8.31.2011

Courvoisier VSOP


Courvoisier VSOP
Cognac
Fortune Brands
40% Alcohol (80 Proof)
When many people think of cognac or brandy, they tend to think of the stereotypical brands, those being Courvoisier and Hennessy.  Kind of like how when people think of bourbon, they think of Jim Beam and Jack Daniels (even though Jack Daniels is technically Tennessee whiskey, but that's another conversation).  Certainly, there are other major distillers of brandy, such as Martell, Remy Martin, and others, but most people who are only vaguely familiar with brandy would list the two big players.

So, today we are looking at Courvoisier's VSOP Fine Champagne, a cognac distilled under the giant beverage owner Fortune Brands.  Courvoisier was officially established in 1835 by Felix Courvoisier, although the company claims that Napoleon sampled some of their cognac prior to the company's formal beginnings, taking several barrels with him since he enjoyed it so much.  I'm not sure how accurate that story really is.  But if nothing else, it serves its purpose as a marketing tool. 

Cognac typically comes in 3 standard grades: VS, VSOP, and XO, standing for Very Special, Very Superior Old Pale, and Extra Old, respectively.  There are several other terms that can also be applicable, but for now, we will keep it simple.   Because well, this cognac doesn't have any of those other terms aside from "Fine Champagne."

Courvoisier pours an dark amber yellow.  It actually looks as though it has spent a decent amount of time in the wood.  So far, so good.  It has the typical brandy smell of distilled wine, perhaps fruit jam, with some vanilla coming through from the aging.  Tasting it gives your mouth a deep, dark fruit taste, with some very overt sweetness, and a mild bit of oak (compared to bourbon).  There is some "funk" in the ending that is hard to describe and not entirely pleasant.  Well, that, and it ends kind of harsh and rough, especially compared to some of the other brandies/cognacs I have had recently like those from Germain-Robin. 

All in all, not terrible, but certainly nowhere near great.  The sweetness is a bit overkill for my palette and borders on overriding all of the other flavors.  Regardless, this maintains its place as a staple cognac in many peoples' liquor cabinets.


Drink This: if you want a middle-of-the-road, everyday cognac.  Personally, I'm hoping to try Courvoisier's VSOP Exclusif and their XO, as I'm willing to bet they're considerably better.
Don't Drink This: if you are hoping for an ultra-smooth, velvety cognac.  This one does end a bit harsh.  It's in-your-face sweetness may be a turn off for those who enjoy subtlety in their cognac notes.


 

8.30.2011

Black Cauldron Imperial Stout

Black Cauldron
Imperial Stout
Grand Teton Brewing Co.
IBU's: 43
Alcohol: 8.0%

Grand Teton Brewing Company out of Victor, Idaho makes several delicious beers.  If you aren't familiar with Victor, Idaho, it's a small town which had a population of 840 in 2000, with there being a total of population of 1,159 for the entire Teton County in 2007.  That's Idaho for ya'.  But at least it's close to the awesome Teton Mountains.  

Anyway, Grand Teton Brewing Co. makes a seasonally-released Imperial Porter called Black Cauldron.  I am reviewing last year's version which still had foil on the top of the bottle, which I've heard they discontinued this year.  I had stocked up over the winter.  

Black Cauldron pours a murky, deep, black with a rich, brown head.  It is thick, creamy, and rather intimidating to light beer drinkers.  Black Cauldron smells like dark roasted malts, coffee, and milk chocolate.  I take a sip and taste roasted maltiness, cocoa, and some nuts and dry caramel in the finish.  The higher alcohol is completely hidden within the other flavors.  It is superbly delicious and thick, while still being rather drinkable.  It's flavors are balanced without being so strong that you have to sip it.  You can certainly takes glorious gulps of this stuff.  It is a solid, well-done Imperial Stout.  Way to go, Idaho!

Drink This: if you want a well-balanced, yummy Imperial Stout.  

Don't Drink This: if you drink light beer.  Wait, no, you should drink this if you like light beer.  This could be your universe-expanding venture into dark beer territory.  This is solid stuff.        


Black Cauldron witches... making magically delicious beer.


8.29.2011

Rogue Chipotle Ale

Rogue Chipotle Ale
Rogue Ales
IBUs: 35
Alcohol: 5.5%
Recently I reviewed Rogue's Brutal IPA, which was delicious, yes, but did not live up to its name.  Today, I'm reviewing Rogue's Chipotle Ale, an ale brewed with smoked jalapenos (aka. chipotles).  

When I purchased this bottle, I really had high hopes.  Like I've said before, Rogue makes some great beer so I was expecting this to not disappoint.  I had heard of chipotle and other pepper, or chile/hot beer in the past, but had yet to try one.  

