September, Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale; American Brown Ale

As in the below comic, I’ve been looking for a great brown ale for months now… since the spring basically. Brown ales (specifically nut brown ales) have this great flavor that I really want to love, but everything I’ve had felt thin and lacked the persistence that I love in a good beer. I always expect a beer to feel thick and to stick with me. I tend to drink slowly, sipping a beer over the course of an hour or so and just enjoying it’s flavor, so something that sticks with you really helps stretch that out. Unfortunately for everything I love about a brown ale, most of them have the viscosity of water.

Dogfish Head is a brewery I’ve had problems with too. They’re world famous for their IPAs, but it’s a style that’s not up my alley. I wanted to feature them because of their overall quality as a brewery, but couldn’t find anything I loved enough to honestly do it. I enjoyed their 18% ABV World Wide Stout, but more as a novelty than a real drinking beer. I guess things changed a little bit when I tried their Palo Santo Marron brown ale. I thought that maybe my problem with brown ale’s could be circumvented if I found a good quality beer with a higher ABV. And if Dogfish Head can make a palatable 18% brew, then they’d be the people to try it with. Palo is 12% and I couldn’t stand it. The alcohol taste wrecked me right away. But that sort of line of thinking brought me around to try this Indian Brown Ale at 7.8 and it’s absolutely delicious. My only problem with it is that I can’t buy it often enough. My local shops seem to run out of it as fast as it comes in.

Now I still have my eyes out for a *nut* brown ale, but I’ll be surprised if I ever find one I like as much as this. I could drink this beer every day. I had planed to be drinking a bottle while I wrote this review so I could swoon over the caramelized brown sugar and it’s hoppy sweetness, but I greedily drank my last bottle hours ago. It’s ok though… I can still kinda taste it :)

 Rate Beer ………………… Beer Advocate

August, Youngs Double Chocolate Stout

I’ve mentioned Young’s Double Chocolate Stout before in conjunction with beer floats, which I’d never tried, so this month seemed like the perfect opportunity. The combination of bitter from the beer and sweet from the ice cream was not what I expected and I don’t know if I’d recommend it. I’m glad I tried it though, regardless. Something to cross off my beer aficionado list.

But I should be talking about the beer itself and not just ice cream float. Young’s Double, in my opinion, is the undisputed champion of chocolate stouts. Sure you have some great variants like the Founder’s Breakfast Stout, but for just a straight chocolate stout you can’t do much better than Youngs. I won’t lie, the fact that it comes in a nitro can, like a Guinness, certainly doesn’t hurt matters. The nitrogen gives is a real soft mouthfeel. It’s fluffy.

It also balances the chocolate and the beer perfectly. Normally, I’m not a fan of flavored beers, but chocolate is one of those flavors that compliments the beer quite well. The problem most beers have is that the chocolate tastes too syrupy and overpowers or over-sweetens the beer. Youngs manages it perfectly. Although one of my favorite things about Youngs is it’s wide distribution. You can see bottles of it in most supermarkets, and cans in just about *any* craft beer store. The day four packs are sitting next to Guinness at the local supermarket will be a good day indeed. :)

 Rate Beer ………………… Beer Advocate

July 2013, Unita Baba Black Lager; Schwarzbeir

My love of Baba Black Lager might be  slightly skewed by how hard it was for my to find. See, my friend Steve was given a six-pack of it by a friend of his, and I bummed one off him one night, because I’m a bum. I discovered a lovely black lager that wasn’t too bitter, and was nice and light, and was basically damn good, and I recounted that I’d see the label recently in a craft beer store, but couldn’t remember where. It was then on my list as a beer-to-buy again for about a year. Then, when I’d all but given up on finding it, there it was, in ALL of my local craft beer stores. And in both bottles and cans! Clap your hands!

Craft beer has been trying to get cans moving for a couple years now. And while you can get a few craft beers in cans, there’s still a bit of a stigma against them. They’re low class because they’re cheaper to make, easier to store, and don’t negatively affect the flavor of the beer, at least as far as I can tell. But Nate, you shout impotently at your computer screen, I don’t want to drink beer out of a can. Then pour it into a glass, short sighted reader. It tastes the same.

Now that Unita has a bigger foothold in New Hampshire, they’re bringing loads of yummy beers here. I’m trying to stick to one beer per brewery per year of Barflys, and Baba made obvious sense to me, especially in light of my recent comic mocking Miller 64. Baba only has 120 calories per bottle, and is delicous for something that’s only 4.5% alcohol. If you’re going to drink a dark beer during the summer, you’d be hard pressed to find a better one than this.

