I picked up these four mid-summer down in Ithaca and I really did not know much at all about the brewer. Blame the cost of transportation. Now I know that they have been around since 1993 and have a close to over-snazzied web site with lots of stuff blinking and cloinging away. Tabernash appears to be their German-style line. These four are all ales - an ESB, porter, APA and milk stout respectively.
- Sawtooth Ale: Oh goodie. An ESB. It poured a loose white head dissipating quickly to a rim over an orangey beer - more copper than amber. It is not a lot like other ESBs I have had as it has a big round sweetish caramel maltiness right in the middle, like a balloon in a shoebox pushing other things aside. There is not a lot of other flavours, some citrus fruitiness, a bit of an edgy hop that is not competing well and a bit of heat at the back of the throat even though it is only 4.75%. The brewery says there is some black malt in it which I think is sitting in the edginess adding not a smokey or a roasty note so much as a burnt black toastiness - reminding me of breakfasts delayed past. There is a bit of stickiness in the mouth that I equate with brewing sugar, a feeling I do not think I have ever had with a microbrew. Maybe its the failed toast thing as well in there. A relatively watery finish. I am with the low end of beer advocates on this one...I think. I don't like being this unhappy with a beer. I don't know what to make of this.
- Jackman's Pale Ale: Now I am scar't. Scar't of what the next bottle will bring. The pale ale has much less of that overstuffed bland malt heart compared to the ESB-like object above. It also pours to a quickly forming white rim over orangey ale. There is also less aroma - quite neutral. In the mouth there is more graininess, maybe some of that black malt and hop edge as well and a heart that is candied orange, maybe a slight bit of ginger hot again at the end. It is sort of like the one above but actually balanced. Still not a beer to go out and hunt down but not one to keep for unsuspecting visitors either. Oddly, a pale ale that is higher at 5.2% than the brewer's ESB. The beer advocates are a little bored with 95% giving it a pass but still giving it only 3.76/5 averaged.
- Black Jack Porter: Good News! These guys can do the interesting. This porter pours a beige rim over light mahogany with a treacle date aroma. The mouth is treacle, dried fruit, nut and cocoa. The quality is way better than the two previous pale ales. Like a fruit nut bar or Christmas cake framed by an arc of hops. Creamy rich yeast. Unlike the ESB or pale, this beer is bright and clean, not cloy, a softer feel - though perhaps there still is the high sulfate level. The finish even has a slight tinge of green hops. Beefy at 6.4% helping the black rummy feel. BAers at the upper end agree with me.
- Milk Stout: Cadbury. Pours a mocha rim over mahogany, the aroma is chocolate cream. A full rich blast of chocolate smoothed with lactose, cut by a convenient line of hops giving structure. There is some fresh fruit, like pear juice giving a nice feel. I really like this beer. Richer than Mackeson, US version. I don't understand the low end BAers unless there is bottle variation. No milk sop at 5.2%.