Rogue's Chipotle Ale pours a hazy, amber red.  It actually smells quite good: moderate malts, some pepper notes, and hints of holiday spices.  Too bad it didn't taste as good as it smelled.  The taste was very, well, lackluster.  It had a mild maltiness, no discernible hops, and only a vague chipotle taste, which was presence mostly in the form of an odd bitter aftertaste.  If I had not known this was a chipotle ale, I probably wouldn't have guessed it.  Minus the weird ending bitterness, it's really quite an average ale.  Perhaps I had my hopes too high and expected upfront, in-your-face chipotle flavor with lingering cayenne-like heat.  That's too bad, because it had lots of potential, and from Rogue I was expecting more.  Maybe they will make an amped up version sometime; now that would likely be worth drinking.  For now I must search out a better chile/hot beer...

Drink This: if you want to waste some money on a beer you think is going to be flavorful.  Personally, I'd rather drink Rogue's Dead Guy Ale any day, even though that is still quite average by my standards.
Don't Drink This: if like me, you are hoping for a peppery, spicy, flavorful brew.                 

Germain-Robin Single Barrel Colombard Brandy

Germain-Robin Single Barrel Colombard Brandy
23 Years Old
42.8% Alcohol (85.6 Proof)

Colombard Grapes
For some, brandy can be a rather polarizing drink.  While many people love wine, only some of those love brandy and usually not until later in their lives.  However, Germain-Robin's Single Barrel Colombard is exactly the type of brandy that could turn non-brandy drinkers into brandy lovers.  This is fantastic stuff.

Germain-Robin's Single Barrel Colombard was aged for 23 years in a single Limousin oak barrel, unblended, and brought to bottling proof (85.6 proof) with filtered rainwater.  According to Germain-Robin,

Colombard was the preferred grape of Cognac in the 1800s, before phlloxera; this show you why.  The river-bottom soil of the Hildreth ranch contains peat: you can taste it.

This brandy received an impressive score of 97 by Wine Enthusiast.  

Germain-Robin's Single Barrel Colombard pours a rich, golden hue.  On the nose, it has very soft hints of fruit and a subtle mustiness.  Upon first sip, you are greeted with a complex, rich flavor, yet with a silky and velvety mouthfeel that is common only to the finest spirits.  You can certainly taste peat in the background, giving this brandy a unique and welcome depth.  It genuinely is one of the smoothest, softest, most elegant brandies I have had the pleasure of drinking.  Like I said earlier, this could easily turn non-brandy drinkers into brandy-lovers.  Hopefully with time I can taste some of their other single barrel offerings.  Amazing stuff.

Drink This: if you want a ridiculously soft and smooth, complex brandy.  If you already love brandy, you will adore this.

Don't Drink This: if you don't appreciate delicate, craft spirits.                

 

8.28.2011

Samuel Adams Octoberfest

Samuel Adams Octoberfest
Boston Beer Co. (Sam Adams)
IBUs: 25 (Reportedly)
Alcohol: 5.3%

 Well, the Fall is almost here and that can only mean one thing... Oktoberfest!  Oktoberfest is an amazing German holiday held in Munich, Germany that typically lasts 17 or 18 days.  This impressive festival started in 1810 and has grown substantially ever since.  The attendance for 2010 was a reported 6.4 MILLION visitors!!!  That's an impressive amount of drunk people in one place.  Talk about a party!
Those Oktoberfest Girls have talent!

So today, we are looking at Samuel Adams Octoberfest.  I previously reviewed the Widmer Brothers Okto Festival Ale, which is their version.  Samuel Adams Octoberfest is made from five different roasted malts and Bavarian Noble hops, like some of their other beers.  It pours a light red-copper color and smells of sweet malts, with blunted hops (they're there, but less than in Boston Lager).  This beer tastes primarily of lots of sweet malts, some toffee, with a vague hint of nuts and only mild hops.  Samuel Adams Octoberfest ends up tasting like a pretty stereotypical Oktoberfest beer, although solidly done.  

Samuel Adams Octoberfest is nothing remarkable or ground-breaking, but when the cool Fall weather starts to roll in, this will fit the season perfectly.

Drink This: if you want a solid, Oktoberfest-style bier (beer).
Don't Drink This: if you want something complex and over-the-top.  This is a good version of the style and I will likely drink several this Fall, but it is not the best Oktoberfest beer I have ever had.      

Monte Alban Mezcal

Monte Alban
Mezcal with Agave Worm
Sazerac Company
40% Alcohol (80 Proof)
There are certain things a person must do in this life.  
Eating an agave worm from the bottom of a bottle of mezcal is one of these things.  Some people probably disagree.  Okay, lots of people probably disagree.  But, they're a bunch of pansies.

A few months ago I bought a bottle of Monte Alban, pretty much the most popular, well-know, and widely available authentic mezcal.  That does NOT mean it is the best tasting.  I reviewed Los Danzantes previously, which is considerably better.  I am 100% certain that the major appeal with drinkers is that there is an agave worm (grub) in the bottom of the bottle.  Hell, that's exactly why I bought this bottle instead of a better quality one.  You have to try things at least once!

Now Monte Alban, like I said, is not the best mezcal.  It's actually fairly bland and unremarkable.  It is at least reasonably smooth for being kind of lame.  It comes with a packet of spiced salt, kind of limey, kind of like chili powder.  I guess that's for if you're doing the whole lick the salt off your hand shit.  Well, that's dumb.  

