...Or so thinks one UK darts player.
A halloween scare...and what's scarier than the Devil? HopDevil, that is.
HopDevil has long been one of my favorite beers - indeed, it may be the beer that single handedly delivered me away from techno-swill permanently. It wasn't the first craft beer I ever had, but it was the first that became a regular quaff and not just "something different."
It turns out that my novice taste buds weren't totally naive--or, at least, I managed a strong case of beginner's luck. The beer has won rave reviews, including the 1999 Domestic Beer of the Year award from Malt Advocate.
The beer has a nice maltiness; not quite sweet, but definitely on the border. HopDevil uses German malts, and the grain bill might make for a nice Octoberfest if brewed with a lager yeast, a decoction, and a significant reduction in hop quantity. In fact, Victory is largely a lager brewery, so HopDevil may have originated from such a notion.
But I would by no means use "malty" as the primary descriptor for HopDevil. True to its name, the beer is undoubtedly hoppy. The brewers have opted for a spicy hop profile, as opposed to a floral and citrusy profile that some IPAs have. Yet the beer maintains a balance, and refrains from being mouth-puckeringly hoppy. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy mouth-puckeringly hoppy beers. Somehow, though, this beer manages to marry both malt and hops irresistably.
All Hallows' Eve is well spent with samplings from the Wychwood Brewery of Witney in Oxfordshire. I've enjoyed the charms of the Black Wych, and am currently squaring off with the Hobgoblin. We just had our first six trick-or-treaters, btw - 5:20pm.
Here is what the brewery says about the Hobgoblin (click on the image for a nice larger view):
Hobgoblin Strong Dark Ale is "a powerful full-bodied copper red, well-balanced brew. Strong in roasted malt with a moderate hoppy bitterness and slight fruity character that lasts through to the end." 5.2%...and here is what the brewery says about the Black Wych Stout (click away for that larger view):
Black Wych Spell-Binding Stout is "a beguiling traditional English dark stout, silky smooth, soft and seductive. A heady brew, which entices you to lose your senses and fall for the charms of The Black Wych. It is to be embibed with caution: a tribute to the Witch Folk of Wych Wood. The mysterious character of The Black Witch in British folklore is mirrored in this beguiling brew, as black as her robes and as opaque as her motives. In folklore, the Black Witch is known to concoct potions of seduction for those lovelorn souls brave enough to approach her. But beware her charms, lest you fall under her spell too deeply." 5.0%
Like the Smuttynose case review posted ten days ago, I will work through the varieties included in this combo pack and give my impression of what the brewery is up to. One preliminary point, however. In this pack there are twelve bottles of six types as opposed to the four types. For me this takes out the "what do you think opportunity" - I don't mind sharing a third but I think two bottles separated by a couple of days helps me think about whether I like a brew or not. Also, without having had one, drop the "golden ale". Maybe once I have popped them, I will feel differently but to me that sounds like a pale ale that can't work itself up to call itself even that. Plus, having sneaked one each of the stout and porter already, I know you could drop the stout. The porter is a real winner but the stout is not. You are trying to win me over with these mixed cases, so my advice is play your best cards.
I will review all six ales - and they are all ales which is a plus from the get go - as I pop 'em.
- Golden Ale: I am not sure whether I have to retract what I wrote above, now a few days ago, but I am also not minding this light ale. That is what it really is at 4.3%. The brewery says:
"Nine Man" is a golden ale, brewed from English pale and crystal malts, and with torrified wheat. It is bittered with Cascade and Cluster hops and finished with Cascade hops. "Nine Man Ale" was first brewed as a summer seasonal beer in 1996. It was kegged the first season but not bottled until the opening of the baseball season in April 1997.There is more body in this than a supposedly full-bodied Canadian macro-ale like Labatt 50. The hop selection and timing provides a good edge to the brew without florals or fruity flavour - maybe a wee lemon rind thing. The crystal malt gives it a slight nutty tone as well. Nothing remarkable except that at that moderate alcohol level, it does not come across as any kind of compromise. The beer advocatonians are a little restless with a 19% thumbs down rating. Here is one unhappy soul's tale:
- Original Gravity 1.045 / Final Gravity 1.012 /4.3% abv.
