The Session: What’s in My Glass

session-logo-smOooo…Matt over at World of Brews threw down the gauntlet this month with a simple but loaded question:

What is your favourite beer?

Well, Matt, if you wants to ask the questions, you gots to be able to take the answers. I’ll borrow an Ed Hamilton (from the Ministry of Rum) classic retort:

Whatever happens to be in my glass.

No. Seriously. Think about it. Who has one favourite beer? Honestly, if you have a favourite beer, you haven’t drunk enough. Is your breakfast of champions brew the same one you enjoy as a hair of the dog? (Of course not, since your hair of the dog ought to be ginger ale, orange juice, and a generous pour of Angostura bitters. It tastes as good as it sounds, but boy does it work.) I’d rather a Woodstock Inn Autumn Ale to go with my apple pie, but before dinner, I’d probably go with their Pemi Pale. Is Beirtuit (the drinking game) really the same with a beer that costs more than $15 per case?

I probably drink more Pemi Pale than anything else, but that is also because I have ahuge supply. At the same time, at last count, I had over a dozen different beers within five yards of my computer, and you can be sure they all have their day in the sun. With all that said, it wouldn’t be the Session without a beer review, so since I’ve been really enjoying it lately, why don’t I suggest a brew from my favourite brewery:

Woodstock Inn Brewing Co.: Autumn Ale Brew

Tasting Conditions: I enjoyed this brew after quite a long hard day of life, with a very late dinner. I used a Harpoon seven ounce straight sided beer tasting glass to try this seasonal lager. I got the bottles from the brewery and they sat for maybe a month at room temperature before being consumed.

Eye: This is a dark reddish-brown ale. On the pour, it was quite fizzy, foaming up rather like a soda. After the surge settled, it continued to produce Champagne-like bubbles. The bottle was very Halloween with orange, yellow, and black dominating. The label featured a bunch of apple-headed witches stirring a cauldron of beer.

Nose: The nose had lots of apples and spicyness. The aroma can best be described as the smell of fresh baked apple pie, with just a bit of hops and ferment underneath.

Mouth: The first sip revealed lots of winter spice: cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. The cinnamon dominated the finish, with the nutmeg close in front. There were also fairly constant apple notes, of the sweeter, softer variety. The front end was quite sweet with sugar notes. The middle revealed that you were, in fact, drinking beer with a nice hoppy bitterness. The beer was also almost chewy in the mouth.

Conclusion: This is a yummy brew, though definitely on the sweeter side. It would be perfect with desert, especially, and this is from experience, if said desert involved baked apples. Other wonderful uses include warming up after a cold day. Altogether a yummy brew from my favorite brewery.

Picture shortly.

So drink down whatever is in your glass, and head over to World of Brews to catch the roundup,
The Scribe

Right Place, Right Time

There are some beers which are tied to a very specific place. For me, this is one such beer. already reviewed another offering from this distinguished brewery, their Pemi Pale Ale. The Pemi is by far my favorite Woodstock offering, but there is a place in my heart that loves their darker ale. Whenever we go up to the Loj, a log cabin in the White Mountains that Tufts owns, it is inevitable that we go over to the brewery and get some fresh brewed growlers of their Pig’s Ear Brown. Two weeks ago we even got a fresh brewed keg of the Pig, as we affectionately call it. Without further ado, I give you:

Woodstock Inn Brewing Co.: Pig’s Ear Brown Ale

Tasting conditions: It sat in the fridge for about a month before being drunk, well chilled. Traditional 16oz pint glass. I enjoyed it just before dinner after a hard day.

Eye: A dark amber brown with no visible bubbles. The head remained for a little bit which suggests a decent quantity of protein in the beer, though the initial poor did not reveal significant initial head. The bottle was brown glass with just a traditional wood-look Woodstock Inn logo, and a cartoon pig.

Nose: The beer had a nice nutty odor that was noticeable with a sniff, but not neatly as in-your-face as the Smuttnose Pumpkin.

Mouth: The taste was quite nice. There was a nice hoppy front-end followed by a pleasant sweetness on the back end with a nutty aftertaste. On a second taste, the front had a slight spice-taste (that is a taste of spices, not a hot taste). The end had a nice slightly bitter hint that really gave a nice contrast to the rest of the beer.

Conclusion:
Pig’s Ear reminds me of nights at the Loj, the log cabin owned by my school, often before leaving for a trip up some mountain or another. Tasted alone, the beer is good, quite good, actually, but not nearly as good as it was at the Loj. That’s not to say it’s bad, but I realize that a certain amount of my affection for the Pig is sentimental. I would still highly recommend this fine ale. It is an incredible beer.

A note on the photo. I am 99% sure that this photo is the right beer. However, the Pig was one of the earliest reviews I did, and it was before I put the bottle in the review, so I can’t be one hundred percent sure.

