Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Thomas Hardy's Ale

I thought for a second when I wrote the title for this post, should I title it after the year the notes were taken or the year of the bottle I recent consumed? And here's why that's an issue. I often use my old notes taken years ago when I consume a beer today. That's one of the cardinal rules of this beer blog. I have a back log of almost 12 years of beer reviews, and I don't want to re-write notes every time I try a beer again. Also, beers won't be in this blog if I'm not currently drinking it. If I wrote notes in 2005, and will never try it again, or won't have a session where I take a picture of the new drink, then it will not appear here.

So, the other day, I had a 2008 Thomas Hardy's Ale, and did not takes notes. Here's why. It was the final bottle out of a case I bought for the Blue Nile the year it was released. After the penultimate bottle was purchased last year, I pulled the last one aside and reserved it for my final drink on my final night. And I was certainly in no shape for taking notes on that wonderful ale.

Here you have a photo of that bottle that lasted nearly 6 years in the coolers at the Blue Nile, but we're checking out the notes I took in 2005 on a bottles from 2003 that I somehow amazingly saved for 2 years. I haven't gotten any better at aging beers at home. Managed to do it at work, though.

From November 2005, notes on 2003 Thomas Hardy's Ale:

2003. #07043. Somehow I manged to hang onto this in the ol' closet for nearly 2 years.

Dark mahogany with crimson edges, slim toasted tan head.

Intense aromatics, big prune, sour cherries, bright, shining burgundy, leather, wood...a complex collection of flavors. Peppers meet raisins. Very port-like.

Immense in the mouth, rich, thick, juicy and wet. Floods the mouth with dark fruitiness, well-conditioned. Intensely flavorful. Tangy and tangible, a wonderful thing on the palate, coating goodness with every drop.
And very mellow, compared to the new bottles. I've got to exhibit such patience more often. (Hear it's a virtue.)

Full-bodied, long, sweet, languid finish.
Smooth and relaxing, luxurious.
Well worth the asking price.
And finally, if there's a finer wine than this ale, I want to know.
(Doubt it.)

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

It wasn't that long ago that Dogfish Head beers were available here in Minnesota. Wait, no, it was. Here are my notes from a bottle consumed in February 2003, with a picture of a pint taken down lustily at Stone Tap in Hudson, Wisconsin.

A fine tan head stands atop a dark brown to near-black body. Sweet aroma with caramel notes. Strong sensation hits the tastebuds, an all-out hop assault. Warming with a definite alcohol kick, at 7.2%, probably the strongest brown ale I've ever encountered. A totally unique animal; many browns are too lacking in hops,but this one ups the ante, making a tasty and powerful brew. Alcohol lessens some toward the end, for goodness' sake. Definitely, my favorite brown ale.
Part of a growing trend in nomenclature. If it's stronger than normal, call it Imperial Blank, if it's hoppier, call it India Blank.

That was the trend back in 2003. Now, if you throw hops in something, you just call it an IPA. On menu at Stone Tap, this was referred to as a "black" IPA, even though it's brown. Sigh.

Lift Bridge Batch 500 Double IPA

Lift Bridge Batch 500 Double IPA, Lift Bridge Brewing, Stillwater, MN. 8.5% ABV.

Appearance: hazed, crisp amber, nearly crimson, lovely lasting head of snow-white foam.

Aroma: yeah, that's the stuff, that's doing it for me. All the citrus, the lime and grapefruit, and plenty of the prickly pine. Alluringly bitter nose. Love it.

Taste: Once more, on the palate, and off the tongue, it's more of what you want in your double IPA. The fruit, the bitter, the citrus, the spice, with plenty of malt to keep it held down tight. Ah! Lip-smackingly delightful. Medium body. Easy-drinking. Refreshingly bitter. The alcohol level steers clear of being …wait, no, there it is.

