Boulevard Irish Ale

[cool story, bro] I received a bottle of this at work the day after Boulevard brewed it, weeks before it was drinkable because it hadn’t bottle-conditioned yet. I planned on waiting a couple of weeks to let it do its thing and was then going to review it, months before it was available.

Then I forgot about it until the Irish (Boulevard’s Spring Seasonal) appeared on shelved this week.

So much for my Spring Preview Post.
[/cool story, bro]

Basic Info:
Name:
Irish Ale
Origin: Boulevard Brewery, KCMO
Style: Irish Red Ale
ABV: 5.8%
IBU: ?? *will update when the Boulevard site starts working for me again
I drank this: at home, poured into a pint glass

No picture of this beer/bottle today because I was talking and laughing and not anywhere near my phone when I was enjoying it. It’s a pretty beer in a cool bottle, though, I will tell you that (and yes, I realize this is not helpful).

To get on with it, already: the Boulevard Irish is a lovely red color with pretty much no head whatsoever. It has a nice scent of slightly piney hops combined with medium sorts of malts – it’s one of those beers that goes in the “smells like beer” category, but with the piney hop note that makes things interesting and pretty.

Flavor-wise, this does *exactly* what I want an Irish Red Ale to do: it uses my tongue as a sharpening block. This is the “bite” hop phenomenon in my world of non-standard terminology, so-called because it feels like the hops are trying to bite my tongue. I love it when Irish reds have strong bitey/sharp hops. It’s like the standard-bearer of the style in my mind.

Anyway, the hops, other than being highly sharp/bitey, aren’t hugely bitter in flavor. They’re a feeling rather than a flavor. The majority of the flavor comes from a great biscuit/caramel-sort of medium malt profile that adds a hint of sweetness and a sort of warming feeling without being heavy: this beer has a great body.

Basically, this beer is everything I want in an Irish/Red Ale with no drawbacks or hesitations whatsoever. It’s pretty much perfect, and has launched itself into number one position on my list of favorite Red Ales. This is probably not a good thing, because it means I’ll be using this as the standard by which to judge every other Red Ale I drink between now and St. Patrick’s Day.

Thanks, Boulevard. I think you just ruined my late-Winter drinking. Also, you’d best make a TON of this, because this is the beer I’d like to be drinking during March Madness.

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Grimbergen Dubbel

My first experience with this beer was last Summer, when I had a sip of my brother’s two seconds after I’d had a few sips of Avery Maharaja (read: HOP BOMB EXTRAORDINAIRE). Suffice it to say that, in my over-hopped mouth-state, I had no idea what the Grimbergen actually tasted like – my mind retained a dim idea of something along the lines of “apple,” and “apple” seemed roughly like the type of thing my tastebuds would come up with after the Maharaja(i.e., something wrong). So I was surprised when “apple” came to mind even on perfectly fresh taste buds.

It’s nice to find out sometimes that I’m not completely out of my mind.

Basic Info:
Name:
Grimbergen Dubbel
Origin: Brouwerij Alken-Maes, Belgium
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 6.5%
IBU: no idea, but low
I drank this: at Barley’s, Shawnee, KS

(The real color of the beer is closest to the edge right around the bottom of the glass. Or, well, the pen next to the glass.)

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This beer is a lovely deep auburn color with a nice, thickly-bubbled head. I don’t think the color shows up well here at all – if anyone out there knows how to make the flash on a Samsung Transform flash not *quite* so blindingly, I’d love to learn the secret.

Anyway, it smells like fruity-caramelly brown sugar, definitely leaning into the apple range of fruitiness. It’s a pleasant smell – the type of thing that makes me think “this would be AWESOME with brie.”

This is a really lovely, fairly sweet ale with touches of maple, apple, brown sugar and tons of malt. It’s a full and rich and layered flavor. It goes to straight apple right at the swallow, and then shifts into a malty, almost slightly white floral aftertaste.* For some reason, paperwhites came to mind in the aftertaste phase.

It’s a nice switch from the Chimays out there. Chimays tend to be really high in carbonation – to the point where it’s almost painful to drink – whereas the carbonation in the Grimbergen Dubbel is quite low for a Belgian Ale. It has a soft mouthfeel, almost creamy, but coupled with just enough acidity to keep it from being syrupy. This is a beer that would be really good with food.