Fair travels,
The Scribe

You Are Feeling Sleepy

If you aren’t, then the next review might make you. The most noticeable thing about the beer I am about to review is its spirally label. In fact, some of my friends called it “That spirally beer” for a long time, and some continue to do so. Regardless, the Magic Hat brewery produces a large number of wonderful ales. I am about to review their flagship “#9” while their somewhat imaginative wheat beer (which I believe is available) is considered their “unfiltered offering” or “UFO” for short. It’s a quirky brewery that generally produces quite good beer. Thus, I give you:

Magic Hat Brewing Co.: #9

(“Not Quite Pale Ale”)

Tasting conditions:
It sat in the fridge for about two months before being drunk, well chilled. Traditional 16oz pint glass. I enjoyed it just after dinner after a day of school. A touch of a cold did impair me a little.

Eye: A nice honey brown beer (“not quite pale,” indeed!). A minimal head appeared on pour, but quickly dissipated. The bottle is traditional brown glass with a somewhat spiral-y “9” logo.

Nose: An ale-y honey meets the nose. Again it wasn’t super obvious, but it was there. A bit of a cold might have impaired my schnoz slightly.
Mouth: My first sip was unpleasant. The first thing I noticed was a bitter front. My second was quite nice. The front end sweetened up. The finish had an almost chocolate flavor, with a honey-caramel in the middle with just a bit of nutmeg.

Conclusion: The first sip was quite a turn off, and despite remembering enjoying the old #9 before, I was prepared to retire to the couch and end the review right there. However, a little perseverance paid of big. While I’m not sure I would keep this beer on hand, if a bar had it, I would certainly order it.

True Hoppines?

So, I think I’m starting a short string, or at least two, posts inspired by that most divine of flowers, the flower that gives beer its wonderful flavour: Hops. Today, I review Wyerbacher’s Hops Infusion IPA. I acquired this bottle quite by accident, since I usually don’t enjoy ales that are too hoppy. Here are my tasting notes:

Weyerbacher Brewing Co.: Hops Infusion IPA

Tasting conditions: It sat in the fridge for about two months before being drunk, well chilled. Traditional 16oz pint glass. I enjoyed it just after dinner at the beginning of a Saturday night.

Eye: A cloudy falernum brown beer (think orange-honey for those not familiar with this Caribbean aperitif). On the pour it had a large head of about an inch and a half which subsided relatively rapidly to a more modest half inch head. The bottle is a dark brown glass with pictures of hops on the label. The words on the label are all in a sort of neon-light font which I find intriguing but slightly tacky.

Nose: Quite hoppy in the nose, as the name suggests, with a bit of honey behind it.

Mouth: Quite interesting in the mouth. It was a cool soapy-hoppy, almost sweet-lager-y front with an almost horseradish bitter finish. The second sip helped confirm my initial impressions with a very sweet middle reminiscent of honey, and a bitter finish, though the bitterness of the end was less than on the first sip. On my third sip, the sweetness really came through, though there is not much of an ending to this beer. Ultimately the best way I can describe the taste is similar to that of grapefruit pith.

Conclusion: While the first two sips hinted at some complexity, the remainder of the beer was simply sweet in the front and tasted more like a classic light lager on the finish with just a hint of horseradish. The flavor profile was very one dimensional. I could not find a price point for this beer, and did not buy the bottle I enjoyed. However, if it is in or above the price range of the Woodstock Inn, Long Trail or Harpoon ales, I will give this a pass. On the other hand, the sweetness might be welcomed by those who are less familiar with beer

So, as you can see, it wasn’t quite a hit. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera handy when I wrote this review, so no pictures.

Happy sipping!
The Scribe

An Ode to an Earlier Season

I came across this seasonal offering about a month ago. Now I really like fall and winter beers. They are nice, and spicy and full of yummy deliciousness. Yet the spices we associate with the festive season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s (at least in America) are really spices that I associate with the islands: Nutmeg, Pimento, and Cinnamon. Toss a Scotch bonnet in and you have a gorgeous jerk marinade. So in addition to being the flavours or winter, to me, at least, they are also the flavours of summer. With that in mind, I present this quite tasty seasonal offering:

Smuttynose Bewing Co.: Pumpkin Ale

Tasting Conditions: It sat in the fridge for about a month before being drunk, well chilled. Traditional 16oz pint glass. I enjoyed it as a celebratory drink after finishing finals.

Eye: A nice amber with a little Champaign-like fizz. Very little head, and dissipated quickly. Nice bottle with a big ripe pumpkin on the front.

Nose: The nose of this beer was very impressive. It hit me like a kick in the butt. There was lots of cinnamon, and just a touch of the namesake pumpkin. The smell was strong enough it was obvious even from the bottle. It smelled almost like mulled cider but without the apple, which suggests cloves, a dash of orange, and a hint of nutmeg. A little harshness on the nose was evident as well.

Mouth: The first thing to hit me was a pleasant sweetness and warmth. A definite taste of pumpkin. The ale had a certain lightness to it, with a very nice effervescence. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of an IPA, though it’s definitely darker. There was a hit of the spices that I smelled, and a very definite cinnamon-like heat, though the other cinnamon flavors were much less noticeable. On the downside, there was a certain soapyness, though I don’t mind that flavour.