Nice one, Lift Bridge.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Great Lakes Rye of the Tiger Rye IPA

If you read my last post, or if you follow me on facebook, or talk to people who do, maybe you've heard. Heard what? Well, let's put it this way: I may not be buying 6-packs or sampler packs that much any more, and I'll probably be sampling beers that I can get as singles. Why? Because my new job at Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub will allow me to bring home plenty of freshly-brewed ales, and why would buy more beer than I need to? Why buy the cow when you can marry the milk for free. Wait, how does that go?

So, here we have something I grabbed a 6-pack of, and have enjoyed every bottle of it. Notes of Great Lakes Rye of the Tiger follow:

Great Lakes Brewing Company Rye of the Tiger IPA, A Handcrafted Rye India Pale Ale, Cleveland, Ohio. 12 fl. oz., 7.5% ALC./VOL. 

Clear, golden-hued, with a cloud-white head.

Aroma speaks of spicy rye malt, and sparkling hops. Warm and lively. 

Taste: juicy sweet in the mouth, malt holds down the ground, and hops rise up. Lean-bodied, crisp, with tasty rye malt steering the flavors. I'm loving this one, it's doing wonders on the palate. Bitterness is right in the middle, hitting the tastebuds just right. I'm left wondering if this should really be called an IPA, if feels more like a pale ale, but that's the thing these days, if there's perceptible hop bitterness, you call it an IPA and the hop-heads will buy it. 

I wonder what the label says? "This kitty has claws. Named for it's one-two punch of fierce hops and sharp rye content, our Rye of the Tiger India Pale Ale is a thrilling ale with bite, handcrafted for the fighter in all of us." Wait, there's more: "Like tigers creeping through tall grass, hopheads will stalk this majestic golden brew, rising to the challenge of it's bold flavor attack. Full-bodied and loaded with hops, our Rye of the Tiger IPA is brewed with rye malt, adding a spicy complexity to every sip. It's an ale meant to inspire feats of strength and skill, a worthy contender in the bout against the flavorless. If you can step into the ring with this hopped-up cat, you've earned your stripes."

Yeesh. So, you beat the world's record for boxing and big cat puns, I'm proud of you. (Also, great job working in reference to the Survivor song that inspired the punning name of the brew.)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Stone Stochasticy Project Grapefruit Slam Double IPA

Well, dear readers, I will break the news to you now if you didn't hear it already, but the clock is ticking away on my last days at the job I've held for over 15 years, bartending and bar managering (that's a word, right?) at the Blue Nile Restaurant & Lounge. I'll be stepping into the Front of House manager role at Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub, helping to fulfill my dream of never having to open a bottle of Heineken again. And, also, of course, to work with great people in a good neighborhood serving excellent ales, freshly made. I can't wait. I start Monday. Three more days to go. To celebrate, I'm doing what I've done best for many years, and putting together a beer event this Saturday, this one an iteration of what I'd been calling Imperial March since we started it in 2009 (I think), but since this is late April it will be called "Imperialized." Maybe these events will continue after I leave, I cannot say. I won't be doing anything like them at Northbound, for they carry their own beer and guest taps that are Minnesota breweries only, plus that just isn't my job. I'll be very happy to be part of the team bringing good beers to happy hands that pass them past hungry lips. 
So, this here Stone Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA is one of the last beers on tap at the Nile that I will review here. Maybe. There are three other beers in the cooler right now that I haven't taken notes on, not enough time to get to them all before my time is done. Will I come in on my days off to sit down and write them up? And, who knows, perhaps I'll have trained my replacement well enough that he keeps bringing in great beers, and I'll be tempted to return as a patron? Stranger things have happened. Like having an Ethiopian restaurant with a beer program like the one I've been running for nearly 15 years, that's a glaring anomaly. Watch this space soon for the memoir you've all been waiting for, as I trip down memory lane to tell the tale of who I was and how I came to be....Meanwhile, here it is....the Grapefruit Slam...and here come the notes....

Stone Stochasticity Project (whatever the heck that means) Grapefruit Slam IPA. Ale with grapefruit peel added. 8.2% ABV. 95 IBU.

Clear, bright golden coloring, under a long-lasting, lace-leaving snow-white head.

