Review: Southern Tier Iniquity Black Ale

As I was coming home from work early to prepare for the blizzard that hit Chicago, I decided I needed to pick up some beers that were appropriate for the occasion. The two bombers I ended up getting were this Southern Tier Iniquity Black Ale and the Avery Flying Hog Barley Wine. I didn’t end up drinking this that night, but after my pedestrian commute in this chilly weather (current temp 4ºF, I don’t want to check the windchill), it seemed like this beer could warm me up.

I think I might be a little biased against Southern Tier. Like most, it seems, I don’t know exactly why I tend to look past their beers, but I even with beers like this and their Back Burner Barley Wine (which I drank at my last brew day) are right in my wheelhouse. Well, after trying several of their beers that bias is gone. I can’t even blame it on their bottles, since Southern Tier puts out some really, really rad screen printed bottles.

Anyway, on to the beer itself. Southern Tier describes the beer as:

The hexagram talisman has been used around the world for centuries to invoke magic and good luck. The six–point star is also the customary symbol of the brewer, representing the essential aspects of purity: water, hops, grain, malt, yeast, and of course, the brewer. Wishes of good fortune often collaborate with the brewer’s creativity to yield dramatic results. We carefully chose the name for this Imperial India Black Ale, 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 blacken an ale. We suggest they don’t rely on conventional standards. Allow the darkness to consume you. Cheers!

And with that moderately descriptive chicanery, on to my tasting notes.

Southern Tier - Iniquity Black Ale - 9.0% ABV

Southern Tier - Iniquity Black Ale - 9.0% ABV

Appearance: The beer pour a thick, dark, opaque black/brown. You get brief hits of copper when held up to the light. The big, fluffy, tan head faded away a medium pace, leaving a gentle lacing down the glass.

Aroma: The nose is a mix of those citrusy, Pacific Northwest hops. The bottle said they dry hopped with Cascade and Centennial, and you definitely get those notes. Along with the hops there’s a very assertive chocolate, toffee roasted malt smell. I go back forth trying to decide which is more pronounced, so I guess we’ll say they’re balanced.

Taste: The first note is sharp, roasty and acrid. It’s balanced out by the malt sweetness. There’s a solid hop bitterness that works with the dark malts. The acridity doesn’t linger or coat, but it does come back and assert itself between sips every so often. Not much alcohol taste for a beer that’s 9%, but there is a gentle warming as you make your way down the glass.

Mouthfeel: Not very heavy, but it doesn’t feel watery. The bright, moderate carbonation helps keep the black malt from being too overwhelming.

Overall: I like black ales, and this is a super black ale. The flavors are all there in good balance, and it’s sneakily sippable 9.0%. I like that they didn’t go really hoppy and make this a black IPA or whatever the kids are calling those these days.

Review, Interrupted: Moylan’s Kilt-Lifter

I’ve been known to love a good scotch ale or two. In fact, it may be my favorite style. Unfortunately, that means when I have one that’s not quite right, it bothers me more than it might most beer drinkers. Alas, that was the case when I recently tried Moylan’s Kilt Lifter.

Moylan's Kilt Lifter

Moylan's Kilt Lifter

The first thing I noticed when pouring the beer is that there wasn’t much carbonation. In fact, it was dead flat. The picture at right was taken mere seconds after pouring from bottle to stein, and there are no bubbles (Paul and Nate will be the first to tell you that I’m typically a violent pour, as well). I’ve never had a commercially-distributed beer that was dead flat, so I’m left to wonder, among other things, how long it had sat on the shelf.

Though I did drink the entire bomber (who am I to turn down beer, spoiled though it may be?), I’m hesitant to review it, because my thoughts are tainted by the dysfunctional ale. The aroma and taste were both near what you’d expect from a scotch ale, with a lot of malt and some peaty notes. However, I’ll have to pick up another bottle of this particular beer in order to give it a fair review.

Review: Avery The Czar Imperial Stout

I’m bunkered down in my apartment during Snowprah Winfrey 2011. Like any good northern kid, I have my supplies ready for a blizzard. I had a choice between a barley wine, imperial stout and imperial black ale. It’s a big storm, so I decided to go with the biggest beer in my fridge, Avery Brewing Co.’s The Czar Imperial Stout.

I’ve tried two other bombers from Avery Brewing Co. The Kaiser was very good and made me think, “I should really try more beers from Avery.” Then I tried The Reverend, which made me think, “Maybe I should slow my Avery roll…” The Czar will serve as the great tie breaker.

The company itself describes the beer:

Behold the stunning crimson hues through the inky blackness. Inhale the noble Hallertau hops, spicy and floral. Savor the flavors redolent of English toffee, rich mocha, sweet molasses, candied currants and a hint of anise. We highly recommend cellaring additional bottles, as the Czar will continue to mature and become denser and more complex with age.