 Rate Beer ………………… Beer Advocate

June 2013, Mayflower Golden Ale; American Blonde Ale

It has been oppressive hot during the last week or so and, like any beer drinker with sense in his head I’ve been drawn to lighter beers that drink easily. That’s a tough choice for me because most of the beers in my stock are dark strong beers that are so heavy and bitter that they make Guinness competitively have the mouthfeel of marshmallow fluff. I mentioned in an earlier posting that I thought calling a beer simple wasn’t an insult if it was also delicious. As much as I love the complexity of a 12% Russian Imperial Stout, when a beer gets too complex it stops becoming a beer that you drink and starts becoming an “experience” and sometimes one it’s hard to get through. As highly rated as these beers end up online, you can rest assured that the people who rate them don’t drink them every night. No, on regular nights they have a quiet unassuming beer that is delicious and easy to drink, and they don’t drink to criticize it, they just enjoy it.

That’s kinda what Mayflower Golden Ale is for me. It’s a great Golden Ale, and while I wouldn’t say there was anything particularly special about it, and it wouldn’t be the first beer I’d recommend to anyone, it’s always the beer I want to pick up if I’m having a party, or a relaxing having day outside. This is the beer I most want to be drinking if I’m just “having a beer.” It’s the kind of beer I want to share with people that I will simultaneously not be pissed about if one of my friends drinks the last one.

 

 Rate Beer ………………… Beer Advocate

May 2013, Full Ail 25th Anniversary Pale Dopplebock; Dopplebock

My girl loves doppelbocks which (when it comes to girls and beers) is a little weird.  Right? It’s dark and sweet and super strong… pretty much the opposite of conventional girl-beer expectations. Meanwhile, I just can’t drink them. They’re too flavorful for me. The taste is overbearing (as is the smell.) But whenever I go to the craft beer store I’m sure to pick up a bottle of something for her. I grabbed this one because the idea of a “pale” doppelbock intrigued me. She didn’t like it, and really, it doesn’t taste anything like a doppelbock. I’m sure there is some technical hops/yeast/malts reason why it’s called a doppelbock, but I would never put it in that category in a blind taste test. I was a little more lax on it at first. I sat on the side of  “not bad.” However, my description of it quickly and unintentionally changed to a recommendation when I was telling my friends about it later that night.

I’ve had it a couple times since and I think I like it a little more each time. This is easily the Beer of the Month that I’ve drunk the least so far. It’s this great combination of cheap, strong, and yummy. It’s got a 9% ABV and I’ve been picking it up for 5$ a bomber, making it a financially comparable yet tasty alternative to national brands. I’m actually talking myself into picking up a couple bottles tonight as I’m typing this :) Oh, and rest assured, it smells delightful. I actually had the below conversation about a doppelbock (which is how it made it into this month’s comic) but that was Thomas Hooker Doppelbock, which I assure you, smells accordingly.

 Rate Beer ………………… Beer Advocate


April 2013, Rogue Ales: Chatoe Rogue First Growth Dirtoir Black Lager; Schwarzbeir

I confess. I bought this partially because my taste in dry bitter beers made the word “Dirtoir” sound appealing. It’s like Dirt and Noir put together! Right up my alley. The second main reason I bought it is because Rogue is currently at this great in-between place where they’re totally a craft brewery, but their distribution has them in supermarkets and gas stations. In fact, for a while I was debating which of their beers I’d feature. They have a huge variety of beers ranging from exceptional (like this one, or like their Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout) to just plain errors in judgement (like Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale.) But maybe it’s that kind of risk-taking that allows them to come up with a beer as delicious as this one.

There was a time when the idea of drinking beer warm was completely distasteful to me. Obviously it’s come from years of drinking macro-brews and lite beers. That last warm sip from the bottle makes me retch. However, I drank my first bomber of this so slow that it was warm by the time I was finishing it, and it was so delicious that I am coming around to the idea. (Since then I’ve had The Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout which is actually *better* warm than cold.) The thing with their Dirtoir is that it’s good both cold and warm. When cold the chocolate sweetness dominates the flavors, but when warm the subtlety of the malts cuts through it leaving your mouth coated with this aftertaste that sticks with you.

On a side note, there’s no distribution map because RateBeer requires a membership now and even though it’s free, I’m very very very lazy and don’t like being forced to become a member of things I use pretty often actually.

Rate Beer ………………… Beer Advocate

 

March 2013, Left Hand Brewing Company: Stranger;  American Pale Ale

There’s something about a light drinkable beer that is hard to beat. I mean, that’s why lager’s always do so well. The flavor is uncomplicated and if you’re into overconsumption, you can put down a dozen of them like it ain’t no thing. Now, certainly this could be taken as an insult to Stranger but I *hate* most lagers. Canned light beers are bullshit. But I still appreciate the idea of a beer that’s light and drinkable as long as it doesn’t sacrifice flavor to do it.