Conclusion: A wonderful winter seasonal. I definitely enjoyed it. Perhaps one of the few Smuttynose offerings I can say that about. As a seasonal, I have a hard time keeping it stocked but I’ll probably keep an eye out for it when the seasons roll around again.

The End of London and the Grenadier

On returning from Dublin, we saw even more sights: The Victoria and Albert Museum, Harrods (where we had an amazing vodka and blood orange juice), the Changing of the Guard, the Cabinet War Rooms and the Winston Churchill Museum (which I really enjoyed), and we also saw Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre.

We also had the opportunity to go to the Grenadier. The Grenadier is a pub by Hyde Park. It’s on an alley, off an alley, off an alley behind the French embassy. We stopped there for lunch on my father’s recommendation. Back when he used to work at Lloyd’s of London, the Grenadier was his favorite lunch spot. In his memory, I ordered the fish and chips. After a bad experience in Dublin, my companions weren’t willing to make the same choice. I also ordered a beer (and yes, there will be a mini-review at the end of this article). I discovered something I really should have learned earlier in the trip: To eat the food of the British Isles, you really need beer. With that said, the Grenadier was a great pub with friendly service.

While at the Grenadier, I enjoyed Fuller’s London Pride Ale. This bitter ale is the flagship beer in Fuller’s lineup. While it is sold in the States as a pasteurized bottled beer, on the other side of the pond it is served as a cask conditioned ale. It makes a gorgeous accompaniment to most standard pub food. To me at least, you need a nice bitter to cut through the oiliness of even the best fish and chips, and London’s Pride did that perfectly. It had a pleasant bitter tartness with just a little sweetness in the middle. While it is advertized as “mahogany” colored, I found my glass much lighter, perhaps a dark pine. Further, while I found this to be an outstanding accompaniment to my fish and chips, I think it is a bit more bitter than what I would ideally like to sip on its own.

A Superb Beer

I spend a lot of time in Woodstock, New Hampshire. (For those who are interested, the music festival was outside of Woodstock, New York.) In addition to being a great gateway to the White Mountains, where I love to go backpacking, mountaineering, skiing, and touring, the town is also home to the Woodstock Inn. The Woodstock Inn Station and Brewery is a microbrew with four main ales, an equal number of so-called “specialty” brews (including an amazing root beer), and five seasonal offerings. I tried one of the “specialty” ales, their Pemi Pale Ale, which is named for the Pemigwasset River Valley where the Inn is located, over my birthday. As you can see from the following review, I liked it a lot. You will probably see the remainder of the Woodstock line reviewed here as I get the time, and the beer.

Woodstock Inn Brewery: Pemi Pale Ale

Tasting conditions: It was stored for a while at room temperature in dark conditions for a while before I had the chance to drink it. Traditional 16oz pint glass. I enjoyed it as the second drink of the morning on my twenty-first birthday.

Eye: The first thing that caught my eye about this one was the label. While it’s a fairly traditional Woodstock Inn bottle and label, the logo on this one is a large spotted fish (a trout, perhaps?) drinking a pint. The other noticeable thing was the amount of head. As you can see from the picture, this one was pretty frothy. While I usually poor straight in to see how much head there is, I had to pout this one in three pours into a glass a third again bigger than the beer to allow the surge to settle. I will say that after the initial pour, the head settled fairly quickly, and in the time it took to write this, the head has almost completely collapsed. As to the color, this is on the dark side for a pale ale, closer to the red ale region. It’s a middling brownish honey.

Nose: A touch of hops added to a bready aroma gives you the nose of this beer, which is quite subtle.

Mouth: My first impression was that this is an incredibly bitter beer. I almost tossed the beer after the first sip it was so bitter. It definitely should have been drunk a bit colder than I drank it. However, behind the bitterness, it almost tastes like a stout with a nice chocolaty-fruitiness that is quite pleasant. The second sip allowed the bitterness to retreat. My theory was that the head held most of the bitterness. A taste of just the head confirmed my theory. Unfortunately, a lot of the complexity retreated with the loss of the head. It was still there, but much more subtle. In its place, a good, honest beery-ness with a nice hopiness came to the fore. A pause to write allowed some nice sweetness to come in on the tail. There’s a lot going on here, far more than I can describe.

Conclusion: This is one of the better beers I’ve had, and throughout my travels, I’ve had many. The subtlety of this beer is exquisite, and the flavors amazing. This bottling will definitely be a staple of my pantry for a long time to come. I simply can’t say enough about this beer. Next time I’m in New Hampshire, I will have to pick up a growler and make some syrup. The complexity suggests, to me at least, that this could make wonderful beer syrup as well as a great cocktail focus. While it might not carry as much punch as a spirit, the complexity exceeds many whisk(e)ys, and if you could bring out the goodness of that first sip without the overwhelming bitterness, you would have a wonderfully complex drink.