Anyway, For those of you who don't know, mezcal is NOT tequila.  It's made from a type of agave similar to tequila, sure.  But, it's a different sub-species of plant.  In addition, mezcal has a smokier flavor from being roasted over mesquite.  It would be almost like mixing a few drops of some smoky Islay Scotch in with your tequila.  Well, kind of. 


So, over several weeks I drank my bottle of Monte Alban down here and there, having my mezcal over a couple ice cubes or neat, because that's just how I roll.  When it only had 1/3 left, I took it camping with my wife and kids, and a bunch of the family.  They repeatedly talked about how the worm was going to be slippery and gooey, so that's what I mentally prepared myself for.  One night sitting around the campfire, I was the only person drinking mezcal.  Straight from the bottle... like a badass.  Okay, so I don't even remember if anyone else was even drinking at all, let alone straight from a fifth of liquor.  I probably looked like a drunk.  My sister-in-law had a brilliant idea of me holding the worm between my lips so she could take a picture of what a dumbass I am.  So, when I got reasonably close to the worm, I just went for it.  I chugged that stuff down.  Then I felt the worm in my mouth and tried to put it between my lips, poking out like a little shriveled cigarette.  But guess what?!  That son of a bitch was NOT slippery and gooey like I had been told! It was tough and leathery, and had these little prickly feet bastards that poked into my tongue!  Damn it!  Not what I was expecting at all!  The huge change in texture from what I was expecting freaked me the Hell out and I hurried and swallowed that stupid piece of shit worm.  God damn.

Later I saw the picture of me with the worm between my lips.  I looked like a little bitch.  No joke.  I should have chewed that bastard up like a tough guy.  Oh well.  Maybe next time.  Gotta try everything once.  


So yeah, that's Monte Alban mezcal.
Drink This: because you have to try eating an agave worm at least once.
Don't Drink This: if you are afraid of looking like a sissy like I did.  :(
                    
  

Los Danzantes Mezcal Reposado

Los Danzantes
Mezcal Reposado
Los Nahuales/Distileria Los Danzantes
41.6% Alcohol (83.2 Proof)

For a lot of people, mezcal is an enigma.  Many people think that the bottles with the worms or scorpions in them are specific types of tequila.  Well, no.  That's mezcal.  While coming from the agave plant like tequila, it is actually made from a different sub-species.  In addition, the hearts of the agave are roasted with mesquite, giving it smokier characteristic more like certain scotch.  Then the entire heart of the plant is fermented, fibers and all, whereas tequila production strains off the liquid and only ferments that.  

Los Nahuales makes some great mezcal out of the Los Danzantes Distillery in Oaxaca, Mexico.  They go over their mezcal process stating:

Exquisite and rich flavor from agave espadin grown in Oaxaca state. Traditional craft methods: agaves are slow roasted with mesquite, crushed with a stone mill, naturally fermented in a wooden tun, and double-distilled on a tiny hand-operated pot still. Distillers of mezcal put agave solids in the still (tequila distillers use extracted juice only), so that well-made mezcal is unusually full-bodied and complex.

H├ęctor Vazquez de Abarca is in charge of production at Distileria Los Danzantes, the source of Los Nahuales. His talent and passion means that every batch we get is better than the last. He retains the best from traditional methods, but he is also introducing refinements. Los Nahuales is more than great mezcal; it’s a world-class distilled spirit.


For now, I am reviewing Los Danzantes Mezcal Reposado.  Reposado means "rested" in Spanish and must be aged a minimum of 2 months, but not over one year in oak barrels.  Los Danzantes pours a clear, golden straw color.  It smells light and clean, with subtle smoke, honey, with the characteristic agave base.  While sipping it, you are treated to elegant smoke, a good oakiness, and a nice, subtle agave sweetness.  It finishes smooth, smooth, smooth.  Easily one of the smoothest and most well-balanced mezcals I have tried.  Give it a try, even if there is no worm in the bottle.  

Drink This: if you want a tasty, well-balanced, perfect example of mezcal that is smoooooooooth as can be.  . 
Don't Drink This: if you are going to drink it as shots.  This is more of a sipping mezcal.  Sadly, or maybe not, there is no worm or scorpion in the bottle...                

      
 

8.26.2011

Kahlua Especial

Kahlua Especial
Pernod Ricard/Allied Domecq
Coffee Liqueur
35% Alcohol (70 Proof)
 
Sometimes there's a man--I won't say a hero, cause what's a hero? 
But sometimes there's a man. And I'm talkin' about the Dude here-- 
sometimes there's a man who, well, he's the man for his time'n place, 
he fits right in there--and that's the Dude, in Los Angeles.
...and even if he's a lazy man, and the Dude was certainly that--quite 
possibly the laziest in Los Angeles County... 
which would place him high in the 
runnin' for laziest worldwide--but sometimes there's a man...
-The Big Lebowski
 
Those are the opening lines to the best movie ever made, The Big Lebowski. 
If you haven't seen it, you probably feel a gaping void in your life.  A void 
that you probably attribute to a mid-life or existential crisis.  And in some 
ways it is. Not seeing this movie is almost a crime against humanity.  Almost. 
One warning, if you don't like the "F-word," do NOTsee this movie.  The 
F-word, including variations, are said an impressive 292 times.  But don't 
let that deter you.  Life is not complete without seeing The Big Lebowski. 
 