Found this to be a decent, quaffable light ale. It has a pleasant medium gold appearance with a slight head. The aroma has hints of mown grass with some hints of Saaz hops. Tart, slightly fruity flavor. At the end, find it to be a bit clingy and starchy on the aftertaste.That reviewer rated it 2.9 out of 5. What do you want from a light ale?!?! But that is it! It is not called a light ale or even a lite one but a golden one. By not admitting what it is, has Cooperstown lost a market? Perhaps. For now, I say leave three of these in the box...maybe as a summer seasonal.
- Pride of Milford: Strong Ale. The brewery says 7.7% which is about 2.2% higher than I would have guessed from the mouthfeel. It is rich but not Belgian fruity, more restrained like a low-end barley wine. The excellent Lew Bryson in his excellent, nay, seminal New York Breweries (1st ed. 2003 Stackpole Books) calls it at page 166:
...a big beer that showcases the beautiful character of the Yorkshire [Ringwood] yeast. It's malty, cookie-sweet and touched by fruity esters and Ringwood nuttiness that I love...I would agree with everything but the "cookie-sweet" unless we are talking ginger snap or milk lunch. I think this is actually moderately rich and dry - think amontillado or oloroso rather than fino if we were taking sherry which we are not but I thought I would say it anyway. The brewery says:
"Pride of Milford" is a very special ale with a tapestry of complex flavors and aromas. It is brewed with five malts and fermented with the Ringwood yeast at a higher temperature which gives this beer a uniqueness all its own. "Pride" has a distinctive reddish copper color. It is strong and rich beer. When "Pride" was first brewed in December 1999, many thought the flavor and aromas of this beer had fruit overtones. No fruit or adjunct flavoring is added to this beer. The unique flavor comes from our special brewing process.It is not particularly pungent and has a soft mouthfeel, which would make it quite sneaky if one faced an afternoon at a cottage in winter with a fridgefull. Which raises the question of why this would be included in a case in July. I say include three of these in the case in winter replaced by the Golden Ale in the summer. I think beerish advocates would agree.
- Strike Out Stout: The head fizzed like a Coke as it was poured and dissolved away within ten seconds. A nice flavour with chocolate and dry darker malts but subdued, a lighter bodied stout. An oxymoron. Fades in the mouth leaving a cocoa-chalky feel then just a little sour tang. The brewery is kinder to itself:
- Old Slugger Pale Ale:If there are two words that are bad in beer they are "Mt." and "Hood". Some call them spicy. Others, like me, rough and dirty, like a little bit of bark in every sip. I didn't know what was so odd about this brew until I saw those two words - then I knew. Al Korzonas in his text Homebrewing - Vol. 1 (Sheaf & Vine, 1997) writes:
- Back Yard India Pale Ale: The head sustains longer than the stout or the pale ale. This is a good sign. The first taste is of vegetative rather than herbal hops. Clover sweet. There is a rough malt grain edge but is works in this one. This beer would go well with rich earthy flavours like ox-tail soup, parsley potato soup or roast squash. You know what I saying. I know you do. Maybe it is just that the ringwood challenge has been met with this one. A full three ales in the variety pack year round.
Interestingly, the unhappy beer advocates are talking about gushing bottles, cloudy ale and high burposity. These comments all go to problems at the brewery. My bottle was nothing like this, fairly still and balanced. So be prepared for bottle variation. The brewery says something very interesting:
English pale barley malt is predominant in this beer with just a small amount of crystal malt. It is well bittered with Cluster and Cascade hops and finished with a mix of local hop and larger amounts of Fuggle hop.The southeast zone of the leather-stocking region in New York (west of the Syracuse-Binghampton corridor south-west of Albany) was a hop growing area before the west was truly won and a local hop is a good hop if it is a heritage variety as this claim might be taken to imply. All in all, I am very happy with this beer. No Flower Power IPA from Ithaca but a worthy if less brassy neighbour. Redemption in the case.
