Friday, February 8, 2013
Passing on the typical gimmicks of winter ales (such as super high alcohol content and exotic spicing), the always steady Smuttynose gives us a different kind of cold weather brew. The use of a Trappist ale yeast, along with predominantly fruity notes, makes this beer somewhat similar to a Belgian double. Yet it's not quite a Belgian double. It might be closer to a brown ale, actually. And to be honest, I think I'd take a brown ale over a Belgian double at least six days a week. Either way, this is a damn fine beer. It's less in-your-face than a lot of winter ales (sometimes with winter beers, "warming" just means it'll knock you out if you drink more than one). The flavors are quite nice: lots of dark fruit and brown bread notes with some caramel, and it's got a good solid Crystal hop bitterness to even things out. So it's a little sweet, but by no means a lot sweet. And at 5.83 ABV, this is way more sessionable than your typical winter ale. It's great to drink one or two with dinner on a cold night. Although I generally consider myself a huge fan of winter ales, there are a lot of them that I don't like. This one, while not anything that's going to wow the palate, is wicked smooth and enjoyable to the last drop. I'd give it a B+.
I generally don't go for blondes. I'm more a full-bodied brunette sort of guy. Give me a stout, porter, or even a brown ale, and I'm a happy camper. But there are times when a man does desire a crisp, golden beer that's not bland corporate swill. You rarely hear about craft breweries making blonde lagers. I guess a lot of them figure that beer snobs like me don't bother with that sort of thing. But really, we do. It just has to be delicious. If you've ever had a Stoudt's Gold, you understand that plain old lagers don't have to be plain old lagers. I put Sixpoint's The Crisp in the same category. Barring imports, it's the best blonde beer I've ever had. A beer like this goes against a lot of trends in craft brewing. You can't just hop it to death or fill it with exotic ingredients and call it a day. You actually have to know how to make a great-tasting beer! Sixpoint totally nailed this one. If I had to guess, it's their interpretation of an old world German pilsner. Living up to its name, it's a crisp lager with a nice mix of grassy and herbal hops. It's just a tad bitter and lightly malty, with biscuit notes mixing nicely with lemon and mint as it finishes. It's nothing fancy, but for the style it's perfectly executed and beautifully balanced. There are times when I'm drinking beer with a meal that I've got to have something crisp and refreshing in my glass. And The Crisp really hits the spot on those occasions. It's probably a notch too elevated to qualify as a "lawnmower" beer, but it's definitely along those same lines. It quenches the thirst and goes down smooth. Indeed: great beers don't always have to be sophisticated beers. This one is simple but extraordinary, and a brilliant twist on a classic style. Highest recommendation!
Sunday, February 3, 2013