Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Category: Beer Reviews (Page 37 of 55)

Belfast Bay – McGovern’s Oatmeal Stout

I’ll admit that I have no idea when I bought this, or where. But its dark goodness has been taunting me each time I open my beer fridge. Tonight the temperature outside is supposed to “rapidly plummet” into the single digits, freezing everything in its wake without discretion. An oatmeal stout seems like just the thing to warm my insides. 

I poured this into a tall glass and almost made a fatal mistake. The head rose up quickly and nearly brimmed over – saved only by my immediate action of sipping the head off the top until it no longer threatened to spill. I saved it, waited for the head to subside a little, and poured the rest of the beer into the glass. I am proud to say not a drop was lost to my error. 
This beer is the color of opaque cola and the head which threatened to overwhelm me was a chocolaty brown. The smell was that of chocolate and malt, with a little smoke folded in. It doesn’t smell bitter, which is a definite plus. The taste is a combination of malt and chocolaty notes. I think that the oatmeal has removed some of the traditional sting, and it finishes with a really pleasant smoky/roasty flavor. I like this. 
The Belfast Brewery itself only brews/distributes two beers, the McGovern Oatmeal Stout (named, incidentally, not after a famous president, but after Dan McGovern their brewer) and the Lobster Ale. Don’t worry, it isn’t made with lobster, but is a hoppy red ale that pairs well with a summer meal of lobster, sweet corn and chowder. 
The McGovern Oatmeal Stout is perhaps an example of what a brewery can do if it focuses on one or two great beers, instead of brewing 5 average ones. Yet another great thing to come out of Maine, the Oatmeal Stout is worth a taste should you ever catch it.

Otter Creek – Sphinx

“The mouth of a perfectly contented man is filled with beer” 

This mix of barley, wheat, spelt, rye oats, millet, honey and chamomile is an Egypt-inspired brewing from Otter creek, featuring Vermont honey. The Egyptians were reportedly the first brewers of beer, and this one was brewed as a tribute to the “inventors of beer.” This reminds me of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch, which is a brewing based on archaeological evidence from tombs – so I picked it up. It seems fitting that I’m trying this on an evening in with a cat – I’m babysitting Dusky, a grey cat owned by my archery coach (or should I say that she owns him?) She also has the habit of sitting like a sphinx…. so I thought it would be appropriate.
This one sits in the glass cloudy and a dark hay color, with a thin layer of head and a very interesting aroma. Scents of cinnamon, apple, rye rise to my nose as I smell it, and I can’t help but pick up a little scent of honey, too. I didn’t really detect the chamomile. I’m glad that it didn’t smell dominantly like chamomile flowers, it might have turned me off to trying it.

The taste on this one is bright and sharp. It isn’t hoppy, but is spicy and light on the tongue. I still somehow detect spice, though that might be coming from the multiple grains in the brew. I like this, its a crisp brew. Compared to the Midas Touch, its a bit tighter. The Midas Touch was made with grapes and has a sweeter but more intoxicating honey flavor. 
Overall, this one was pretty interesting. It would also be a good one to attempt to pair with foods. Perhaps Baklava? It would also be something interesting for an Egyptian themed party. But I digress. I’ve never had a beer that tasted quite like the Sphinx. And if you haven’t either, you might just like drinking like an Egyptian.

Avery Brewing Company – The Beast Grand Cru Ale

No, I haven’t just returned from a trip to Colorado, but I was able to find this one (and other Avery offerings) at Oliver’s beverage in Albany, NY. Oddly enough, I was actually a bit annoyed at myself after reading my receipt. I always run up a decent tab at great beverage centers, but this one seemed a bit high. I examined the receipt to find that I had payed more than $8.00 per 12 oz. bottle that I had purchased of the Grand Cru. I must not have been looking at the prices as I was making mixed six packs. So I put off tasting this one for a while, because I really hoped it would be worth what I paid for such tiny bottles.