Citrus and pine in the nose, beautifully, brilliantly bitter.

Taste: On the tongue, it rips and it roars, it spills and it peels, it blasts and it slams. Grapefruit peel essence is added to this one, with Centennial, Chinook and Magnum hops leading the show. Mouthfeel is medium, body, too. Sleek on the palate, dripping hop oil and exuding bitterness throughout, getting more and more intense as it coats the mouth and invades the senses.

This one's getting spicier, hotter, and more and more bitter as it slips down the throat and empties the glass. I'm in hop-head paradise over here. Great job, Stone, keep on doing hops like you do!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Belhaven Twisted Thistle India Pale Ale

More re-visitations of Scottish beers, and this one posed a problem. At some point in time, the Belhaven brewery went with clear glass bottles. This one had a skunky nose when I opened it and the lightstruck flaws severely diminished the taste. If this were my first stab at this one, you would not be reading the final sentence of this review from September, 2005:

Clear, pale copper/ gold color. Huge head, defiantly rocky, puffy, thick 1/2 that lasts long.

Brilliantly alert and lively aroma, spanking fresh piney, fruity aroma, not too bitter. Pineapple, apricot, ...a more West Coast-U.S. style aroma than I'd expect from a Scottish brewery. Cascade and Challenger hops. I like it!

Fresh and zesty in the mouth, a nice blast of hops on the palate. Falls back with ease, bitterness wanes, dries as it leaves, urging you to toss back another gulp. 
Medium bodied, with a vibrant, fruity, bitter/dry finish. 

A very tasty IPA, an ingenious mix of U.S. and U.K. takes on the style. For a brew with a tongue-twister of a name, this is amazing easy to love, for a hophead like me, and will easily leap into my must-buy list.

Traquair Jacobite Ale

We're still re-visiting long-ago discovered ales, and we're still looking at Scotland. Here's one brewed in honor of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 by Traquair House Brewery, which dates back to 1107. Heavy on the coriander, this one. Notes are from June of 2003:

Appearance: dark, eggplant brown color, ruby red 'round the edges, with a head thick and creamy, tan and voluminous.

Aroma:  exquisite! Alert, lively, swimming in spiciness. To drink it in is divine. Deep and complex, and so rewarding in so many ways. Though containing precious little "subtlety", it's like being smacked upside the head with a spice rack.

Tasty. Bitter hops at first, then dark, turbulent malt, and a very complex flavor: what is going on here? It's like drinking spices.

A certain fruitiness arrives around the middle, but I perceive it's only suggested by the spices. In light of full reasoning, it's all about the spices, in Jacobite.
My very first encounter with Jacobite, but I'll be going back for more. A remarkable ale.

I had to delete a lot of exclamation points, once again. Man, I was addicted to those things!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Weihenstephaner Vitus Weizenbock

Weihenstephaner Vitus Weizenbock, 7.7% alc./vol. Brewed and bottled by Bay. Staats-Brauerei Wehenstephan, Freising, Germany. Since 1040, The World's Oldest Brewery.

This must be a "blonde" version of a weizenbock, for I normally encounter darker ones than this. Is this a more authentic Bavarian approach? Hazy golden hue, lush, blooming white head. This is real Bavarian wheat beer, here.

Aroma: Gorgeous! A lot of the citrus-y notes of a typical wizen are here, with more spices. Lemon and wizen yeast notes first, with spices (coriander, clove) thereafter.

Taste: fresh and delicious on the tongue. Zesty, refreshing, and easily consumable. I have to admit that I'm a bit perplexed, for I'm not getting the darker flavors normally found in a weizenbock. Paler malts at play here, I suppose, but then why call it that? Some of those flavors are creeping up, but the don't dominate, just finding their footing on the tongue, and letting the paler malts push it.

The alcohol is popping up just a bit now, we're feeling a little warm now. This golden weizenbock is giving us the heft weizen flavors, just a shadow of the weizenbock tastes, and the bigger buzz a bock or weizenbock should give. Easier drinking, less complex, yet still delightful. I like it, but might not reach for it over another weizenbock.

