Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Category: Beer Reviews (Page 37 of 92)

Lagunitas – Gnarly Wine

OldeGnarlyWineTapLogoI picked this up (like a few other recent reviews) in California, and it made the journey home to the East Coast and has been waiting for me to try it. Lagunitas beers are not impossible to find out here, but I do leap at the chance to find a good brew “from away” every now and then.

On the label: “The first sip is for thirst, the second one for pleasure.  The third sip is for knowing, and the fourth for pure madness.”

Sounds like a good end to a long day to me.

The color on this is a nice bright orange, and the smell is that typical yet amazing barleywine sweetness. It has that caramel/sugar scent that just makes you want to inhale it forever. The hops come in there, too, but its secondary to the sweetness. The taste, too, does not dissapoint on the sweetness. I always struggle to describe barleywines – there’s a sugary element, there’s a warming bit of alcohol and a bitter reminder of the intense amount of hops. This is bliss. Its warming, sweet, and stays in your mouth for quite a while. A barleywine in every sense of the style.

I’ve had other Lagunitas brews, specifically their IPAs, and was actually overwhelmed by the bitterness. However, this barleywine is a great one -and one I’d go back to again if I could get it more readily. If you need a beer at the end of a long day to calm you down or to lull you to sleep – this is the one.

Maine Beer Company : Spring Peeper & Zoe


Dan & Dave at the Brattleboro Brewer's Festival offering up their Spring Peeper and Zoe.

I first encountered the Maine Beer Company’s Spring Peeper at the Maine Beer Festival’s Beer Pairing Dinner. The two brothers and owners of the brewery, Dan & David, sat at a panel and quietly and humbly described their beer. My first impression was that this barely-bigger-than-nano-brewery might have felt a little uneasy sharing a table with Alan Pugsley (Shipyard) and Kai Adams (Sebago) for the first time. They seemed a little star-struck, but remained honest and likeable. At dinner, the beer was paired with a wonderful goat cheese and spicy greens salad – fabulous. I resolved that I ‘d find out more about this beer and the guys from The Maine Beer Company.

Now easily found in Portland, ME (get the bottles at at Novare Res, Whole Foods, or anywhere else they sell beer from Maine) their first beer has become a rapid success – and is talked about a lot. My beer geek friends keep asking me, “have you had this Spring Peeper beer? It’s awesome.” I talk a lot about this beer, and I figured it was time for a proper review. When I picked up a bottle at Whole Foods, I also nabbed one of the last few bottles of their newest beer, Zoe to try as well.

Spring Peeper:  This is described on the simple label as “handcrafted american ale, pleasant malt body, 100% American hops.” It pours a cloudy light orange, with a soapy head. I was pleasantly surprised to see a cloudy pale ale, and its smell was very inviting. It smelled like hops, but of sweet and fruity hops. It smelled light, like a cool summer’s night. This is not your typical hoppy beer, nor is it something forgettable and light. The taste on this one is different than anything out there – and certainly anything in Maine. Its complex but really satisfying. The hops are balanced by light malts, and there’s a lot going on here. Not syrupy/malty like a 90 minute IPA from Dogfish Head, this has a light, but not watery finish. Honestly I can’t even describe it. Its different in a lot of ways. I’ve used this as a beer to introduce people to hops, and they love it. I honestly wish it came in 6 packs so it could become my go-to beer. And I’m probably not the only one. On, it currently has a score of 92 – which is quite a feat for a brewery’s first offering. Go get this beer – you’ll definitely like it. It has a little bit of spiciness to it that made it pair well with the spicy salad, but I think I could drink this with anything. It’s a definite winner.

Zoe – I was happy to see this at the Brattleboro Beer Fest – because I’d heard about it but hadn’t run across it yet. For good reason, it turns out – the beer has a really limited distribution, and can sometimes be found at certain beer stores around Porland but no guarantees. The bottle has a cute smiley face logo on it, and is described simply as “our happy, hoppy amber ale.” I was surprised by the dark color – someone on ratebeer described it as root beer colored, and I’d say that’s a pretty good description. The smell is all hops – like citrus, bitterness, and almost a resin – like fresh pine sap. The taste reminds me of trying my recently homebrewed IPA wort. Hoppy and bitter up front, but with a sweetness kicking in late. This is a flavorful, but drinkable hoppy beer. There’s a lot there – but it doesn’t kill your taste buds like a Stone Ruination. You do remember that you’ve sipped it – the hops coat your mouth and you can lick it off your lips for hours. I finished this beer and wanted another. A great hoppy beer – something that I’m struggling to find a comparison to on this coast. Very nice, and worth hunting down.

In addition to being two cool guys who love great beer, the brothers have decided that a part of their profit goest to environmental organizations – part of the 1% for the Planet campaign.

If you’re living in Maine and haven’t heard of the Maine Beer Company, you’ve been missing out. If you’re living outside of Maine, you’re going to be hearing about these guys soon. But for now, its our favorite little story of the garage-brewers-gone-big. Cheers!

Sierra Nevada – 30th Anniversary “Fritz & Ken’s Ale” Stout

This bottle struck me with its prestige when I walked by it. Its black label with gold lettering and cognac-like fonts drew me in and gave me pause. Oooo. Special.

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Named “Fritz & Ken’s Ale” this is a stout – one of four collaborative brews highlighting the history of Sierra Nevada and the craft brewing spirit over the last thirty years. They’ll be released every few months (the next is coming out in May so it should be around soon). To read more about this effort, check out Sierra Nevada’s page about their 30th anniversary line. This one in particular is for Fritz Maytag (Anchor Brewing) and Ken Grossman, found of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

“A nod to the dark ales and stouts that seduced both Fritz and Ken in the early years, we bring you this pioneering stout, a rich and roasted ale, perfect for aging and worthy of your finest snifter. Enjoy!”

I brought it home and forgot about it for a little while, but after a really long and tough day, it seemed an appropriate brew to break out. It pours black – and I mean black. Its the kind of beer that absorbs all light and never lets it go. I even put a flashlight up to it. But no beams escaped out the other side. Spooky.

The smell of this beer is chocolate and malt – of the most delicious kind. The taste was heavy, thick and really inviting. It had a real richness to it, with a little finish of hop bitterness. I enjoyed that little sting, otherwise it may have been to rich or sweet for me to manage. Chocolatey, roasted, not too bitter, but not lacking in anything. As it warmed it got even more delicious (sweetened up a bit. I got halfway through the glass and got sad that soon I wouldn’t have any more left. This is a really good one, and I am sad to see its last dregs leaving my glass as I type this.

I’m eager to find the next brew in the series, though I hear it will be harder to find each one as they are released. I wish this was something that was not just a special edition, because I’d love to be able to go back to this whenever I’m craving a really great stout. If you see this, do snag it. It is more than worth your time to taste it.

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