Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Tag: Southern Tier (Page 1 of 2)

Southern Tier Krampus (Imperial Helles Lager)

You know how the Pretty Things Baby Tree label creeped me out? This one actually made me turn it around so it didn’t freak me out each time I opened the fridge and saw the devil-lizard-monkey staring at me. According to the label, the Krampus is a European mythical figure that acts as the opposite figure to St. Nick at Christmas – a “Christmas Devil” if you will that beats naughty children with “stick and chains.” Wow. No wonder I was freaked out.

So, back to he beer itself. This is an “Imperial Helles Lager” and I’ll admit I haven’t had many described as that style. It’s hard to find good German styles in the craft beer world, so this one is a domestic attempt at one with a “diabolical spirit.” Usually I’m not into really crisp lagers with bite, so I was curious to see what this one would bring.

The smell of this is certainly intimidating. Skunky and resinous (almost dirty feet) hops smells. Behind that are a really nice wet hop smell and some sweet and sticky notes. Really interesting to smell… if you can stand it without blowing out your nostrils.

The taste is also very interesting – a lot to go on there. Lots of hops, but what’s really nice about this one is that it has a great malty backbone. It’s sweet underneath that aggressive layer of hops. It’s a really nice beer – I had this in New York City and it was great fresh and crisp off the tap, but it was also great a little warmer out of the bottle at home. I think if you can get over the hump of the assaulting hops on the front end, you’ll be rewarded with the surprisingly smooth finish (and just a little touch of caramel flavorings) on the back end.

Southern Tier – Gemini

Now, it isn’t just because I’m a gemini that I picked up this brew. No, it was the fact that Southern Tier has recently started distributing to Maine, and I had to celebrate by picking up several bottles that I’ll be reviewing over the next few weeks. I can’t wait to try a lot of their line – famous for their strongly-flavored and sometimes ridiculously sweet beer (you’d be famous for that too if you had a creme brulee stout) this is the first of many I’ll be trying.

Gemini is a blended version of two of their brews – Unearthly and Hoppe. This is honestly the first blended brew that I’ve come across that wasn’t a lambic, so this should be interesting. Ideally I’d love to try this side by side with each of its components. But, lacking that, I’ll dive in anyway.

I poured it out and was happy to see that it was a dark orange, with a lot of cloudiness going on.  The smell was an interesting one. Not all hops, it included a bit of sweet smell to it (caramel?) and seemed to be something that I would definitely enjoy.

The first sip on this was one that coated the inside of my lips immediately. Not so sweet as to make me pucker, but full of an intense flavor. It was a backed-down IPA with some almost barleywine characteristics – a sweetness that stuck around and left a syrupy feeling in my mouth. After a few more sips, I got more of the hops out of it, and began to feel that little bitter twinge. Interesting dual personalities going on in this brew (for good reason). At 10.5% ABV there was some alcohol there, too, but it was hidden underneath layers of sweetness and depth.

I don’t think that I could have this with dinner, however. It has one of those flavors that just stays in your mouth for hours. Might be interesting to cook with, though I don’t usually recommend wasting imperial beers in cooking.

If they were truly trying to get the dual personalities metaphor going, they’ve done well – this goes back and forth on the palate but then does not let you forget that you’ve tasted it. I don’t think its toned down enough for people who aren’t huge into hops to like. But, for those bored with traditional IPAs, this might be an interesting “variation on a theme” for you to check out.

Southern Tier – Iniquity (Black Ale)

Mike found this one at Kappy’s in Saugus, MA along with a few other Southern Tier brews. I have sampled Southern Tier beer before and found it to be strong flavored and for the most part, delightful. 

This one intrigued me particularly when I began to read the bottle.
“…Wishes of good fortune often collaborate with the brewer’s creativity to yield dramatic results. We carefully chose the name for this imperial IBA, Iniquity – a word opposing goodness. Why? This beer is contrary to what one may expect from an IPA; this is an ale as black as night. It is the antithesis of Unearthly. 
Some may consider it an immoral act to black an ale. We suggest that they don’t rely on conventional standards. Allow the darkness to consume you. Cheers!”

What? Did I read that right? A black IPA? An Imperial Brown Ale? I have got to try this. It pours, well, black. With a dark brown head like an oatmeal stout. The smell though, betrays its origins. A hoppy and strangely smoky smell, it is one of the most unique aromas I’ve ever sniffed out of a glass. Like a contradiction, it plays back and forth between hoppy sting and malty warmth. This one is going to be interesting.
Like the aroma, this one’s taste is a trick on the tongue. It is up front an IPA, and ends with a smoked maltiness that is characteristic, almost, of a Rauchefetzen. This is likely a hybrid, an IPA balanced with smoked malts to add the dark color and different taste. It is a pairing you would not normally expect. I can safely say I have never tasted something like this. 
It is 9% ABV, and something I want to taste over and over again. It is for the IPA lover bored of citrusy hops, or for the porter lover yearning for a zing. A truly unique experience. 