Anyway, every single time I watch The Big Lebowski I feel this unmistakable 
urge.  Not like in 'Nam, of course. A yearning that will not stop.  It is
the wanting of one drink, one amazingly delicious drink, the White 
Russian.  Or "Caucasian," if you will. 
 
How does one make a White Russian you say?  Well, take some vodka, 
coffee liqueur, cream/milk, and ice.  Combine.  Drink.  Done. The real 
recipe is something like 1 part vodka, 1 part coffee liqueur, and 2 parts 
cream, but Hell, this is the Dude we're talking about.  Does he measure 
anything in the movie?  Or even seem to care about ratios?  No.  All he 
cares about is his rug.  And drinking a White Russian in every single scene 
where he appears in the movie, even with his lady friend. 
 
Well, enough of the Dude for now.  Back to the alcohol.  Coffee liqueur 
is an integral part of the White Russian which brings us to my new favorite 
coffee liqueur, Kahlua.  Not just any Kahlua, but Kahlua Especial.  This
 is essentially a more grown-up version of Kahlua. 
The Dude, White Russian in hand
It still tastes
 like sweet 
coffee 
syrup, yet 
with the 
Especial the 
sweetness is 
tamed a bit,           
with the 
coffee taste being deeper, like a darker roast coffee.  I'm sure it would make a lot of great mixed drinks like a B-52 and what have you, but the White Russian is all I really ever have it in.  It's really all I want it in.  The Kahlua Especial is considerably better than standard Kahlua and makes one Hell of a White Russian.  But, that's just like my opinion, man.  

Drink This: if you are watching The Big Lebowski.  Or perhaps if you just want to feel like the Dude.
Don't Drink this: if you are a Nihilist.   

Delicious.

8.25.2011

Low Gap Whiskey

Low Gap Whiskey
Craft Distillers
Clear Whiskey
Aged 357 Minutes in Oak
44.8% Alcohol (89.6 Proof)
Every once in awhile, something will catch you off guard.  Something will be so random, so unexpected, that it makes your head spin.  Now I have had quite a few "white" whiskeys over the years, including moonshine, pure corn whiskeys, and several "white dog" mashes of a variety of bourbons (including Buffalo Trace's White Dog Mash Recipe #1 reviewed just a few days ago).  But, the thing that's currently blowing my mind is Craft Distillers' Low Gap Whiskey.  This isn't your grandpa's cough medicine.

Craft Distillers' Low Gap whiskey is distilled by hand in an antique double-distillation copper cognac potstill from Germain-Robin's old Surrenne distillery.  If distilling whiskey in a cognac still sounds odd, that's because it is.  Low Gap is made from Bavarian hard wheat, slowly fermented to 8.8% alcohol, distilled, then brought to bottle proofing with rainwater.  That certainly sounds impressive and guess what?  The end product most definitely is.

Low Gap whiskey is aged for 357 minutes in oak before being bottled, but this liquid is as clear as spring water.  It smells like mildly sweet corn and bread, with some background notes that are almost floral.  Tasting it totally caught me off guard.  Whereas Buffalo Trace's White Dog is almost cloyingly sweet, Low Gap's sweetness is tamed down.  It has much more depth and roundness to its flavor, but it is almost difficult to describe.  There is a delicate sweetness, where the floral notes show up again, some wheat in the background, and an almost ethereal base.  It has surprisingly little alcohol burn.  

Don't let the plain looking bottle fool you, Low Gap is special stuff.  It is easily the smoothest, most elegant white whiskey I have tried.  I craved more after my glass was gone.  I'm excited to try this after it has been aged a few years.  Considering how delicate and refined it already is, several years in wood could give some of the heavily aged Pappy Van Winkle whiskeys some stiff competition.  

This is a white whiskey I may have to keep stocked in my liquor cabinet.  Brilliant, brilliant stuff. 

Drink This: if you want to try white whiskey done well.
Don't Drink This: if you don't drink whiskey neat or with a splash of water.  It would be a shame to mix something of this quality with cola or a sour mix.    
      

8.23.2011

44° North Vodka

44° North Vodka
44° North Distillery
Wheat Vodka
40% Alcohol (80 Proof)
 
44° North Vodka is produced by the 44° North Distillery in Rigby, Idaho.  For those of you who don't know, that is pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  Nowhere, Idaho.  Anyway, they produce 3 different vodkas: their standard unflavored, Mountain Huckleberry, and Rainier Cherry.  What I find interesting is that while the two flavored versions are made from Idaho potatoes, real huckleberries and cherries, and bottled at 70 proof, their standard unflavored version is made from "Magic Valley Wheat," or Idaho Winter Wheat (Brundage) and bottled at 80 proof.  I am curious as to why there is a variation between potatoes and wheat, and why they don't make unflavored potato vodka.  I have had unflavored potato vodka from other distillers, perhaps theirs is on its way?
 
