Archive for March, 2010

Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales Wrath of Pecant

Let them eat carob...

I am a very lucky girl for a plethora of reasons- most of which were present on the night when I got to try Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales‘ collaboration with the fellows at Beer Advocate– Wrath of Pecant.  An American Brown Ale; this brew is an über limited release one time brew.

Reddish copper in hue, the pour on Pecant is super pretty and completes with a nice white ring for lacing.  Everything about this beer screams drink me; from the styling label to the gorgeous color and the adorably punny name.  The aroma only enhances this drinkability in the form of:


Thats right, frienditos- bacon.  Because, honestly, who doesn’t love a beer that smells like bacon?  Smokey and nutty with a hint of banana, the scent stays true to the brew’s ingredients- plantain flour and pecan smoked malts.  Also included in this nose is raw peanut butter- the type you’d fine in Whole Foods or Trader Joes.

Sweet and savory to the taste, Wrath of Pecant could be a full flavored meal all to itself.  The main course is that of a fine pulled pork complete with buttery biscuits, finishing with an undertone of the carob and a sharp bursting taste of Banana Tortuga Rum cake, despite the low 6.3% ABV.  A nice fine fizz completes the brew, leaving a very smooth and slightly sticky goodness on the palate.

So, what exactly does *this* (two thumbs, pointed inward) nerdy girl have to say about Wrath of Pecant?  Go out and get your bottle today- whether you have to sell your soul to the devil or team up with good ol’ Willy Shatner to fight a bunch of exhiled space freaks, this brew is totally worth it.  Well balanced and delicious, Wrath of Pecant just may be Dogfish Head’s best limited edition endeavor yet.

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Redhook Mudslinger Spring Ale

"The only thing better than a good friend is a good friend who happens to be a tasty, handcrafted ale..."

To celebrate the coming of Spring, I decided to part ways with my precious stouts in order to review Redhook’s Spring Ale offering- Mudslinger Ale.  This 5.8% ABV American Nut Brown Ale is my first ever offering from Redhook.  Available only January through April, (and not in New York City), I was super lucky to get my hands on a 12 ounce bottle.

This brown ale certainly lives up to its “dirty” name- it pours a murky brown as if full of tiny dirt particles.  A tiny cream colored head grows to about a two finger width and then recedes quickly.

The smell is that of toffee with a backbone of those peanut butter cracker sandwiches.  This brew is definitely more heavy on the malts than the hops- made with six different malts (two row pale, Munich, Caramel, Chocolate, Black, and a touch of Roasted Barley), the aroma is boasts a sweetness with a touch of savory on the tip.

My first sip of Mudslinger is much more bitter and sour than I had expected from the aroma.  With only two types of hops (Williamette and Northern Brewer), the hoppy kick was definitely a surprise.  This brew is light and watery, falling flat despite the carbonated tongue kicker on the back end.

Ultimately, this beer is exactly what the name says it is- watered down mud.  And I don’t mean that in a good way.  The carbonation almost masks the drabness of the chewy dirt taste, although that is damn near impossible to do.  Despite the few mostly hidden surprises, this brew is predictable and forgettable.

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He Said/She Said #1 – BrewDog Paradox Imperial Stout & Hoppin’ Frog Mean Manalishi Double IPA

A whole new spin on "His" and "Hers"...

I was lucky enough to join forces with Lee Norman Williams of Hoptopia for the launch of this new series- He Said/She Said- comparing and contrasting the thoughts and ideas of men and women who love craft beer.  Lee is a beer blogger with a straight forward style and a penchant for breaking brews down into their finest components.  Because of this fact and the obvious diversity between our reviewing styles, I suggest that you prepare for an interesting journey…

The first brew that we sampled was BrewDog Brewery Paradox Isle of Arran (Batch 016) Whiskey Cask Aged Imperial Stout.  Whew, what a mouthful!  At 10% ABV, Paradox is actually somewhat tame for a BrewDog stout- their Tactical Nuclear Penguin clocks in at a whopping 32%!  BrewDog is known for their extremist styles that create a hit or miss situation where drinkers either love what they’re tasting or loathe it.