 For a Belgian beer, I think this is one of the more approachable brews available. Belgians can be really difficult to get into because they tend to be quite a bit different from everything people are used to. They’re stronger, sweeter, thicker, and some of them – namely Saisons – can get into all kinds of sour yeast horse barn funk that is really off-putting at first (kind of like hops can be, when I think about it). The Grimbergen doesn’t have any of the sour funkiness that a lot of Belgians have, so it’s a great gateway beer. Try one sometime, especially if you’ve had/liked Chimay’s Red label.

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*I’m still blown away that I noticed apple in there, because I was absolutely convinced that my thoughts of apple last August had more to do with hop-mouth than with anything actually going on in the beer. Basically, I feel far too proud of myself right now.

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North Coast Old Rasputin

A day that looks like this:

 

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Deserves a beer like this:

 

Basic Info:
Name:
Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
Origin: North Coast Brewing Co., California
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.0%
IBU: 75
I drank this: poured from a bottle at home on a snowy evening 

North Coast’s Old Rasputin is pretty much my favorite Imperial Stout ever (so far, anyway). It’s everything an Imperial Stout should be – thick, warming, strong as Arnold Schwarzenegger, glorious as the sky on a moonless, cloudless night.

It’s apparently strong enough to throw me into random fits of poesy (er, I’m still feeling the effects of it). For those of you who know my general dislike of poetry, this should tell you everything you need to know.

This beer is black, with the slightest hint of ruby showing through at the bottom of the glass. There’s a thin rim of tan head that leaves lacing all the way down the glass.

Scent-wise, it’s a very bitter, very roasty, very strong and comforting mocha. This isn’t a coffee stout – what my nose is reading as mocha is actually dark-roasted malts, chocolate and otherwise. It’s that the malts are *so* darkly roasted that it comes across as very dark roast coffee – coffee snobs, think a French or Italian roast. The chocolate is baking chocolate-bitter (i.e., the kind that smells amazing but tastes, as my unsuspecting brother told me after I’d managed to make him try some when he was roughly 11 and I was roughly 13, “like rat poison”).

Drinking this beer begins with the sharp bite of hops and the tingle of carbonation, all of which is quickly erased by the bitterness of dark roast coffee and chocolate. The mouthfeel quickly goes creamy. The overall effect is like having the inside of a chocolate-espresso truffle melt slowly over your tongue. The roasty taste is so strong as to be almost burnt, but not quite – again, think the darkest roast of coffee you’ve ever had.

Basically, this stuff is fantastic. The roasted flavors manage to hide the super-high alcohol content, so that any sort of expected alcohol burn is lost in the glories of deep, dark chocolate and coffee beans and cream. Until you stand up, anyway. That’s when the alcohol hits.

Me, I go slightly giggly (and fairly poetic) after just one. It’s warm and comforting and exactly the type of beer that does wonders during the type of snowstorm that left my brother’s car at the bottom of the unplowed hill. I may have to have another one tomorrow night when the temperature plummets into the sub-zero Fahrenheit range.

 If this is the type of beer that sounds good to you, I suggest you find one and do the same. This beer is clearly meant for cold weather – I wouldn’t go near it once Spring hits.

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Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale

Basic Info:
Name:
5 Barrel Pale Ale
Origin: Odell Brewing Co., Colorado
Style: English Pale Ale
ABV: 5.2%
IBU:
I drank this: on tap at Waldo Pizza, KCMO

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Dudes. I love having the ability to put pics of the beer up!

I’ll start off by saying that as an English Pale Ale, this shouldn’t be too strongly hoppy. The ur-EPA in my mind is Bass; St. Peters does a great one, and if you’d like to try a good Stateside version, Schlafly’s is excellent. EPAs tend to be well-balanced, with enough malts to give some sweetness and sturdiness to the hops.

The Odell misses the mark on this. It’s brightly hoppy – not all the way to American Pale Ale, much less India Pale Ale – but hoppier than I’d expect for an English Pale Ale. So I’ll throw out there that while I think the beer is pretty decent, I have troubles with the classification of it.

On to the actual beer. You can see the color of it – nice and bright amber with a touch of white head. The nose is all Cascades-y floral-citrus hops with a touch of almost honeyed sweetness behind it.