Here's what 44° North has to say about its vodka:
 
44° North Vodka is "North of Center." It's rugged, authentic, and yet refined. North of Center is a state of mind that's wide-open and defiantly optimistic, much like the great people of Idaho. 44° North is about exceeding expectations-above the mainstream and off the middle-of-the-road.
Some think you can't bottle the independent spirit. We just did. 

Well, that certainly sounds optimistic, maybe too optimistic.  They go on to say:


Let the other producers re-distill industrial produced product, artificially flavor neutral grain spirits, over-distill, and chemically treat their vodka. We’ll stick to using real Idaho-grown ingredients without all the smoke and mirrors.
Idaho Potatoes and Brundage Winter Wheat along with Rocky Mountain spring water produce a smoother vodka without the bitterness. 44° North Vodka accomplishes this with a five-column, multi-plate, distillation process that elevates the proof of the alcohol being distilled as it strips out virtually all impurities. 

Okay, so 44° North uses some fancy vodka distilling equipment, local wheat and potatoes, and local delicious Idaho water.  Does it live up to the hype?

44° North Magic Valley Wheat pours clear as air and smells like, well, nothing.  Some vodkas, okay most vodkas, have a distinct smell, with the cheaper ones being reminiscent of rubbing alcohol.  It sucks, but it's true.  44° North smells like nothing.  That's right, nothing.  It could just as soon be water for all I know.  Upon sipping it, I am greeted with a very clean, crisp, cool taste with remarkably no alcohol burn.  It does have a mild mineral-like aftertaste much like fancy bottled waters, perhaps from the mineral-rich Rocky Mountain water.  That is really the only flavor I can detect. 

This is easily one of the purest, smoothest vodkas I have had the pleasure of tasting.  It is up with many more expensive vodkas in terms of quality and taste.  It works quite well neat or on the rocks.  Or if you want to be like The Dude from The Big Lebowski, you can always make a White Russian.  But in this case the extra-smooth vodka could cause you to make an extra strong drink.  Not that The Dude would mind... 


 
Drink This: if you want an extra smooth, wheat vodka made by a craft distiller in the middle of nowhere that's on par with the big distillers in terms of quality and taste. I still have yet to try their flavored potato versions...
Don't Drink This: if, well, ...okay you have no excuse.  Everyone likes vodka.  It goes with everything or on its own very nicely.  If you've had bad experiences with nasty vodka in the past, I recommend giving this a try.  This is good, good stuff.     


8.21.2011

Leafer Madness Imperial Pale Ale

Leafer Madness Imperial Pale Ale
Beer Valley Brewing Co.
IBUs: 100+
Alcohol: 9%
Beer Valley Brewing Company out of Ontario, Oregon makes some mighty fine brew including one of my all-time favorites, Black Flag Imperial Stout.  That is one hardcore, delicious beer.  But, I digress. 
 
One of their newer beers, created in 2008, is Leafer Madness.  Yes, it's a cheesy name and a total play on the old phrase, but with the amount of hops in this, I will forgive them.  And yes, those are pictures of hops on the label.  Leafer Madness is an Imperial Pale Ale with 9% Alcohol and 100+ IBU's.  
 
Now, before I go further, let's go over the IBU's thing so I can make y'all a bit more educated.  IBU stands for International Bitterness Units, a scale used by beer geeks and chemists to determine bitterness using a spectrophotometer and solvents.  Generally, the more IBU's, the more bitter.  Makes sense.  BUT, the more malt that is used in the brewing production, the more the hops will be tamed down and rounded out, which is why some Imperial Stouts can be 100+ IBU's and still not seem nearly as hoppy and bitter as some IPA's that are in the 80's.  So, why the normal cap at 100 IBU's?  That's because most people's tongue cannot detect anything above 100 IBU's in bitterness.  When a brewer goes above this, it is usually to create a much stronger  hop aroma.  And as we all know, smell plays a huge role in taste.  Some home brewers can often get IBU's over 200 in their India Pale Ales, but this requires a shitload of hops, making it expensive and almost redundant overkill.  Almost.  I bet the aromas are godly, though. 
 
Anyway, back to Leafer Madness.  It pours a hazy, dark yellow-orange color with a ridiculous amount of frothy, thick head despite my attempts to pour properly.  This thing smells like a hopbomb.  Hops, hops, and more hops, with a touch of pine in the background giving it an earthiness.  It tastes like crisp, bright hops and dry grapefruit.  There is only a slight touch of background sweetness as it really is quite dry.  The 9% alcohol hides well, making this a beer that could sneak up on you.  This one is hoppy, hoppy, hoppy, without being overkill somehow.  It's not the most well-rounded beer, but if you like your beers hoppy, crisp, and dry, give this one a try.  I enjoyed it.  It's not nearly as earth-shatteringly amazing as Black Flag, but it is mighty good.   
 
Drink This: if you like hops, hops, and more hops.
Don't Drink This: if you want to be able to taste your dinner while you drink it.  The hops will flood your palette and make food taste funny for a little while, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I'd rather have beer with flavor than a watery, forgettable, waste-of-my-time beverage.
              