Lee’s immediate reaction to the aroma of Paradox was malted milk balls followed by flan (creme caramel) and that it was lighter in weight and more hoppy than he had expected.   My gut reaction was that of chocolate covered raspberries or dark chocolate raspberry truffles.  I also found the Paradox boozy, albeit smooth, whereas Lee insisted he had previously tasted brews with a lower percentage ABV that had a much boozier taste.  The back end of Lee’s sip brought him a bitter espresso bean taste- “like chewing on them,” he said.  Although I experienced much bitterness, I did not find espresso beans in my brew, but a straight up hoppiness unexpected for an Imperial Stout.

As our glasses warmed up, Paradox let out more and more of its complex aromas.  “Wood forward” is what Lee called it; based on the fact that the woody barrel smell surpassed any other scent.  This really brought out the single malt whiskey for him, and he finally admitted to smelling berries – Mulberries.  The warmer brew brought about even more of a chocolaty mocha smell to my nose.  Unfortunately, with more aroma came less taste from Paradox.  Apparently, with Paradox, it’s one or the other.

While Paradox is not my favorite BrewDog creation, I could definitely see myself drinking it again.  As an Imperial Stout, the brew did very little for Lee, who stated that Paradox tasted like a stout flavored American Strong Ale with a whiskey shot in it.  I agreed about the whiskey- the Paradox was a little too boozy for me, especially since I am not a huge fan of whiskey to begin with.  Lee and I both agreed that we like a sweeter stout; however, the hoppiness of the brew created an interesting flavor palate all the same.

Next on our list was the Hoppin’ Frog Brewery Mean Manalishi Double IPA, boasting a “mean” 8.2% ABV and, apparently, an IBU rating of 168.  With its hazy copper pour and minimal head, Mean Manalishi already looked to be completely different from the dark, heady Paradox.  Upon going in for the nose, the first words out of Lee’s mouth were “Hop damn!”, which summed up the experience pretty dern well.  While my more simplistic nostrils picked up the clear pine/basil combo bursting out of the glass, Lee delved further into the nuances of the scent- including items such as sage and onion stuffing, lemongrass and white pepper.  Proudly, I sniffed a hint of mashed potatoes or buttery popcorn on the tip of the aroma- my weirdest find yet.  In true Hoptopia fashion, Lee threw in stinky feet aroma to boot, but finished off with the thought that Mean Manalishi smelled like a savory roast chicken dinner (Blogger’s Note: Hey, Lee!  Does that dinner include mashed potatoes?)

Upon first sip, we both agreed that the brew was sweeter and more smooth than we had expected, almost as if a nitrogen cartridge had been utilized just as with Guinness.  Lee, lover of all things IPA (and creater of the Twitter hashtag #IbelieveinIPA,) broke out some strong words by calling it a “big double IPA” and placing it on the heavier end of the scale.  Lastly, we agreed upon the fact that citrus pushed through the super hoppy flavor.  However, Lee was set on yellow grapefruit whereas I felt more of a hint of lime.

Our review of Mean Manalishi ended with this discussion:

Lee: “This is one of the better Extreme IPA’s I’ve had – too often overly hopped IPA’s can be SO ridiculously bitter that they don’t have anything else going on.  This brew has a bunch going on!”

Red: “But isn’t that what the Extreme IPA style is about?  Extreme hoppiness?  That’s what you’re going to get when you ask for a large IPA.”

Lee: “Agreed.  However, Mean Manalishi is a good example of what can be done with an Extreme IPA- what kind of diversity can be achieved.”

In conclusion, I think that this first ever session of He Said/She Said was pretty successful.  Ironically enough, I am a Stout lover through and through while Lee’s favorite brews are IPAs; however, we both weren’t huge fans of the Paradox and loved the Manalishi.  There were some points we agreed upon and others we had completely different thoughts and opinions about.  One thing is for certain- there are so many different types of beer out there just waiting to be discussed, and one type of brew can mean something completely different to one person than it can to another.  So, beer peeps, get out there and start dialoguing about your favorite brews- who knows what interesting points someone may bring up that you had never before considered.

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BrewDog Atlantic IPA Ale

"A beacon of non-conformity in a increasingly monotone corporate desert...

Nothing says authentic like an IPA that has journeyed the open seas.  The India Pale Ale came about in an attempt to make a Pale Ale that could brave the shipping voyage overseas with the East India Company (you know, those guys from Pirates of the Caribbean).