Flavor-wise, this is bright hops with a thick malty undercurrent. There are definitely malts here in a way a lot of APAs don’t bother with, so I can sort of see why they’re going with an EPA classification (though I will stick with my idea that I think this is over-hopped for an EPA). My notes sum up drinking this beer as the liquid equivalent of a biscuit with grapefruit/grass/rosemary/honey jam on top. I have weird taste buds, so I’ll throw out there that the combo sounds really good to me.

The aftertaste, however, is this weirdly bitter-sour mash of malts. BLEH. I drank this beer quickly, because drinking more of it seemed to be the best way to kill the aftertaste. I was out of pizza at that point, so I can’t say as to whether or not food would have helped.

The best thing I can say for this beer is that it might be a good starter pale ale for people who are just beginning to get into hops, so long as the aftertaste doesn’t bother them.

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Bells Special Double Cream Stout

See! My phone got smart and got a camera and the ability to send me the pictures! Yay to me for joining 2008!

I think this is my first Bells review on this blog. This is a) pathetic and b) a crying shame. I need to haul my cookies to Missouri more often. Their beer selection is sadly way better than we get in Kansas. Bells is a primary example of this problem: their beer is AWESOME.

Basic Info:
Name:
Special Double Cream Stout
Origin: Bells Brewery, Kalamazoo, MI
Style: American Stout
ABV: 6.10%
IBU: not listed, not really important – this is a malt spectacular
I drank this: on tap at Waldo Pizza, KCMO

So. The first thing I learned about this beer upon getting home and pulling it up on the website is that it isn’t, in fact, a true cream stout. A true milk/cream stout uses lactose (i.e., milk sugar) in the brewing process to give the beer a creamy texture. The Bells Special Double Cream Stout, however, uses nary a drop of dairy/milk sugar anywhere. They managed to attain the texture of heavy cream through sheer force of malt manipulation alone.

These guys* deserve a medal.

So. The beer has a scent of chocolate and malt and milkshake with a hint of roasty toasty yumminess underneath. It tastes roughly like chocolate and malt and milkshake as well, with hints of mocha running underneath. It’s awesome.

But forget all of that, because the taste isn’t the point. The point of this beer is the texture. The mouthfeel – the sheer glorious, thick, creamy, silky, flat-out luxurious feeling of this beer against the tongue is the point of this beer. It’s… like it’s almost naughty.

This beer is one of the good ones. It’s worth searching out to try just because there flat isn’t anything else out there quite like it. Add in the fact that they managed to do this without the aid of lactose – the usual suspect in the “wowowow was that creamy” mouthfeel world – and it’s like alchemy at work.

Or I’ve just been nursing a major crush on everyone at Bells since before the glorious few days I’ve been able to spend at the pub (called the “Eccentric Cafe” and run by a bunch of hippies – the whole thing is sparse and bare and they didn’t, as of a three years ago, have a grill in the kitchen, preferring instead to use a small kettle grill out back, and the whole place was bloody amazing because Tony and I managed to split an appetizer, each get a sandwich for dinner, and each have two 20-oz beers for UNDER $20 TOTAL AND IT WAS AWESOME)… anyway, Bells is awesome. Drink their beer.

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*I thought perhaps I should point out something with my usage of “guys” on this blog. In the Midwest, “guys” often applies to both genders – it generally refers to a random group of people/friends. That’s how I’m applying it here. So this team of “guys” could be all-female for all I know. I’d still be calling them guys.

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Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale

Happy January 2nd! I hope this post finds you cleared of any and all hangovers you may have been nursing on the first of the year.

Basic Info:
Name:
A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale
Origin: Lagunitas Brewing Co., California
Style: American Pale Wheat Ale
ABV: 7.5%
IBU: 64.20*
I drank this: poured from a bottle at home sometime after Midnight on New Year’s Day, having decided around 11:30pm on New Year’s Eve when I finally arrived at the party that drinking the Stone Double Bastard I had originally intended to imbibe was likely to turn into the sort of hangover I wasn’t going to be happy about when I had to go to work the next day, and thus decided to go with a beer of the decidedly less-high-octane variety. That the decided-upon beer is 7.5% ABV should give you some idea of what lies in store when I do finally pop open my bottle of Double Bastard.