Kelpie Seaweed Ale

I'm going way back in time, April 1, 2003, for a review of another Scottish ale that screams curiosity. I wasn't as thrilled with it this time around. So, check out my old review, and turn it down a notch.

As it is April Fool's Day, I present my review of a beer some would assume to be a practical joke, Heather Ale's Kelpie Seaweed Ale, presented in a handsome and generous 16.9 oz dark bottle.

Aroma spills out of the bottle on cracking the cap, but I hold off from studying it until other aspects are examined. Pours a deep, dark brown, almost black, with a lush, creamy, proud cocoa-colored head that doesn't want to quit.

And that smell? Surprisingly sly snd soft, when lifted to the nose, but virtually indescribable, and utterly unique, but I'll give it a whirl...mossy, briney, vegetal, dark, cocoa, and nuts.

On the palate, very soft and pleasantly smooth. Some slight hops appear, but the thick and flavorful malt is fully in power. More flavors show themselves, more cocoa and nuts, more and more it feels like a very good brown ale. The seaweedy aspect bobs up again and again, but is inoffensive, unobtrusive. Oiliness in the texture, but terrifically smooth, with a nice, tasty finish.

This is their recreation of a historic style, from a time when seaweed brine washed over the barley fields, and infiltrated the flavors of Scottish ales. The label calls it "a rich chocolate ale which has an aroma of fresh seabreeze and a distinctive malty texture." That's about right. Anyone looking for an ale that's all about seaweed (and who are you, again, and why aren't you locked up?) will be disappointed.
I had this with an Ethiopian dish called Raafu, consisting of kale, carrots, potatoes, peppers, herbs, and spices. Went tog
ether well.

Mankato Saffron Kilt Pale Ale

Mankato Saffron Kilt. Pale Ale. Brewed and bottled by Mankato Brewing Company, Mankato, MN.

Appearance: Clear amber color, flush white head, long-lasting.

Aroma: soft, malty, semi-sweet, rather indistinct.

Taste: minor hop presence makes a bow at first sip, softly fades, what's left is crisp, toasty malt, with slight caramel and toffee flavors. Medium bodied, and smooth and easy-drinking.

So the style is in tiny print, not in bold, below the name. They call it "pale ale", but it's firmly in a Scottish Ale tradition. Let's read more of the label and see what it says: The pipes and drums of the Brian Boru Irish Pipe Band were the inspiration for Mankato Brewery's Saffron Lilt. The melody of this saffron colored ale starts with the same malt used in the finest Irish whiskeys, which harmonizes to the tune of the hops' spicy and citrus notes. Like the pipes and drums, these flavors combine in a fantastic rhythm, and finish with a great cutoff. Slainte."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Belgium Lips of Faith Coconut Curry Hefe Weizen

New Belgium Lips of Faith Coconut Curry Hefe Weizen. 8% ABV.

Highly clouded, bright golden hue, snow-white head starts big, slims down.

Aroma: Coconut hits it first, flush and fruity, with the spices creeping next. (Cinnamon, ginger, coriander, fenugreek, kaffir lime, cayenne pepper). It's a nice blend, all right, soft and fuzzy. Now, on to drink it…

Taste: Again, the coconut is king in the flavor, feeling plump on the palate, with just enough hefe weizen yeast character to keep it complex and intriguing. Banana flavor unfolds, also, with increasingly likable fruity tastes and textures. Hops are minor, spice builds, and alcohol is a low burn. I like this more and more and more.

This is the sort of beer that freaks people out when you call it by name, but damned if isn't delicious.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Vapeur D'antan 1996

Vapeur d'Antan, Brewed in 1996. Ale brewed with spices, 7.5% Alc./Vol. Product of Belgium, brewed & bottled by Brasserie A Vapeur, Pripaix, Belgium.

So, what's the story, here? They saved some barrels for 17 years or so, and bottled them for our contemporary consumption? Well, I know I like this beer before (original notes will follow), but let's taste it as a teen.