According to the BrewDog blog, James Watt, upon reading a historical “Brewer’s Handbook”, got it into his head to follow the book’s recipe and age the beer on his trawler.  The brew spent 2 months on the ship in oak barrels, surviving North Atlantic storms and 60 foot waves.  As they always do, BrewDog again pushes the slow-growing boundaries of the newly rebirthed craft beer world by creating this authentic and tasty treat.

At 8.5% ABV, the Atlantic Ale pours golden amber and full of sediment with a one finger ecru head that laces nicely to the glass.  It’s quite a pretty pour for something that’s been beaten and tossed into the ocean a couple times (and rightfully so- anything that’s in a bottle with a label this pretty has a rep to keep up!)

Hand drawn by Scottish Desinger Johanna Basford, the label is meant to show the brew's crazy journey upon the open sea.

The smell is definitely hoppy but light and sweet- a flowery caramel mixed with vanilla biscuits.  The sugariness of the aroma is reminiscent of candy corn- or perhaps better yet- cream soda.  Given the rising temperatures that we are experiencing this week (horray Spring!) the beer’s scent succeeded in hurtling me forward into thoughts of summer nights full of grassy cookouts complete with toasty burned sugar marshmellows.

Atlantic sips dry but thick; hosting lots of vanilla with a bitter twist.  The two months of oak barrel aging shows through the deep oaky base of the palate.  The ale is a distinct cousin of cream soda (no surprise here!) in taste but does not forget its hoppy routes with an everpresent grassiness.  The complexity of this brew is fierce, but not overwhelming.  The bitter hops offset the sweetness just enough to create a delightful tug-of-war with one’s tastebuds.

“We wanted to take the style back to its roots and we have created the first genuine, commercially available IPA for 2 centuries. Going beyond the realms of what would normally be deemed possible in order to deliver is what we’re all about at Brew Dog. We’re constantly pushing ourselves to come up with audacious, unusual and cool concepts and Atlantic IPA is definitely the most ambitious brew project we’ve accomplished to date.” -James Watt (

While slightly pricey (at approximately $16 for a 12oz bottle), the Atlantic IPA Ale is a special brew that is worth a taste.  As is the BrewDog motto-

We are proud to be an intrepid David in a desperate ocean of insipid Goliaths.

We are proud to be an alternative.”

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Ballast Point Brewing Co. Sea Monster Imperial Stout

... from the deep dark depths of the Brewmaster's imagination...

This Robust Series Limited Release hailing from Ballast Point Brewing in San Diego, California, has all the makings of an amazing imperial stout.  Among a pour with all the makings of motor oil and a whopping 10% ABV lies an underbelly of smooth drinkability that turns this brew into a perfect dessert beer.

Opaque black in color, the head on my pour was quite generous (a little over three fingers) and the shade of pancake batter.  If the pour itself didn’t show me how viscous this liquid is, the lacing on Sea Monster is reminiscent of whip cream remnants at the top of a milkshake glass, which in turn leads me to the taste.

The Sea Monster is a plethora of creamy smooth goodness- like a melted choco-mocha-malted milkshake.  The fact that there is almost no carbonation and a sweet vanilla kicker only serve to further enhance this sensation.  Don’t forget the coffee, however- and the aroma of the brew definitely won’t let you.  Finish off with a slightly bitter twist ala Starbucks and you are good to go.

The really nice quality of Ballast Point’s Sea Monster is that it is just what it says it will be- an Imperial Stout with a robust palate supported by all the normal Stout-ish players- oatmeal, dark fruits, vanilla, oak and bourbon all cut through the mocha in different waves.

I really quite like the Sea Monster, even without any crazy, outlandish ingredients or fancy aromas.  My favorite part of the brew was definitely the thickness – something unparalleled so far in any beers that I have previously tasted.  It gave it a nice, weighty feel in the mouth and in the stomach; allowing Sea Monster to properly serve its purpose as my dessert for the night; give me this over pie any day!