As much as I love stouts, I’m always have been not-so-secretly jealous of IPA lovers. The beers are sweet and sour and, if you’re into that, they must be *so* refreshing. It’s in a way that a stout can’t really duplicate. Even if it’s a low-gravity stout, is just feels heavy. It’s a dessert or a meal, but it’s not a thirst-quencher.

Stranger gets lower ratings than it deserves, I think, because it doesn’t go overboard on the hops. Serious beer snobs discount it because it’s rather simple, but it’s fruity and yummy and has that great malty aftertaste that makes you want to drink another one. I’ve been looking for beers that have that IPA or APA flavor but don’t go too crazy on the hops and this fits the bill. Maybe drinking stuff like this and working my way up will help me develop a taste for IPAs. Right now good APA like this is the perfect thing to drink when I just want to relax and not assault my tongue with myriad of flavor combinations, but still drink something I’ll enjoy.

 

Rate Beer ………………… Beer Advocate

February 2013, Founders: Breakfast Stout; American Double/Imperial Stout

Founders Breakfast Stout is quite possibly my dream beer. It’s an oatmeal stout brewed with two kinds of chocolate and two kinds of coffee. It has perfect scores on both Ratebeer and Beeradvocate. Despite the fact that it’s not available in my state (thanks to label art featuring a hungry baby) I will happily drive across state lines to get a case. And like an increasingly large number of my most beloved beers, the first time I had this was on tap at the fantastic Novari Res beer hall in Portland, Maine.

It pours with this head that is so fluffy it looks like an ice cream float (not that I’d spoil this delicious beer with a scoop of vanilla. I’ll save that for a Youngs Double I can get year round.) It’s one of those beers that just *looks* delicious the second you pour it, and it does not disappoint. It’s neither too sweet or syrupy or bitter or dry. It rides this fine line that most chocolate or coffee stouts have a problem with.

Now, this beer always seems to lag behind Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout on Top Beer lists, but thanks to a bad experience with whiskey, I can’t appreciate Bourbon-barrel aged beers like I wish I could. But maybe that’s for the best. Too much complexity makes a beer hard to drink, and I can spend an evening with Founders Breakfast Stout alone. If a beer is to complex I usually can’t stomach more than one, slowly sipped for an evening, but I will happily drink all of the Breakfast Stout there is.

 

RateBeer………….BeerAdvocate

January 2013, Clown Shoes: Lubrication; American Black Ale (Black IPA)

I chose Clown Shoes Lubrication as my first beer of the month mostly because they don’t make it anymore. Despite having B+ish reviews it didn’t sell well… potentially related to the ridiculous label with the robot dong, that apparently no one in the company noticed until it was too late. “This beer came out of a robot penis” is not the most appetizing sales tactic. It’s a shame because this is one of my favorite “drinking” beers, and I’ll be hording my last few bottles until I find a suitable replacement Black IPA.

I tend to favor dark beers that are a bit on the bitter side. Lubrication was great because my friends favor wheat beers and my girlfriend likes sweet dark beers. So despite how yummy I think it is, I don’t have to share it. But then, that was also probably part of the reason they ceased production.

These “Beer of the Month” segments aren’t typically going to go into “Mouthfeel” or taste descriptions like “smokey, with notes of citrus” or anything like that. That’s what the below links are for. I find that the way people describe beer tastes varies wildly from person to person, and from bottle to bottle. For example, a 12 oz bottle of this pours with a thin head that dissolves quickly, while the 22oz bottle (bigger is always better) develops a thick lacy foam. Instead I just wanted to share a beer I enjoy while working on Barflys. It’s a comic equally inspired by my love of craft beers as it is by my distaste for drunken cynics.

 

Rate Beer …………. Beer Advocate

I’ve mentioned Young’s Double Chocolate Stout before in conjunction with beer floats, which I’d never tried, so this month seemed like the perfect opportunity. The combination of bitter from the beer and sweet from the ice cream was not what I expected and I don’t know if I’d recommend it. I’m glad I tried it though, regardless. Something to cross off my beer afficianado list.

But I should be talking about the beer itself and not just ice cream float. Young’s Double, in my opinion, is the undisputed champion of chocolate stouts. Sure you have some great variants like the Founder’s Breakfast Stout, but for just a straight chocolate stout you can’t do much better than Youngs. I won’t lie, the fact that it comes in a nitro can, like a Guinness, certainly doesn’t hurt matters. The nitrogen gives is a real soft mouthfeel. It’s fluffy.

It also balances the chocolate and the beer perfectly. Normally, I’m not a fan of flavored beers, but chocolate is one of those flavors that compliments the beer quite well. The problem most beers have is that the chocolate tastes too syrupy and overpowers or over-sweetens the beer. Youngs manages it perfectly.