sugar, or toffeed baked beans, and a rigid, unyielding carbonation which forces this home. Truly quite unpleasant. Each mouthfeel has the potential to make me dry retch.
Really quite a horrible beer. And yet, I can sort of see this weird
perversity to it that makes me feel like I should like and/or respect it. There is no way in hell I want to drink this again, but I might be okay with someone serving it to me blind again some time in the future.
(Notes after I found out what it was:
Holy crap, I really had some expectations for this, but this is genuinely unpleasant. It really does not live up to expectations, and is closer to malt liquor than to a brew between two high-flying breweries like this.)
60 / 100
Had on-tap at Toronado. The bartender almost spat in digust when he realised they had a Sam Adams beer on tap (I think his words were "I knew this place was going to shit").
Pours a deep amber hue, almost brown, and very clear. Good fine head of white. Looks very much like a standard draft beer, for want of a better description. Body is light, but holds the fine carbonation like jelly. Looks decent.
Grainy on the nose, mostly generic roasted characters, but there is a bit of that slightly sour rye character. It's subtle though, and you only look for it when you know it's there. Rather bland otherwise.
Taste is quite similar. A little sweetness, and a bit of rye bite with that touch of odd sourdough acidity. Minimal hop character, although the bite may just be laced with a hoppiness. Very dry finish, and the body is very light. Not bad, but not that exciting either.
Eh. It's not that bad, at least it's crisp and rather refreshing, but it doesn't have a lot to offer in terms of complexity or uniqueness.
Pours a dark brown colour, definitely brown all over despite pretense that it's black. Don't need to hold that to the light to see it's just brown. Head is a nice dense cream-colour, sinks slowly to leave a film, with some pleasant trails of off-white lacing at the top. Body is quite clear; looks alright, yeah quite nice.
Nose has a lot of standard dark characters, lots of roasty grain, some spicy character and some smoke in there as well. Lot of carbon, really, spicy smoke and roasty grain. Slightly savoury in character although with hints of cocoa, not very sweet, but pleasant.
Taste is fairly standard schwarz, but nicely balanced. Quite mild with fair roasted grain throughout, a slight cola character on the mid and some chocolate notes. A lot of oak comes through as well and a hint of cherry. There is a particularly fresh, organic woodiness on the finish. A slight port sweetness as well, but yeah, overall a lot of 'brown' flavours and not a lot of black. Maybe I've just been drinking too many imperial stouts lately. Dark malt and dark sugar, not over-cooked.
Fairly foamy and grainy-textured in the mouth, slightly soupy I guess. Pleasant feel and a nice complement to the flavour.
Mild drinking, very little in the way of power or offense here, but not a bad beer at all.
61 / 100
Pours a dark deep reddish brown, quite clear in the glass with a filmy head of cocoa coloured foam. Some small bubbled carbonation, but not a lot. No lacing. Body looks a bit thin. Not bad overall.
Smokiness and wet grain on the nose. Darkness is slightly muted, but otherwise it tastes pretty pleasantly roasty and sweet. It's a little thin, but the smoke is quite pleasant.
Dark characters on the palate, some toast and smoke, but they're surrounded (or, I guess, not surrounded) but a rather thin body; a sort of emptiness. It's as though the true characters of the beer are quarantined from my mouth in some way. Mouthfeel is particular is thin.
It's not a bad beer, and it has some really pleasant characters. It's just that they seem either muted or otherwise slightly insipid. Drinkable enough, but not necessarily something I'd seek out or even bother trying again.
71 / 100