Southern Tier – Jah-va Imperial Coffee Stout

For a long time, I’ve avoided coffee stouts because I don’t like coffee. I can’t drink it, don’t like the smell of it, and can’t get over its flavor even if its hidden in ice cream. But I was told that coffee stouts don’t really taste like coffee, they just take the best bits of it and support an already good beer. I’ve tried Red Hook’s Double Black, which is also a coffee stout, and I liked it a lot. So, I felt a little braver when I saw this bottle.

In the glass, this sits black with a ring of white head that rings the edge and never leaves as it is consumed. The aroma? Sweet alcohol with a roasty bitterness and a hint – a whisper – of coffee. I’m feeling pretty confident that this won’t swamp me with bitter coffee, so I decide its time to stop staring at the brew and actually drink it.
The taste is a beautiful, delicious stout with just a hint of that earthy dirty coffee that adds a bit of character to what would be a strong imperial stout without the coffee. The taste is complex and would delight any palate, whether you like coffee or not. I think they’ve done a wonderful job balancing bitter and sweet, alcohol and malt. This is a must-try if you like dark beer and you’re looking for something better than your typical Guinness. I am impressed, and the 12% ABV lends some serious weight to this well crafted drink. It would work well with a post dinner dessert (replacing coffee of course). 
The bottom line : if coffee tasted like this, I would drink coffee!!

The Great Pumpkin (Reviews) Blue Moon, Smuttynose, Southern Tier & Shipyard!

The leaves have changed and the season begs for spices, sweetness, and earthy flavors. In my beer travels I have searched for the “Great” pumpkin beer. One that I can give anyone who loves fall and they’ll sip it through the season. So, without further adieu, I give you The First Annual Great Pumpkin Review – featuring 4 Pumpkin brews that I haven’t reviewed on The Beer Babe before:

Blue Moon – Harvest Moon
This one is amber and has a little head, the smell is slightly pumpkin at the end, but not exceedingly strong. The taste, though, is quite light. It is difficult to pick out the pumpkin flavor in this ale and there’s a bit of thinness to it. It isn’t a bad harvest ale, but to really have the title of being a pumpkin ale, it falls a little shot of the mark.
Smuttynose – Pumpkin
Ale (Portsmouth, NH)
This one is also a rich orangy amber and poured with almost no head. The smell on this one is hard to place. I definitely detect some cinnamon. Tasting this one is actually quite interesting. It has the little sweetness that most pumpkin ales share, but there’s almost a bit of the pumpkin’s vegetable taste in it. Its interesting, but makes it more savory than sweet. I think this is a good one for those who don’t like it sweet. More on the earthy side of the spectrum.
The Shipyard Brewing Company’s Pumpkin Ale (Portland, ME)
This one is the lightest color, a little more on the yellowy amber side than the orange. The aroma on this has got to be one of my most wonderfully pleasant odors that i’ve come across. Maybe its just because I like fall, but the smell on this one is nutmeg, brown sugar, pumpkin, sweetness and malt. I have to say, though, I noticed that this year’s incarnation of this seems a little thinner than I remember it. I like the taste – it’s spicy and pumpkin pie-ish. This is what I think of when I think of a classic pumpkin beer. If such a thing exists!
Southern Tier Pumpking
This one came to me from several of my beer friends on Twitter insisting that I need to taste this. I saw it when I was on Long Island, and snatched it, waiting for the right moment to drink it. After uncapping it I was knocked over by the smell. Brown sugar, spices, pumpkin in a sweeter and deeper note than the others in this round. This one has a smell almost like pumpkin pie… crust? Butter cookie? Its not wheaty but somehow starch smelling, like a sweet bread. This one is the only one in the bunch that’s a 9% ABV. The taste is smooth, not overwhelmingly sweet but completely unique. It isn’t maple-syrupy like the shipyard could be, but more of a new taste. I would recommend that if you’re not offended by lots of flavor(ing) in a beer, try this. I like this one a lot but I don’t know if I can have more than one serving in a sitting. But who would want to? This is a beer for curling up on a porch and watching the leaves change.

So where does this leave us? Still seeking the perfect pumpkin ale. Of the group, Southern Tier had the most personality and originality. Smuttynose had the most “real” pumpkin taste, Blue Moon was the most drinkable, and Shipyard was the most nicely spiced. I’m not sure if I can say that there was one that embodies all the qualities of the elusive ‘Great’ pumpkin beer. But… I’ll keep my eyes peeled the next time I’m in a pumpkin patch.

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