Capped and corked, this one. Virtually no head, practically still, with a clouded, dark amber appearance.

Aroma: funky Belgian yeast hits first, followed by a plethora of fruit notes. Stone fruits, apricots and peaches, with a twisted, tart turn. Not sure if it's through any barrel-aging they did on it, or just the yeast doing it's work over the years, but I like it.

Taste: on the tongue, more sourness ensues, large puckeration. Mild hop bitterness, lean-bodied, malt is mellow…the work of the years has been to sour it up and fruit it out. Pronounced spicy notes to complement the tart arises through hops and yeast.

This one drinks down wonderfully, if like a good, twisted, soured-up Belgian ale.

Here are my original notes from October, 2004:

Deep orangish color, no head at all, .

..aroma: citric, lemon and orange, blitzes of spice, very musty, so much like a farmshouse Belgian...really rustic...

Taste: very sour at the front, big puckeration, then it mellows, and becomes rather smooth and mellow...still, with a citric, spicy bite..big mouthfeel, huge presence on the palate...enormous, powerful feel on the tongue, reverberates and resonates....this is a very nice beer, a wonderful thing.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Grozet Gooseberry & Wheat Ale

Grozet Gooseberry & Wheat Ale, Ale brewed with Natural Flavors. Brewed and bottled by Heather Ale, Ltd., Williams Bros Brewing Co., Alloa, FK10 1NT Scotland, UK. Best before End: Jan. 2014….oops. Well, let's try it anyway!

a few months isn't much of a difference. Tastes fine. And exactly when I first wrote about it nearly 11 years ago…here come those notes (from July, 2003):

Appearance: hazy, dull yellow color, short, and soon demised white head.

Aroma: sparkling, sprityzy, slightly fruity, a little sour.

Very easy-going, smooth ride over the lips and down the throat, with a decent helping of good wheaten gritty texture. This ale trips very lightly along, and maintains a delicate fruity taste that just seems to float on the tongue.

Light in body, moderately spiced and very mild in flavor. An interesting experiment/recreation, and a nice little beer. Nothing that will blow you away, no, sir, but a nice, mellow brew, more than adequate as a simple dessert or a mellow nightcap.

Franziskaner Weissbier

Franziskaner Weissbier Naturtrub. Premium Hefe Weissbier. 5.0% ABV. Spaten-Franziskaner-Brau, Munchen, Germany.

So, a word or five before we get to the beer. If you follow this blog at all, you may remember my vow to check off as many local beers as possible. Also, perhaps you've seen the post where I mentioned how procuring growlers in order to further this end can be a more expensive endeavor than I am able to afford. Sometimes. Well, in addition to that, bombers, too, are problematically "spendy", as we say up here. The other day I posted two reviews of local beers, a Borealis and a Pour Decisions, which were both more than $12 for a 22 ounce serving vessel. Today I visited the same store and spied two more local brewery bombers, one from Brau Brothers, another from the newish Duluth brewery that I haven't really tried yet, Blacklist. Both were more than $14. It was too hard to make that jump, especially when I went into the store with a particular aim in mind: to find 3 bottles for under $20.

And my decision-making process  turned ever further when I glanced over in the next aisle and saw that classic European imports were there for less than $4 for a 12 ounce bottle. Beers I haven't visited in a long, long time, and really need to. In this current beer scene, all the focus seems to be on local and American and we forget where these styles come from, and who innovated first.

I actually didn't make that goal of 3 for $20, though I almost did. I was tempted by a Belgian bottle priced at $13 that I couldn't pass up. Three of those 4 beers I've had before, and will revisit the old notes while drinking it anew (and perhaps adding new notes). One of them I've amazingly never tried. But, before I get to those, another great European beer, this one sent to a friend from Germany, who gave it to me. A friend and long-time customer, who is completely unaware that this beer is readily available right here. Well, he didn't know, and who am I to turn down a free beer gift? Especially one I know I enjoy so well…and we're back to Franziskaner Weissbier.