8.20.2011

Odell Brewing Myrcenary Double IPA

Odell Brewing Myrcenary Double IPA
Double India Pale Ale
IBU's: 70 (Reportedly)
Alcohol: 9.3% 
There are a couple styles of beer that I really love, Stouts and India Pale Ales, and all the variations of these.  Odell Brewing Company out of Fort Collins, Colorado makes a couple really great IPA's.  Their Myrcenary Double IPA is part of their 4-Pack Series which includes this Double IPA, a Double Black IPA, and a Double Pilsner.  
 
Usually I abhor sweet drinks.  Maybe that's too strong of word.  Okay, so I usually dislike sweet drinks, with only a handful of exception.  Odell's Myrcenary Double IPA is one of those exceptions... and it is truly something special.  
 
Myrcenary pours like most IPA's, a hazy damp golden hue.  Nothing special there.  The smell and taste, though, are where it shines.  It smells like sweet oranges, citrus zest, moderate hops, and almost overwhelming floral.  You really have to smell this to understand.  It is almost a lavender or lilac-type scent, but without becoming too effeminate.  While that may sound a bit weird, it fits in so well with the sweet oranges and bite of the citrus zest.  It tastes very hoppy as is expected from a Double IPA, but it's not astringent or bitter like one would think.  It somehow remains sweet (not overly so), yet deep, lively, and dynamic.  There are clear sweet citrus notes, almost tropical fruits (guava?), and a malty backbone.  The higher ABV somehow stays hidden.  Mycenary is really, really complex and has a lot going on through the whole drinking experience.  
 
This is probably the most dynamic and interesting IPA I've ever had.  It's not the hoppiest, strongest, or most bitter, but it has complexity and unique flavors in spades and is unlike any other IPA.  On paper the crazy floral notes and sweet orange taste don't really seem like my style of drink.  BUT, in the real-world, Odell's Myrcenary Double IPA is glorious, exceedingly delicious, and worth seeking out.  
 
Drink This: if you enjoy a good India Pale Ale and want to try a twist on the style.
Don't Drink This: if you dislike hops.  Like any IPA, this is hoppy.  Sure, it's not nearly as bitter as some, but for the beer-drinking newbies, this will still be a bit over-the-top. 



Buffalo Trace White Dog

Buffalo Trace White Dog
Buffalo Trace Distillery
Corn, Rye, and Malted Barley- Mash Recipe #1
Unaged Whiskey
62.5% Alcohol (125 Proof)
The recent rise in craft distilleries has also given rise to more and more "white" whiskeys, "white dogs," "white lightning," or "moonshine."  This has caused quite a stir in the whiskey community, especially by those aficionados who prefer a longer-aged whiskey.  The reason behind releasing so many of these white whiskeys is to fund the new distilleries productions.  Typically whiskeys, aged in full-size barrels, are usually aged 3+ years, with 5-10 being more standard for things like bourbon.  Scotch tends to age even longer preferably.  New distilleries simply cannot afford to wait that long.  They need something to fund their business, which is where white whiskey enters in.  Not only is there no law as to how long whiskey must be aged (can even be less than a day),  but distilleries are using smaller barrels to speed up the process of aging.  This actually creates some different flavors (notably just extra oakiness) rather than the the smoothing effect caused by long-term aging.  Sure, the color gets darker quicker, but the flavors don't develop the same as with larger barrels.  This whole drama is discussed all over whiskey blogs, as in John Hansell's blog What Does John Know as part of Malt Advocate.  But, I will let it rest for now.

Anyway, back to Buffalo Trace's White Dog.  It is their Mash #1, which is comprised of corn, rye, and malted barley and bottled at a respectable 125 proof.  To the unknowing eye, it would appear to be water, vodka, or gin.  It smells like sweet corn liquor with some interesting green notes.  The taste is really quite sweet, almost like corn syrup (which makes sense), but with an impressive alcohol kick and some odd rye spice.  You can definitely tell it's whiskey, though.
The coolest part about tasting this is seeing how much the aging in new charred oak barrels changes it from the white dog to real bourbon.  You can really start to pick out the notes gained from the wood (molasses, brown sugar, caramel, oak, etc.) when tasting it side-by-side with some of Buffalo Trace Distilleries' standard bourbons.  Will I buy it again? Not likely.  Was it worth the purchase and experience of comparing it with regular aged bourbon?  That's a big YES. 
Drink This: if you want to compare white dog to the finished bourbon product side-by-side so you can differentiate the flavors more.
Don't Drink This: if you're not a whiskey and beer geek, or don't like drinking whiskey neat.  If you've never had whiskey neat, this 125 proof white dog is probably not the best place to start.           

8.19.2011

Stone Ruination IPA

Stone Ruination IPA
India Pale Ale
IBU's: 100
Alcohol: 7.7%

If you couldn't tell from my previous reviews of Arrogant Bastard and Belgo Anise Russian Imperial Stout, I love the Hell out of Stone Brewing.  Somehow they manage to make every freaking beer taste amazingly dynamic and flavorful beyond belief.  While there are several other breweries that come close and have a couple amazing brews, Stone maintains the number one slot in my mental ranking of breweries. 

