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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Midnight Sun Monk's Mistress

Midnight Sun
Monk’s Mistress
Belgian Style Special Dark Ale
11.5% ABV
Purchased at Tacoma Boys

Aroma: First up is a beautiful blend of dark fruit and alcohol spice. A welcome aroma that brings me back to my winter beer tastings... Some fig, plums and chocolate come out nicely here. The phenolics off this beer represent the Belgian style nicely and very successfully hide the 11.5% ABV, there is very little alcohol aroma.

Appearance: Nearly black. I’ve seen porters and stouts that allow more light through, but there is a cherry wood glow that shines from this beer if you hold it up to the light. Also some small bits of yeast settled near the bottom of my glass, suggesting bottle conditioning even though the bottle itself mentions nothing of it. Head pours a creamy tan. Frothy. Excellent retention and good lacing.

Flavor: Light molasses and deep candi syrup come to mind and the tongue first, but these sweet flavors are quickly over taken by roasted malt and deep toasted bread. There is some chocolate in there too, but you’ll mostly recognize the roast. Once you get passed the deep malt and syrup there’s a subtle bread dough to the beer that seems to be coming off of the yeast. Once again nearly no alcohol presence, it’s almost hard to believe this is so high in alcohol. The finish does bring out an alcoholic spice, though there seems to be a touch of hop bitterness lingering there too.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with light carbonation. Malt and candi sweetness bring out a touch of stickiness through the middle but the beer cleans up very nicely in the finish. Alcoholic warmth will bite the back of the throat for just a moment as the beer goes down.

Overall: A stellar display of balance and complexity in what could have turned out to be a very “boozy” beer. Midnight Sun Brewing has done well in hiding the 11.5% ABV with a nice balance of aroma, sweet and roasted flavors, with just a touch of warming mouthfeel. This is a very easy drinking dark ale that offers complexity only Belgian yeast can bring. Some of the sweetness comes off a little surprising at first sip, but while the beer warms and your palate warms up to the beer, this beer becomes more and more enjoyable.

I rated this “Monk’s Mistress” an “A+” on BeerAdvocate.

note: Midnight Sun declares the beer to be a Belgian Style Special Dark Ale. But BeerAdvocate categorizes it as a Belgian Dark Strong Ale, which I am more familiar with.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sierra Nevada Porter

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Purchased at Fred Meyer

Aroma: Vegetal? Yup just the slightest hint right away off the top of the glass. It fades quickly as you breath in, but I certainly catch a quick whiff of it. It’s not over powering or even prominent, but it’s there. Prominent aromas are what you’d expect with a slight roast, balanced nearly equally with sweet chocolate and light toffee. It’s hard to pick out the hops in this porter, but you can pull out some floral character if you’re patient.

Appearance: Deep brown to mahogany red with good clarity. At first glance you may think this porter is pure black, but against the light it is anything but. Head retention is solid with nut brown bubbles holding well. Light lacing.

Flavor: Sweet chocolate at first which holds nicely into the middle. Then the hops finally shine through with herbal and light citrus spice. Hop bitterness and roasted character blend nicely through the middle. Flavors drop out toward the end where the beer moves toward watery for a moment, then finishes with just a touch more hop bitterness before fading out clean.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body with medium carbonation. Roasted flavors and hops will tingle the palate for a moment through the middle. If you hold the beer in your mouth just slightly longer than normal the hops will bite the back of your throat nicely before it goes down with a subtle sting.

Overall: Despite my descriptions of the specific aroma and flavors, don’t expect this porter to blow your palate away. This is a very easy drinking porter with an even blend of hop bitterness and roast. Both qualities offset malt and chocolate sweetness well. I believe Sierra Nevada intended for nice quaffer here, and that’s what they got. The vegetal aroma may not be detectable to some. I seem to have this issue with Porters specifically, where I’ll pick up on vegetal pretty easily. I can look past it, but it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I rated this beer a “B” on BeerAdvocate.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Westmalle Trappist Tripel

Westmalle Trappist Tripel
Style: Tripel
Purchased at Tacoma Boys

Aroma: Ripe pear skin. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hold a glass of this beer to your nose. There is a light sense of brown sugar and sweet bread dough. Not bread crust mind you. Dark grapes are also noted in the aroma. No hop aroma and only a hint of alcohol despite the 9.5% ABV.

Appearance: A deep yellow to light golden amber with a yeast haze. Effervesant carbonation bubbles can be seen rapidly rising to the top that produce a frothy billow of pure white head. Excellent retention and very good lacing.

Flavor: Light spices of coriander, clove, and alcohol combine evenly on the palate with a very gentle presence. The alcohol lingers the most through the middle where you’ll find an almost peppery spice. This seems to come from a combination of the alcohol and yeast. While the flavors are light, there’s a lasting sensation of color on your tongue into the clean finish. If there’s a hop presence it’s only found at the back of the throat and with an earthy/noble presence.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with high carbonation. Alcohol presence is certainly noted with a warming presence in the mouth and through the finish. This beer warms you up as it goes down. The carbonation is high and seems to renew the flavor if you hold the beer in your mouth.