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Mug’s Alehouse “Split Thy Brooklyn Skull” Barleywine Festival

Brew Dog Tokyo - The most dangerous brew of the day at 18.2% ABV

This past Sunday I had the pleasure of my first ever meet up with some of the gang from Brew York (Lee Williams of Hoptopia, Genevieve of The Hops Honey, Chris of I Drunk That, and Jessica of Ten At Night).  Mugs Alehouse, a great little craft beer haven (with some pretty delicious food fare as well) located in Williamsburg was the setting for “Split They Brooklyn Skull XI”, a barleywine festival started by Jim Anderson, editor of Beer Philadelphia.  This two day event hosted a plethora of delicious barleywines and stouts as well as other various heavy hitters, however, us BrewYorkers only made it to the second day.  The weather was a promising 60 degrees and the sun was shining as we camped out on the back patio of Mugs for brunch and some amazing brews.  This list was as such:

Gravity Cask:

Bluepoint Old Howling Bastard (American Barleywine) – Patchogue, NY (right by my hometown!)

Heavy Seas Below Decks with Oak (English Barleywine) – Baltimore, MD


21st Amendment Monks Blood 8.3% (Belgian Strong Dark Ale) – San Francisco, CA

Allagash Odessey 10% (Belgian Strong Dark Ale) – Portland, ME

Brewdog Tokyo 18.2% (Imperial Stout) – Fraserburgh, Scotland

Brooklyn Monster 2006 11.8% (English Barleywine) – Brooklyn, NY

Cigar City Marshal Zhukovs 11.5% (Imperial Stout) – Tampa, FL

Dicks Brewing Company Barleywine 10% (American Barleywine) – Centralia, WA

Dock Street Prisoner of Hell 10% (Saison) – Philadelphia, PA

General Lafayette Phantom 10% (English Barleywine) – Lafayette Hill, PA

Green Flash Palate Wrecker 9% (Imperial IPA) – Vista, CA

Heavy Seas Siren Noire 8% (Imperial Chocolate Stout) – Baltimore, MD

Kuhnenns 4th Dementia 9.5% (Old Ale) – Warren, MI

Lagunitas Sumpin Extra 8.7% (Imperial IPA) – Petaluma, CA

Life and Limb 10.2% – (American Strong Ale) – Chico, CA

North Coast Old Stock Ale 12.5% (Old Ale) – Fort Bragg, CA

Sierra Bigfoot 2005 9.6% (American Barleywine) – Chico, CA

Smuttynose Barleywine 2007 10.9% (American Barleywine) Portsmouth, NH

Southern Tier Imperial Mokah 11% (Imperial Stout) – Lakewood, NY

Spring House Kerplunk 8.1% (Imperial Chocolate Stout) – Conestoga, PA

Victory Old Horizontal 11% (American Barleywine) – Downingtown, PA

Voodoo Grand Met 10% (Bier de Garde) – Meadville, PA

Weyerbacher Blasphemy 2007 11.8% (Quadrupel) – Easton, PA

The range of brews available was outstanding!

Whew!  What a list!  And between all of us, I think we tried them each and every one.  Here are a couple of the standouts for me:

The North Coast Old Stock Ale reminded me of what it was like to drink a fine, fine wine.  Boozy (12.5%!)  and sweet, this brew has all the appearance and aroma of cognac without the 80 proof bite.  Surprisingly smooth, this syrupy ale boasts flavors such as raisins, bourbon, maple syrup and a slight twang of cinnamon.

Next on my list is Southern Tier’s Mokah.  This chocolate/coffee stout creation quite nearly blew this stout lover’s mind.  Thick and black, this brew looks like your everyday run of the mill stout.  Take a sniff, however, and you’re transported into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.  The taste is reminiscent of a double chocolate biscotti dipped into a fine cappuccino.  The only difference is the lightness of the Mokah- dangerously drinkable for the high ABV.   I almost ordered another glass – 3.5 ounces just wasn’t enough!

A necessary diversion...

Later on in the day we took a break from the heavier stouts and barleywines for some Russian River Brewing Co. Damnation Belgian Style Ale.  At 7% ABV, this one was up there in content with the rest of them, but the banana and clove pairing provided a refreshing retreat from the sweet chocolate and dark fruits that dominated the day.  Deep golden in color with plenty of head, the biggest of the flavors was a bitter pear surrounded by hoppy pine.  The carbonation provided a well needed pop and hid the alcohol flavor just enough.

A full pint of Otter Creek QVH?! I'll take it!

Lastly, the brew that took the day for me was Otter Creek’s QVH (Quercus Vitis Humulus) offered up on cask.

“But Red”, you may say, “QVH isn’t on your previous list!”