So, today I am reviewing another in Stone Brewing's line-up, the Ruination IPA.  It pours the color of dark hay and smells of hops, hops, and more hops, with a small bite of grapefruit and pine.  I was totally expecting this to just ruin my mouth and destroy my tastebuds with a hoppy overkill.  BUT, it did not.  For as hoppy as it smelled, the hop taste was actually very well-rounded and dynamic.  Don't get me wrong, this is one extremely hoppy beer and is clearly not intended for anyone except hopheads and those venturing into extreme IPA territory, but this beer isn't just a one-note hop bomb.  The taste is mostly hops, yes, but there is a sweet maltiness and some clear citrus peel flavors going on, too, making it very, very drinkable and delicious beyond belief.  The mouthfeel is perfectly creamy and oh so fitting.  It leaves a long-lasting, pleasant hop taste in your mouth that urges you to take another sip.

Stone Ruination IPA is one damn good India Pale Ale.  It may be tied for my favorite IPA at the moment.

Drink This: if you love to fill your mouth with creamy, hoppy, liquid deliciousness of the Gods.

Don't Drink This: if you aren't into hops.  If the hoppiest thing you've ever tried is Samuel Adams Boston Lager (like many people), this will destroy your palette and make you cry for mommy.  If that happens, send me an email and I will come finish the rest of your drink.  :)        


8.18.2011

Rogue Brutal IPA

Rogue Brutal IPA
India Pale Ale
IBUs: 59 
Alcohol: 5.8%
Every once in awhile, a person wants something that they can sip on while they ponder the mysteries of the universe and life, itself.  These special times require something special, something one can sip slowly over a prolonged period of time, something strong and with amazing depth.  

I picked up the Rogue Brutal IPA thinking this would be such a beer since I had a couple hours to read a book and sit outside a cabin as the sun went down in Montana.  I have had many of the beers from Rogue Ales, a brewery out of Newport, Oregon, and most have been great brews.  So, I had high hopes for this beer, especially with "Brutal" on the label and the Rogue guy's glasses on crooked as if this beer just blew his mind.  

It poured a cloudy medium orange color and smelled of grapefruit with a moderate amount of hops.  I took a sip expecting my tongue to be blown-up by the sheer brutality of this hoppy nectar.  But no... it wasn't.  When I think of the word "brutal," I expect something, well, brutal, like Slayer, Pantera, tanks, and cage fighting.  

This beer was clearly not brutal.  
It was, however, delicious and tasted mostly of grapefruit and orange peel, with background notes of honey and bread.  It was actually very well-balanced between the hops and sweetness, and really quite easy-drinking, especially for an IPA.  This beer used to be called "Brutal Bitter," and they have only recently changed the name to "Brutal IPA," perhaps with the new rise in IPA fans, I'm not sure.  For the "brutal" label to fit, it really needs to be considerably hoppier than it is and perhaps less sweet.  

So, all in all, this was a delicious beer.  Was it "brutal?" No.  Was it yummy and well-balanced? Hell yes.  Apparently the "brutal" label threw me for a loop.  I was expecting something to rip my jaw off and force me to take small sips and ponder its depths.  Don't get me wrong, it is a great beer and I will probably buy it again, but it was just not what I was expecting from the deceiving label.            
  

8.17.2011

Full Sail Imperial Porter - Brewmaster Reserve 2011

Full Sail Imperial Porter - 
Brewmasters Reserve 2011
Full Sail Brewery
IBU's: 60
Alcohol: 7.5%

Full Sail Brewery makes a variety of delicious beer.  They do, however, own the Session beers, which I can't exactly say fit the delicious label.  Regardless, the bulk of their beers are worth trying.  
 
Around every ten weeks, Full Sail Brewery releases a new Brewmasters Reserve beer.  Half of this year's Imperial Porter will be aged in bourbon barrels as they usually do and re-released next year as their Bourbon-Barrel Aged Imperial Porter.  Judging by this year's Imperial Porter, that's one to look out for.
 
For now we are looking at their non-barrel aged Imperial Porter.  It racks in at a measly 7.5% ABV, which is considerably weak by imperial standards.  But, in this case, I will forgive them.  The Full Sail Imperial Porter Brewmasters Reserve 2011 pours a deep, dark brown, almost black.  It smells of toasted malt and dark chocolate, but you can obviously tell it is not a stout.  It tastes like toasted malts, roasted nuts, and an earthiness that I enjoy.  It is deliciously thick and creamy.  This is nothing over-the-top or ground-breaking, but it is well-balanced and very drinkable.  It is obviously lighter than an imperial stout, without being too light.  The thickness of this brew really holds it together.  It is a good beer and worthy of trying, but I'm waiting for the bourbon-barrel aged version next year. 
 
Drink This: if you want a delicious, well-rounded, dark but not too dark beer.
Don't Drink This: if you want something extreme and ridiculously flavorful, or some watery mass-produced beer.  This is neither extreme.  This is a good beer, yes, but nothing extraordinary.  I wouldn't pass it up if someone offered me one, though.  This could potentially be a good beer to convert Guinness drinkers to more of the craft brew scene.          
 