Overall: Since there is a fair amount of yeast in the bottle, a careful pour will yield a brighter and more clear beer. But I poured this into two glasses, and the second glass got much more yeast than the first. If you don’t care for yeast in your beer, pour slowly. Personally I call small bits of yeast “flavor crystals” in my beer. The same goes for hop flakes, though you won’t find those here. There is nothing overpowering about this beer and the flavors blend together surprisingly evenly, with the alcohol winning out only slightly. Hop presence is minimal while the beer exhibits a noble spice given off by the Wesmalle yeast.

Enjoy this beer in quiet appreciation. You owe it to yourself, and the Monks.

I rated this beer an “A+” on BeerAdvocate.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bayern Brewing "Amber"

While publishing this blog entry I noticed from Bayern's Website that what I thought was an Amber Ale, is actually an Amber Lager. Think Yuengling Traditional Lager...HOWEVER...Bayern describes their 'Amber Lager' as a Märzen, which I would say misses the mark as well. Either way I was reviewing this beer based on the premise of an Amber Ale, and of course didn't find the qualities I was expecting. I will leave my review on this site as I wrote it at the Pub. I have deleted my review on BeerAdvocate because my comments do not accurately reflect the style of beer Bayern brewed. My apologies. Next time I will be certain to leave no doubt as to what style of beer I am drinking. In my defense however, the Tap Handle (from the brewer) and Menu Description at the pub simply stated the beer was an "Amber". What would you presume?

Bayern Brewing
On tap at the Iron Horse Pub
Missoula MT

Aroma: Light caramel and sweet white bread. There is a yeast phenolic that comes off as a light diacetyl. No hop aroma.

Appearance: A diluted amber, near yellow, but there's just enough red allowed to pass through that a slight amber hue present. Beer was served with a full head of white but this quickly faded the trace of a white ring. Brilliant filtered clarity.

Flavor: Noble hop flavor upfront that holds the palate for a moment, until it is replaced by a cream-like caramel. Hop flavor comes back again through the middle with more earthy presence. Bitterness comes out near the finish and bites the back of the throat and tongue.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body with high carbonation. The carbonation has a tendency to come off 'fizzy' if the beer is held on the palate for too long. This scrapes the tongue... Finish is almost completely dry save for a touch of malt sweetness mixed in with the bittering hops.

Overall: Amber Ale...well that might be a stretch. Without truly knowing I'm guessing this beer was fermented with a lager yeast at higher than lager temperatures. This gives it a crisp finish that one would look for in a summer ale, but the carbonation really doesn't allow for a smooth drinking beer. Aroma isn't well defined and the color resembles more of a blond, or a dark Kölsch.

Bayern Brewing on BeerAdvocate.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Diamond Knot "Industrial IPA"

Diamond Knot Industrial India Pale Ale
Style: American Double IPA
Purchased at Fred Meyer
$4.69 (22oz)

Aroma: Rich nose full of hoppy grapefruit rind and orange juice (and I mean that in the best possible way) combined with some slight boozy alcohol notes in the background. There’s also a follow up presence of rich bread dough and a slight detection of molasses. The molasses was not at all suspected, but I think the malt and alcohol are combing to create this effect. Something I haven’t found in an Imperial IPA before. Nice aroma.

Appearance: Light amber to copper body with a thin white head that forms with a moderate pour. Slightly hazy likely from heavy hopping, or a chill haze. Moderate lacing follows the glass down.

Flavor: Alcohol seems to hit the palate first quickly followed by fresh cut grass jammed in a blender with a heavy handful of grapefruit rind hop flavor. Malt begins to back this up with some melanoidin character toward the middle. Sweet as well at the midpoint. Finish is surprisingly crisp and dry with only a mild amount of lingering malt sweetness and hop bitterness. Hops fade quickly in the end.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with light carbonation. Alcohol warms up the palate throughout while the hops provide a light to moderate amount of sting at the back of the throat. Not quite what you’d expect or hope for with a Double IPA, but there certainly is a hop bite at the back of the throat.

Overall: The aroma of this beer is excellent, maybe even outstanding. Rich hop character is all over the map for the Northwest IPA style and that molasses is quite unexpected. I shouldn’t say it’s an overpowering molasses aroma, it’s not, but if you take just a moment to think about what you’re smelling, you’ll pick up on aroma’s found in some Baltic Porter’s or Oatmeal Stout’s. The flavor doesn’t quite follow through however. It seems the hops fight with the alcohol for dominance, and the alcohol probably wins by a nose. The bitterness falls a little flat in the end. I would like to see it carry through with a little more ”Industrial” punch.

While I probably won’t be buying this beer again if I’m looking for a Double IPA. It’s interesting and tasty enough where I am definitely looking forward to picking up other beers Diamond Knot has to offer.

I rated this beer a “B+” on BeerAdvocate.

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Beer enthusiast and advocate. Recognized beer judge and traveler of west coast beer destinations.