These are notes from what was probably my first tasting, in July of 2003. Looking at them, I probably would have worded it slightly differently, but it contains the essence of what I get from this excellent Bavarian weissbier:

Hazy, straw-yellow color,enormous, pillowy white head: so far, the perfect look for a hefe weizen.

Aroma: fresh, flowery, dry, loaded with lemon.

Light and smooth, with a good, grainy texture.
Marvelous fruity flavor, with the requisite Bavarian banana/clove character really showing itself more in the middle, and rides on out through the end.

Wonderfully refreshing, thirst-quenching, damned-easy quaffability.
Belongs among the top tier of weizens: ah, delicious!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Abita Spring IPA

Abita Spring IPA Seasonal, India Pale Ale, brewed and bottled by Abita Brewing Company, LLC., Abita Springs, Louisiana.

Spring. Man, don't talk to me about spring. It's been a damned tease this year. I thought we were in it for good, and dressed appropriately, and then came an avalanche of god-forsaken winter wonderland. Snow, snow, everywhere. Goddamn it all to hell. (Okay, that's enough taking the Lord's name in vain. From here on out, I'm taking it to the cleaners…)

Let's drink a Spring IPA by Abita, already. 6.2% Alc. by vol.

Clear, bright golden coloring. Slim white head.

Aroma: tropical and citric fruit notes, mild bitterness. Pleasingly hoppy.

Taste: Smooth and approachable. Easy-going entrance on the palate, very mild hop presence. This feels like a pale ale that they want to call an IPA because that's the way the wind blows in the craft beer world these days. It's a pleasant pale ale that lacks any aggressive hop attack that you'd expect from an IPA. But, as you know, if it's called an IPA people will buy it.

this is a tasty enough beer, but it shouldn't be called an IPA if it isn't one.

Hey, let's read some back label gobbledygook: "Spring India Pale Ale is a West Coast-style IPA with an up-front intense hop flavor and aroma. Amarillo and Centennial hops give the brew a rich and resinous flavor of citrus and spice. This bright pale ale has a malt sweetness that will give way to a pleasant bitter." (Pleasant bitter what?)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Victory Dirt Wolf Double IPA

Victory Dirt Wolf Double IPA.

Clear, bright golden coloring, lush white, long-lasting head. Lookin' fine. That ain't no lie.

Aroma: honey-sweet, tropical fruit bitter. Citra? Mosaic? Another hot hop I haven't thought of? Nicely balanced, plenty of hop flavor, little bitterness.

Taste: Hop bitterness right away, gliding the palate, stays calm and cool. Modicum of sweetness strokes the tongue, bumps up against bitterness, and the slide together down the throat. Malt body is medium-ish, light, not getting in the way of the hops. Alcohol isn't felt, but hinted at. Oh, wait, there it is…

Dirt Wolf isn't a pretty name, but I assume it has links to the lore of hops. Before I check the label to see for sure, I will add my final thoughts. This is right on the money, delicious, balanced double IPA that perfectly fits the mold set by Bell's HopSlam. It's a good formula that's proven popular. And easy to market: "Can't find any HopSlam? Think HopSlam's too expensive? Try this, it's just as good!" I almost wrote "almost", but, really, it's just as good.

Not a tongue-ripper, not a palate-destroyer, just a nice, hoppy pleaser, with an onset of alcohol. mmm, hmm.

Here comes the gobbledygook: "Darkly heroic, humbles lupus (hops) have empowered brews wit bite and character since the 11th century. DirtWolf is a tribute to these untamed vines which rise from the earth with the voracity of a 'wolf among sheep.' Hops have made an assertive comeback in American craft brewing. Revel in the best US varieties of hops in their natural, whole flower form, as they bring a vital, pungent reality to the soul of a wild element in our dangerously satisfying DirtWolf."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New Belgium Hop Kitchen #5: Rye PA

New Belgium Hop Kitchen #5: RyePA India Pale Ale, Alc 7.5% by Vol.

