Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar ale

On the night of my 41st birthday, at the Arooga’s in east York, I tasted Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar ale for the very first time. Had I done nothing else for my birthday, it still would have been one of the best birthdays of my life. That’s how good this beer was! It was like tasting perfection. As much as I like to tout the wares of breweries like Founders, Dogfish Head, and Victory, it’s becoming evident to me that Rogue is my overall #1. And the Hazelnut Brown Nectar is up there with anything I’ve tried off the Rogue line.

Granted, brown ales in general are not the most exciting beers. Usually they’re “okay” but hardly extraordinary. But this particular variation on the brown ale theme is truly out of this world. The concept: add hazelnut extract to a traditional English brown. The result: a rich and improbably smooth beer that’s nutty, sweet, and crazy wicked delicious. Eight different kinds of malts give this ale a pleasingly toasty flavor, and the hazelnut brings an added dimension of yum. At only 33 IBUs, there’s very little bitterness to counter all that malt sweetness. Yet by no means is it “too sweet”. Like all of Rogue’s ales, HBN is flawlessly balanced and absolutely bursting with flavor. Some may call it a “dessert” beer, but personally I’d prefer it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If I’m making my top ten beer list, this one’s getting a spot for sure. Hazelnut Brown Nectar? More like nectar of the gods!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Yards Brewing Company Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale

Being of British descent on my dad’s side, I often imagine that my fondness for beer has been hotwired into my DNA over many centuries. And going way back, I know my ancestors probably weren’t drinking IPAs or Belgian dubels. They were drinking various kinds of English ales. And let me tell ya, I sure do enjoy English ales! Lately I’ve really been digging Yards’ Ales of the Revolution, which are beers based on the original recipes of our (English descended) founding fathers. In particular, I’m absolutely nuts about Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale. According to Yards, this is Jefferson’s very own recipe for the beer he brewed from homegrown ingredients like honey and rye. And while I’ve never traveled back in time, by all accounts this is pretty close to the sort of beer one would have imbibed in the era of the American Revolution. It’s quite delicious, complementing the usual caramel/toffee/biscuit malt profile of an English ale with a candied fruit sweetness and that classic grassy hop finish. Drinkability is probably 5/5, and no doubt I could pound these all night. But check this out: alcohol comes in at a whopping eight percent! Holy crap! Jefferson didn’t mess around! It’s quite a high ABV for a “golden” ale, but this was the 18th Century when men were men! Kudos to Yards for taking a throwback formula and brewing it up right. This bad boy is balanced, smooth, and pretty unique within the realm of English strong ales. This will become a mainstay in the Rutledge household. I’ve not tried a whole lot of offerings from Yards in the past. But rest assured I will now!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Fuller's London Pride

Every year I like to designate one beer style to explore, and I decided 2012 should be the year of the English pale ale. EPAs in general are one of my favorite beer styles, and I will forever consider Bass one of my go-to brews. But I wanted to find out what else was out there besides Bass. So I bought a six-pack each of Old Speckled Hen and Fuller’s London Pride the last time I went beer shopping. I didn’t love the Old Speckled Hen, but the Fuller’s London Pride was a full-scale jackpot hit! I’m sure I’ve had it before a couple times in my life, but it’s been a while. Damn! When I talk about the EPA being a favorite style of mine, this is exactly the kind of beer I’m talking about. It’s smooth and relatively full-bodied, with a nice malty taste highlighted by notes of bread, biscuit, caramel, and butter. It finishes clean with a mild leafy hop kickback, and all in all it’s the embodiment of a drinkable session beer. As my explorations continue, I may check in with some lesser known English breweries as well a few American interpretations of the EPA. But sometimes the “classics” are classic for a reason. If Bass sets the standard, Fuller’s is not far behind. And having had both, I’m not sure I wouldn’t give FLP the slight edge. Absolutely a world class beer. English pale ales may not be the typical beer geek’s choice of style, but I am not the typical beer geek. If you, like me, enjoy a good EPA, this one is top shelf.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Victory Brewing Company St. Boisterous Hellerbock

Yay, it's spring beer time! And is there anything better to drink in the spring than a Maibock? When you're done with the barleywines and imperial stouts but not quite ready for hefeweizens and pilsners, it's hard to beat a nice, golden bock. Victory Brewing Company makes some of the best German style beers this side of Germany, so it should be no surprise that their take on the Maibock/Helles bock is totally on point. Made with Noble German hops and decocted German malts, St. Boisterous is exactly what I crave in the early spring: clean & refreshing, yet full-bodied and hearty. It's got a lemony tang and malty sweetness that hit you up front, and then the hops take over with their crisp, grassy bitterness. Very, very nice - and overall one of Victory's most underrated brews. At seven percent alcohol, this may be a little "strong" for a session beer. So be careful if you're drinking more than one or two. The alcohol is, as they like to say, "well-hidden". They don't call it "boisterous" for nothing.