Looking at the label, it is a very high ABV – 14.6%. This is, I should note, the 2006 batch, so its aged for the past two years. Its possible that the alcohol has increased over time. And I should have known there was something special about it because the bottles were covered in red foil, and featured a beautifully luminous label that shined with metal paper. 
It poured thickly, slowly, with a dark, cloudy brown color and a thin eggshell colored head. I could smell it even when it was several feet away from my nose during and after the pour. The aroma can best be described as having the sweetness and alcohol of brandy, with some malts and a hint of toffee and spices, maybe some molasses. It is a strong aroma, no doubt, and probably foreshadowing something that’s going to pack a wallop of taste.
The taste hits you like a sack of bricks. Its sweet, almost to the point of puckering. It has retained a lot of the alcohol, which leaves a sting on the tongue. This one is so strong that I had to sip it in tiny bits. It leaves a sweet citrus taste on the lips after tasting, and I could almost see myself cooking with this, to get at the complexities of the flavorings. There is a tartness in the second wave, which is like an amplified Belgian taste. The taste overall isn’t mellow, is intriguing but barely gentle enough to be put onto the tongue again and again. It isn’t that I don’t like the taste, its that the taste is so amped up that it’s hard to actually enjoy or taste it. 
As it warmed, and as I got over the shocking taste, it began to grow on me however. The initial sting mellowed and more raisin and malty flavors took over. The sweetness still had me sipping small amounts at once, but it was far from the sack of bricks that the first taste yielded, like a beast that had escaped to wreak havoc on my taste buds. 
It reminds me vaguely of Unibroue’s  Seigneuriale with its yeasty almost sourness. This is one mother of a complex beer, and it is released annually. From what I’ve seen in reviews, it varies a  lot from year to year, and even the ABVs differ by several percentage points (for example, the 2008 brewing was 16.4 %). 
In conclusion, I’m sure that this is a complex, and deserving beer. But it’s hard to get through in one sitting, and would be better enjoyed in an aperitif glass than in a full twelve ounce bottle. It is certainly a testament to what a beer is capable of if you push it far enough, but I’m not sure its something I’d recommend that you run out and get. I have heard fabulous things about Avery, though, so I won’t let this prevent me from checking out more of their offerings. 
I’m curious if any of you out there have tried this before, and what you thought. Leave me a comment and let me know!

Stone – Old Guardian Barleywine

I haven’t had any good Barleywines lately. I’ve tried a few that were a bit lackluster, but none terrible or off putting. So I was craving what I typically think of as a barleywine – thick, sweet, alcoholic. And boy did I get what I was looking for. 

I poured this out of the bottle and was delighted at the color – a rich dark amber. Like most brews that Stone makes, this one is anything but subtle. The smell is one of intoxicating sweetness, just as it should be. I didn’t get a lot of head in the pour, probably because the pour was slow and careful, and when I poured it it was chilled. I let it warm up a little before diving in, because I like the warmth that barleywines can give.

Tasting it, I was not dissapointed. The flavors include the alcohol sting of a barleywine, a wonderful warm soft sweetness, and a spicy note that is a delight. It also has a bit of hop flavoring through it, which is nice, and a nice touch (since I’ve been drinking such malty brews lately). The bottle I tried was also dated, and labeled as an “limited early 2008 release” released in January of last year, so this is about a year of aging. I think that the flavors are just right at this point. Stone’s website says that aging further mellows the alcohol sting and that this one can age with the best. 

Its rare to find a strongly flavored yet not overwhelming barleywine. I think that this is an example of what can be done when a brewery like Stone puts their beer-centric minds towards it. Go get this one, it should be widely distributed.

Sam Adams – Double & Triple Bocks

Back when I was a beer novice, I picked up a pretty black bottle at Kappy’s and thought it was somehow exotic, rare, or interesting. It was made by Sam Adams, so I felt safe that at least it was local, and it was being sold at a store so it was at least relatively normal. And I was wrong, very wrong, on both counts. The bottle? A tiny sample of Sam Adams Triple Bock, actually in a cobalt blue bottle with a glass blue stopper, and it pours a disturbingly thick like fermented teryaki sauce. 

Did I also mention that the last time that it was brewed was 1998? That’s the best case scenario, an 11 year vintage. 
I was told by some friends that I should try it again… that I didn’t really have a palate then, and that I’d “appreciate” it more now. I picked up some Sam Adams Double bock – certainly not as “aged” as the Triple Bock, and decided to do a side by side comparison. 
The double bock pours a dark caramel, with a pleasing oaky smell. The triple pours a thick, viscous black with an acrid alcoholic, savory sweet aroma. 
I have to admit that I had a kind of visceral gut reaction to the smell of this. There’s something disturbing about staring into a glass filled with black liquid that you know doesn’t taste very good – I can only imagine what people at the turn of the century thought when staring down a spoon full of cod liver oil. 

After pouring them both, and pausing to take a picture, contemplating the upcoming sips, I dove in. The double was surprisingly tight. It was woody and sharply alcoholic, with lots of malt and some earthy undertones. I liked it, but I’ve also been told that the alcohol mellows with age. The triple, on the other hand, is not mellow by a long shot. It smacks the back of the tongue with sourness, malt, alcohol. It stings on the tongue and overwhelms but then, just then, you get a moment of something. Something different. Another sip, concentrating just on that little moment brings forth a different flavor. The malts – the strengthened and earthier versions of the double – are there. 
I wouldn’t doubt that the triple is past its prime, past what it was meant to turn into. Had I tried this in 2001, it could have been something exceptional. Sadly, its still being sold but is not worth it. But the bottle is beautiful, alluring and might even worth the conversation that ensues when tasting an 11 year old tiny beer in a blue bottle. If you want a great “I dare you to try this” beer, I suggest the triple bock. You at least get to keep the bottle and watch your friend’s noses wrinkle.
If you come across it, gather 6 friends around in a circle, don’t smell it, pour it into shot glasses and drink it simultaneously. Watch the faces, it’s priceless. Once everyone finishes reeling and making Popeye faces, bring out a six pack of the Double Bock. Their taste buds will thank you.

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