That, my reader friend, it is not.  However, and to my luck, QVH was offered on the first day of the festival, and as it was on cask, still around for day 2.  This barleywine pours a sediment filled orange with a nice sized head.  Although the brew is 12.5% ABV, there is almost no hint of that in either smell OR taste.  The flavorings offered in QVH are so complex that it is almost impossible for one to discern them all – especially after a long day of 10+% brews.  It is fruity, sweet, and dry with a strong finish of citrus and slight oak.  I found this brew absolutely stunning- the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Only a part of the graveyard...

This is what happens during a Barleywine Festival...

Altogether, there was no specific brew from the day that all of us particularly hated.  There were some wins, and some loses, but nothing that we all agreed we would never drink again.  That difference in pallatte is the beauty of beer- there’s always something for everyone.

All in all, us Brew Yorkers experienced a day full of great weather, great beer, and great company- the perfect way to kick off Spring!

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21st Amendment Brewery – Monk’s Blood – Belgian Dark Ale

"A threat the brothers were sure would lead to the spilling of..."

Welcome to the first ever post in my series of reviews with friends!  In this series, I will be tasting beer with my “unseasoned” frienditos and posting their thoughts along with mine.  The outcome?  A look into the world of craft beer through different tastes and styles- all in the same post!

To start this series off right, my buddy Damon (the charming man who made me those delicious fajitas during my Nectar Ales’ Black Xantus review) and I decided to try our hand at 21st Amendment’s Monks Blood.  Something I love about 21st Amendment is their penchant for cans- it’s refreshing to see something out of the mold and something about a can makes the brew more approachable for the novice.  (For more on the great can vs bottle debate, see this post by Grapes and Grains NYC.)  The other great thing about 21st’s cans is the attention to detail paid on the design of the can.  Sometimes, when I can’t decide exactly what kind of beer I’m looking for in the store, I go directly off of the packaging.  (I know, I know, bad practice, you should use your beer descriptors, yadda yadda, but honestly, sometimes I just want to try something new and don’t mind if it’s a Pils or a Stout).  My favorite part of reviewing this beer was actually trying to read the “Old English” style font scrawled around the can which tells the following story:

“Legend has it that in the evenings the monks would retire to the chambers and settle in with a few passsages from the Good Book – but Brothers Nicolas and O’Sullivan has other plans.  Working in the brewery all day, they were forced to repeat the same old recipes the elder monks had invented years before.  They needed a little diversion.  And found it in the cellar of the monastary with a fresh twist they put on the beer and the way they enjoyed it.  Brother Nicolas (or Nico to his close friends) brought some hand rolled cigars.  O’Sullivan, the outspoken one, broke the vow of silence by spinning a remix of some Gregorian chants.  Together, they’d throw down a couple more hands of Texas hold ’em and savor the handcrafted brew they created in secrecy.  Everyday was good.  Or so it seemed.  But deep in his heart, Nico knew they were drifting into the ‘darkside’ of beer.  Next thing you know, they’d be skipping Lent.  Then one night they’d fare the Judgement for their actions, with a hard knock at the door.  Outside, the Abbot and elders would be holding stones in the air.  A threat the brothers were sure would lead to the spilling of Monks Blood.”

(Blogger’s Note: Damon and I actually read this story aloud on the Subway ride back from Whole Foods Bowery Beer Room.  People stared.  It was awesome.)

At 8.3% ABV, this Belgian style Dark Ale hailing from Cold Spring, MN is at the top end of the alcohol content for its style.  The pour is a dark chocolately brown that boasts a whopping head (3.5 fingers at least!)  For me, the smell came off as pure fig, which turned me off from the bat.  Damon took a sip of his first, stating that he tasted chocolate and cinnamon.  My tastebuds picked up on some oaky vanilla flavors, but definitely was feeling the cinnamon kicker.  We both liked the medium viscosity of the brew; a nice combination with the medium carbonation.  Damon commented on the sweet and sour aftertaste, stating that there also was a lingering citrusy feel.

Overall, Damon was more into Monks Blood than I was.  Although I compared the brew to a black and white cookie (one of my favs!) because of the dichotomy of the strong chocolate and vanilla tastes, Damon was convinced it was like drinking a fig newton.  Together, we both agreed that Monks Blood is a strong brew and that, although it wasn’t our go-to beer, we could both see ourselves drinking it again… and make no stones about it!

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