8.16.2011

Samuel Adams Double Bock

Samuel Adams Double Bock
Imperial Series
Boston Beer Co. (Sam Adams)
IBU's: 25
Alcohol: 9.5%
I have to give Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Co.) credit for creating a flavorful mainstream beer: Boston Lager.  This has been a gateway beer for many people stuck in a rut of pale, watery, flavorless mass-produced commercial American lagers.  And while Samuel Adams has become a big name in the American beer scene, they do stay true to the craft brewing scene and make a whole variety of styles ranging from the standards like Pale Ales, Witbiers, and Scotch Ales, to seasonals like Octoberfest and Winter Lager, to the more extremes like the Imperial Series and the Utopias.  There seems to be something for everyone.

In the range of Sam Adams' beers, I tend to prefer the more flavorful side of things.  Since I have yet to try a Utopia, that leaves the Imperial Series.  The Imperial Series is currently a selection of four high-proof, extra flavorful beers including an Imperial Stout, Imperial White, Double Bock, and the new Wee Heavy.

Today, we will focus on the Double Bock.  The Double Bock, or Doppelbock, is one of the Boston Beer Company's first beers, although it is making a rebirth as a higher-proof brew so that it can be part of the newer Imperial Series of beers, hence two different labels.  And thank God.  This stuff is good.  

The new Double Bock pours a dark amber/mahogany hue and smells of malt, dark bread, nuts, and a bit of sweetness.  It tastes primarily of toasted malt, with some bread and molasses notes.  There are some hops in the background, but very subtle.  You can taste the higher proof alcohol, but it's welcoming as it actually seems to cut through the thick richness of the malts without being distracting.  It has a medium thickness, which is perfect for the style.  It really is quite malty and delicious, and would make a rather perfect Fall beer.  A great beer from Samuel Adams.
 
Drink This: if you enjoy thicker, malty yummy beers and need a beer for when the weather starts to cool.  
Don't Drink This: if you are expecting something completely over-the-top, hoppy, or dark.  This is none of those things.  This is a well-balanced, flavorful Double Bock good for those who love malty deliciousness.      
 


8.15.2011

Smirnoff Vodka - Twist of Melon

Smirnoff Vodka - Twist of Melon
Diageo
Flavored Vodka
35% Alcohol (70 Proof)
Once upon a time, my wife decided she wanted to start having a drink more than twice a year, perhaps even once a month.  So, what better way for a lightweight than to have a mixed drink?  She sent me on a mission to find something sweet enough that she could make an easy mixed drink.  My first attempt at purchasing something for her was some coconut rum, which she had liked when we were dating with cola, but after I made her the first drink, she thought it was "too strong."  

So, second try, I'm wandering around the liquor store, trying not to just stock up on a bourbon and scotch, thinking "Hey, we have Sprite, what might go well with that?"  Enter Smirnoff Vodka's Twist of Melon.  I figured wow this might actually work. 
Smirnoff Twist of Melon actually smells like melon.
Taste-wise? Not so much.

Fast forward and I'm at home.  I open the bottle of Smirnoff Melon Vodka and smell it.  Hey, not too bad.  It actually smells like real honeydew melon, which I'm 100% sure it's not.  Smirnoff claims it has notes of cantaloupe, too, but I really only get honeydew scent.  So, after the decidedly wonderful subtle scent, I decide to taste it straight.  And guess what? It tastes like ass.  Pure, sugary, artificially flavored ass.  Don't get me wrong, standard Smirnoff vodka is decent stuff.  This is their No. 21 Recipe, which is their typical red-label 70 proof weak stuff, so it should be fine.  BUT, it's not.  It tastes messed up hardcore-style when tasted neat.  Regardless, I mix it with some ice and Sprite for my wife and taste it again.  Not awful, but seriously too sugary for my palette, luckily the Sprite tones down a lot of the artificial taste of it.  It actually smells really cool and refreshing, which is deceptive.  Deceptive like a Thai Lady Boy.  But, that's another story.  If only the sweetness was dialed down, this flavored Smirnoff might be drinkable in a mixed drink on a scorching hot day on the beach. 

Consequently, my wife really enjoyed it and actually had a couple more mixed drinks of Smirnoff Twist of Melon and Sprite over the next few weeks.  But then? Nothing.  She magically stopped drinking again and now there is a half-full (yes, I'm an optimist) bottle of sugary, artificially-flavored, mess of ruined vodka in my liquor cabinet.  It is weird to see it sitting there among my bourbon and scotch, just taking up room and being effeminate as can be.  I'm half-tempted to just chug the shit and be done with it, but I would probably barf out my nose and go into a diabetic coma.  So, it still sits in my liquor cabinet... waiting... and mocking me with its sugary ways. 


Drink This: if you are girl who loves sweet mixed drinks.  It actually smells like real honeydew, which is its only redeeming quality.  
Don't Drink This: if you have any sense.  But hey, at least it will get you a buzz.  

      

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