This is the perfect night for an imperial stout, and I might get to work from home tomorrow, so I’m in a good mood to try this. Here’s hoping that Avery can win this round!

The Czar Imperial Stout

The Czar Imperial Stout - 11.69% ABV and 70IBUs

Appearance: The beer pours dark, opaque brown with a couple ruby flashes if the light hits it the right way. There was a huge, fluffy caramel head that laced down quickly. A thin layer of foam is fighting the good fight still now.

Aroma: I’m getting a roasty, malty sweetness, almost syrupy. There’s also a stone fruit and slightly spicy note underneath the sweetness.

Taste: A surprising amount of hop bitterness on the initial taste.  Lots of acrid, roasty notes early in taste. In the middle, there is a nice caramel/toffee sweetness. It finished with some spicy hop notes and warming alcohol taste.

Mouthfeel: Thick, chewy and syrupy. There’s not a lot of carbonation, but there’s enough to keep it from being completely overwhelming. It coats the mouth and leaves a pleasant lingering alcohol tingling.

Overall: This is a very easy drinking giant beer. It has a lovely, complicated flavor that warms the body and perfectly compliments this ridiculously horrible night. Avery wins this round and is sitting at 2-1.

Review: New Holland Cabin Fever

New Holland Cabin Fever

New Holland Cabin Fever, Complete with Commemorative Big Chill Glass

I spent last weekend in Northern Michigan snowboarding, and what better beer to commemorate such an occasion than one called “Cabin Fever?” I picked up an individual bottle in a mix-and-match six pack on my way to the eponymous cabin.

The head is a nice tan color, and sticks around for a loooong time. I tend to be lazy when I pour, leading to a tall head on my beer, and I had to wait quite a while before I could even finish pouring from the bottle into the glass, because the head did not recede. The beer itself was clear, but a rather dark brown.

The aroma is pretty nutty, with both “brown” and “black” (hazelnut) notes. Yes, I describe flavors by color. I also describe body by terms like “tastes wet,” so I guess readers should be used to a… different style from me.

The first sip… wow. There’s a very strong alcohol flavor on the tongue, but it doesn’t linger for long. The taste is deceptively strong, as this is “only” a 6.25% beer. There are the standard flavors you expect from a brown, with malt and nutty flavors, though it’s maybe a bit drier than you might expect from some browns.

The aftertaste is mostly nutty, with some malt. There’s bit hop bitterness, but not a whole lot. The important flavors here, clearly, are the malts and nuts.

Obama, Brewer?

Charles Woodson Collarbone Injury

Charles Woodson Collarbone Injury

Regardless of which team you support, the Super Bowl always brings some positive moments (even if it’s just a great commercial) and some not-so-great ones (Woodson. Collarbone. Sadface).

This year, one of my favorite stories came out before the Big Game itself. Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States… Homebrewer? From Obama Foodorama – which is apparently a blog all about food news from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – comes the news that The Leader of the Free World and his wife have taken up the hobby:

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have joined the home brewing beer trend that’s swept the US, and will be serving a very special White House brew tonight when they welcome guests for the annual Super Bowl party, to watch as the Packers take on the Steelers.

White House Honey Ale: Obama Beer

White House Honey Ale

…But not so fast my friends. Lest you worry that President Obama is more concerned with Alpha Acids and Original Gravities than Egypt and Healthcare, he’s not crafting the Ales himself:

In a special turn of events in the history of White House food creations, one of the White House chefs has brewed White House Honey Ale, a White House aide exclusively tipped ObFo… The President, First Lady, and their guests will be sampling the special suds for the first time this evening. And the Obamas paid for the micro-brewing equipment, the aide noted, so there’s no impact on the national debt.

I never thought the “home” in “homebrewing” would mean one of the world’s most famous residences, even if the POTUS himself is not the brewer. I wonder if it’s a little too early to get some reviews of the beer from Obama’s guests.

Homebrewing Guru Charlie Papazian chimes in on the news, saying George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known to brew, but probably never in the White House.

Hmm… sounds like a topic for future research.

Gordon Biersch Schwarzbier

The full extent of my knowledge on Gordon Biersch other than this beer relates to the fact that their ownership group (a faceless corporation calling itself Centerbridge Partners) is a bunch of dicks – for lack of a better word. Prior to trying this beer – in the Cleveland Airport location of Gordon Biersch – I had never heard of them at all.

On with the show:

Gordon Biersch Schwarzbier

Gordon Biersch Schwarzbier

The beer looks like a standard schwarzbier, with a nearly-black body, and a caramel-colored head. As you can see from the image at right, it was a thick, fluffy head that lattices on its way down the glass. The aroma was roasted malts with a little bit of hop bitterness.

The flavor was almost exactly what you’d come up with if somebody said “what is the schwarzbier style?” That is to say, within the style, it was not distinctive at all. The flavor was mostly dark roasted malts, with a little bit of hop bitterness. The body was heavy-ish for a lager, but light among beers overall.