So. This beer is a lovely bright golden yellow color – almost the color of a sunflower petal – with a bright foamy white head. It has a gloriously bright grapefruit scent with a hint of sweetness running underneath. And it should be a bright, happy-looking beer: this is a Summer Seasonal for Lagunitas, and a nice change of pace from the Imperial Stouts I’ve been enjoying lately.

Going along with the Summer Seasonal status, this beer has a light body, bright carbonation and a lovely light malt/wheat/hop balance with tons of flavor. I’m not usually big on wheat beers, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of this one. It turns out (unsurprisingly, knowing me) that dumping in a metric ton of hops is going to make a winner to my tastebuds: the wheat added a touch of body, the malts kept the beer slightly sweet, and the hops tromped all over everything in mounds of happy grapefruit insanity. They continued on into the aftertaste, covering up the day-old bread aftertaste that so many wheat beers get that in turn make me not overly fond of wheat beers.

All in all, this was a decided win. It wasn’t what I’d intended on having for my first beer of the year, but it was a good way to start. If I get lucky, maybe my year will be as insanely bright and happy as is this beer.

When the 2011 batch comes out, get yourself some. Good stuff.

*You can tell a brewery loves their hops when they’re calculating the IBUs to the hundredth of a decimal place. Goodness.

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Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout

In the spirit of end of the year Top 10 lists that are so popular, but without having to compile said list, I thought I would end my year of blogging by presenting you with a review of THE BEST BEER I HAVE EVER HAD EVER tried for the first time in 2010. This beer is so good, it cures colds. It also has the honor of being married to one of the most fabulous women I have ever met ever (ILU, Mrs Bourbon County Stout). See the following*:

Congratulations to the beautiful happy couple!

Basic Info:
Name:
Bourbon County Brand Stout (Yes, the “Brand” is part of the name. No, no one I know ever bothers saying it.) (also known as “Donna’s Husband Stout”)
Origin: Goose Island Brewing Co., Chicago, IL
Style: American Imperial/Double Stout
13% ABV, 100% WIN
IBU: 60
I drank this: on tap at Waldo Pizza, KC, MO and poured from a bottle at home

People, this beer is magic, by which I mean it has healing properties, by which I mean that it cured my blargy sinus infection. Like, cured it with the power of awesome. Or, to put it in slightly clearer terms: halfway through this beer my throat (which had been in knife-stabbed pain for a solid week) stopped hurting. The pain didn’t come back at all that night, or the next day, or even the next (or the next or the next), so I can attest to the fact that it was the beer itself that solved the pain, rather than just the wine-level high quantity of alcohol in the beer.

The beer is ebony stygian midnight jet obsidian raven pitch this-is-where-light-goes-to-die BLACK with a mocha-bourbon-colored head. It smells like a batch of the best bourbon balls you’ve ever had, but better and with more chocolate.

It’s also thick. It’s not as thick as the Beer Geek Brunch Weasel (nothing is), but it’s syrupy and wonderful and sort of melts on the tongue like a mouthful of warm ganache. The bourbon is the strongest note, followed by an oaky sort of woodsy note, chocolate, vanilla, a touch of smoke and hints of toffee, coffee and caramel. There’s also an alcohol burn on the tongue and down the esophagus, sort of like you’d expect from drinking actual bourbon (though not so painful-strong).

The aftertaste is absolutely chocolate and bourbon balls. It’s one of those tastes to luxuriate in, the type that will linger on for a good fifteen minutes of bourbon stout happy-induced haze.

Words pretty much can’t sum it up, even though I’ve tried here. It’s amazing and wonderful and fantastic and glorious and one of those things that you should absolutely try, especially if you like bourbon.

*As for the marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Bourbon County Stout, allow me to link you to the Gingerneer’s Story of the Wedding. Seriously, click that link and read that story, as it’s the only way you’ll be able to understand exactly why there is a blingeed picture of Mrs. Bourbon County Stout saying her vows to the Mister. It sums up the fabulous wonder of the Bourbon County Stout more than I ever could. Also it makes me hate that I wasn’t there.

(As a lovely little end note: I have a bottle of the Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout. It’s my birthday present to me, being, at $40 or so, the most expensive beer I’ve ever bought (and proof that certain really amazing beers are capable of turning off any rational thought processes I might otherwise lay claim to). Unless convinced otherwise by a really good reason to share, I am planning on popping it open Sideways-style some random night and thereby making said ordinary random night one of the best of my life.)

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