I am warming up to the new graphic style of NB's labels, and this is a charming illustration, but what is the story? A mustachioed frog pilot in a hop costume? Sure, okay.

Appearance: hazy crimson hue, with a full creamy head. Looks great.

Aroma: ah, lovely tropical fruit hop notes. Something says "mosaic" about this one, with rye character just a bit behind.

Taste: hops bite hard right away, a good citric snap, staying long on the palate. Once the hops bitterness has made it's presence, the malt comes forward and lays out it's peppery, spicy rye malt character. The heat and the hops make a great combination, and medium body fills the mouth just right. It's good beer, and you can drink it. juuust right.

Historically, I find myself hating the gobbledygook on the New Belgium labels. I'm going to suffer through another one, nonetheless. "Gobs of Riverbend Malt House's rye, paired with heaps of Simcoe, Galaxy, Cascade, and Mosaic hops, make one one great RYE IPA. Expect some nice spicy notes and aromas to take flight."

Okay, a pun put into place, but still no word on why the pilot frog in hop drag. Well, why not?

Anchor Wheat Beer

I've been really getting into the sampler packs lately. A 12 -pack of Anchor Brewing yields me two new bottles for this blog, the classic Steam Beer, and the never-tried wheat beer, plus two I always enjoy, Liberty Ale and Porter. Win, win!

So, here are my very fresh notes on Anchor Wheat Beer:

Anchor Wheat Beer. Made In San Francisco.

Clear, bright amber coloring, snow-white head, starts large, drifts down.

Aroma: lightly floral and citric, wheaty aromatics.

Taste: Snappy hop bite at the fore, followed by nothing but smooth. Much more of a spicy, hop-forward affront than I'd expect from a Wheat Beer. Very light bodied, short finish. The hop kick stays on every subsequent sip. This doesn't taste any typical wheat beer, not even slightly in a heft wizen or a Belgian wit vein.

I feel like reading the label: "We began brewing our first wheat beer at 7:30 a.m. on July 17, 1984. It was a long day--wheat is far less cooperative in the brewhouse than barley--but a momentous one. When we pitched our ale yeast into the cooled wort 10 1/2 hours later , we had created the first craft-brewed wheat beer in America. Within a very short time, our distinctly American, filtered wheat beer, with it's high ration of wheat malt to barley malt, it's subtle hoppiness and it's uniquely San Franciscan label, garnered a small but avid following. It included an up & coming young beer writer named Michael Jackson who praised Anchor's "clean, dry wheat beer, very delicate, but with light honey and apple notes." Today, inspired by Anchor's original wheat and James Stitt's original label, this new release of Anchor Wheat Beer celebrates the rebirth of wheat beer in America."

You know what? Now that you think of it, yeah, I'm getting some of that apple and honey note, sure, why not, Michael Jackson.
I like this. I'll use the remaining bottle to celebrate the arrival of spring, whenever that finally happens.

Anchor Steam

Once again, I dip into a sampler pack, and once again I delve up notes from 11 years ago (just about). I first tapped Anchor Steam at the Blue Nile back in May of 2005, and here are the notes:

I'd had this in bottles before and thought it was just fine enough, but on first tasting it on draft, my eyes and tastebuds blew wide open, and were all the happier for it. Wow,  what a difference freshness makes.

Appearance: clear, bright amber hue, and a frothy, thick off-white head.

Aroma: soft and clean, with hints of fruit, bread, cream, nuts.

On the palate: smooth and fruity, with a small hop contingent, and very, very tasty. Body is light/ medium, texture is good, finish is long and friendly.

The fruity flavor stays on the palate for the greatest portion of this drink, and continues to reward it's consumption. With every sip, the flavor jumps aboard with zeal and vigor, fresh and ready for the task (of refreshment!). Tasty, and tangy, and, again, very giving.

A bright, beautiful hybrid beer that goes down smooth and easily, always accompanied by flavor. A great American brewing accomplishment.

Town Hall Masala Mama IPA

I'm still scratching my head over what took me so long to visit the Town Hall Brewery. It had been in business five full years before I...