For a brewery owned by a corporation whose clear intention is to make a lot of money, not make a lot of great beer, I’m not at all surprised by this offering. That said, there was certainly nothing wrong with it, and although it was nothing special or out-of-the-ordinary, I’d drink it again.

Review: Bashah

Stone and Brew Dog getting together to make a beer is as predictable as it is intriguing. The upstarts from Scotland appear to have patterned most of their marketing and style after the brash Californian brewer. Just take a look at their beer descriptions. Both have a reputation for going big on hops and taking risks with their beers.

Bashah is classified (using the broad definition of classified) as THE Black Belgian Style Double India Pale Ale. You know, your standard BBSDIPA. The description on the bottle is painfully small and lacking almost any contrast (although the grey on black label is neat), so I cribbed it from the RateBeer page:

What does it mean? Yes, what indeed does it all mean. Meaning of course is elusive and illusive. It can’t or shouldn’t be found on this bottle. Should it? Yet what if it was? Would you begin to look for pearls of wisdom or life direction on a beer label? Perhaps it’s been there all along. Since meaning is a mere illusion, perhaps we shouldn’t let it have any influence on our destiny. This particular beer refused to succumb to the illusion of meaning or allow capricious parameters to have any influence on its own fermented fate. Are we even asking the right question? Are you feeling frustrated in the emptiness? If so, that could be because someone got to this beer before you, and thus there’s a reason for that emptiness. It’s empty. And if so, perhaps there indeed is not any meaning for you here after all.

Style over Substance, or Substance over the scriptures of Style? The latter, thank you very much. Twice.

Yeah… maybe not so much of a description as recursive, rhetorical chicanery, but what more would you expect from these two companies getting together?

Brew Dog/Stone Bashah

Brew Dog/Stone Bashah - 8.6% ABV Black Belgian Style Double IPA

Appearance: The beer is dark, almost black and completely opaque. You can see a bit of copper/ruby when you old it up to the light. It had a two finger thick, tan head that dropped down to about one finger with gentle lacing. That bit of foam ain’t going anywhere.

Aroma: There are some roasted and caramel malts on the nose with some chocolate and raisin notes. There’s a bit of an herbal, floral hop aroma in there too. Maybe a bit of yeasty funk hidden down there.

Taste: Very present bitter flavor that is there throughout the entire flavor and lingers throughout. After a few sips you can cut through the bitterness and taste the roasty, acrid malts along with a nice caramel hit as well. I’m trying to pick out some of the belgian notes from the yeast, but I can’t pick anything out. There isn’t really much alcohol heat or taste for a beer that’s 8.6%. I would say it’s dangerously drinkable, but I’m not a millionaire, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Mouthfeel: This beer is incredibly smooth and maybe even creamy. It’s definitely not the crisp, thinnish IPA. It’s not dark enough to be a porter or something, but the body is certainly not what I’m used from even a DIPA. Very good, though.

Overall: This beer is good. Very good. I’m even liking it more as I drink it. I may have had irrationally high expectations given the brewers involved, but I was hoping for something world changing. This isn’t that, but it is very complex and very interesting. I think the bitterness may actually cover up some of the more amazing aspects of this beer. Still, I don’t regret picking up this bottle and giving it a try. Well worth it.

Chart Day

Usually we try to have a little more substance to our posts, but I’ll “play between the notes” today for a mini post with a couple fun charts. Both come via I Love Charts. The first one has made the rounds across the beer blogosphere in the past week or so:

The United States of Beer Map

The United States of Beer (click for big)

The methodology behind some of the choices is… questionable – often boiling down to “Hey, we can’t think of anything better… BUSCH LIGHT!!!” – but at least the three states represented by the writers of this here blog (Bell’s for me, Goose Island for Paul, and New Belgium for The Prodigal Son). Of course, as a Grand Rapids ex-pat, I’d cast my vote for Founder’s as Michigan’s representative beer – and RateBeer seems to agree, rating it the second-best brewer in the whole world – but I’m glad to see the obvious choice of Coor’s doesn’t get forced on Nate out in the Rocky Mountain State. Anything you’d like to see changed?

The second chart also comes via I Love Charts, and is a graphical breakdown of different beer styles, and how they relate to each other:

Beer Style Family Tree

Beer Style Family Tree (click for big)

Again, I don’t think the chart is perfect. There are a lot of style types missing – but maybe that’s a sign we’re getting too specific naming styles, no? Still, it’s an interesting chart, and though there are omissions, and possibly some incorrect relationships, it speaks to the visual learner in me.

If all those styles make it a bit difficult, the folks at sloshspot.com have put together a handy flow chart. Be prepared to answer some hard questions:

Courtesy of sloshdot.com

It’s mostly the bigger names on there, but it’s interesting to go in blind, answer honestly and see where you end up.