- Benchwarmer Porter: Comfort beer and, again like the IPA, a worthy placement in the case. The head is rocky and tan. The mouthfeel is full and full of mocha and fresh picked unsweetened black current. A beer fit for the Ringwood, but porter usually is. I used to make Ringwood pumpkin porter in my homebrewing days...but less about me, more about the brew. The brewery says:
More than 4% chocolate malt, which is the most similar to the brown malts of the early 1700’s, gives "Benchwarmer" its dry coffee-like finish. It is fermented with the Ringwood yeast which is an excellent yeast for the brewing of porters.I am buying it but are the beer advocates? 43 reviews all all positive. One says:
Big foamy head and very dark color, but not opaque. Lots of hops for a porter, and they work well in drying out a slightly chewy mouthfeel, as well as imparting nice hints of herbs and dry leaves. Very tasty underlying flavors of espresso, dry molasses and earth. The finish is dry, with the coffee/espresso flavors lingering with a touch of alcohol. Really complex on tap.Many reviewers taste some smoke which I did not get at all. Oh, well. Such is life. Very decent porter.
"Strike Out" is brewed with 6 malts including a balanced portion of chocolate and crystal malts. It is also brewed with 5% flaked oats for a velvet-like mouth feel. English pale, Munich and black malt, plus roasted barley round out the malt bill. Considerably lower in alcohol than both Benchwarmer Porter and Old Slugger Pale Ale, "Strike Out" is a well-rounded stout, opaque black in color with a roasted palate.People looking for a stout will be disappointed, especially with the 4.6% but also the crystal malt, quite off style, even for an oatmeal stout. Consider these two great oatmeal stouts easily accessible to someone in the east end of Lake Ontario region. Both have richness. Strike Out does not. It should be reformulated with some body added or it should be called a dark ale, a lesser style. The yeast is a bit sour, too. Not really on for the style. I think I have made a stout like this and not been that proud of it. One unhappy beer advocate captures my thoughts:
Almost black. Big Huge fizzy brown head. Good retention. Head forms craters as it dissintegrates. This beer appears to be very charged up by its appearance. Coffee bean, soap and leather are present on the nose. There's something wrong with this beer. (Actually, many things.) Mouthfeel is way too carbonated. I get so damn much gas in every gulp that a burp is always the aftermath. The taste is astringent. Husky. Tannin like. Soapy. Stale. No stout qualities to speak of. I haven't dumped a beer in months, but I just don't feel like burping 20 times by the time I finish this one.So ditch this beer, Cooperstown. I think I am going to like the porter better from the recollection of the first. Leave this one out of the variety case to make some room of the seasonal.
Another recently released American-grown cousin of Hallertauer Mittlefrüh. It is spicy (cinnamon), resiny and slightly sweet. It is recommended for any German or American lager. It is quite close to the Hallettaur Mittlefrüh in character, perhaps a little spicier. I recommend against using this hop for beers in which you want dominant bitterness - in a recent experiment I found its bitterness to be slightly abrasive when used in a recipe where the bitterness strongly dominated the malt.Not good news for a pale ale - that fairly malty, fairly bitter style.
Don't get me wrong. This is an ambitious brew - ringwood yeast and its sour, woodsy thing; three very different hops, Mt. Hood as well as twiggy Fuggles and citrusy Cascade; as well as four barley malts including two types of crystal. For all that work there is an absence of finesse, the balance that makes all that flavour pull together. What would help? There is butterscotch but it is sitting there in a gap that needs to be filled up with biscuit. Again with the body...Cooperstown is just making them too light for the amount of flavour they want you to take in. Like the stout, it leaves you with an impression that it is thinner than it ought to be. Also like the stout, the head disappeared fast. The beer advocates give at a fairly low average for a micro.
Picked one up for $1.95 CND for 375 ml at the LCBO today. I would guess that this is what Canadian ales used to be - grainy more than malty, a rough edge to the hops but not cheap hops. Not flowery like an English pale ale and no corn or sweetness like in US versions. Balance as well with more body than today's mass produced beer. If you are in Ontario or can find one elsewhere is it a good benchmark for what this sort of pale ale should be.
A dedicated stand alone lager review. I am pretty much an ale man and most lagers I try are the last two or three bottles in one of those handy US variety 12-packs. Now that the Red Sox have won, however, I can once again let the new New Yorkness of my inner me come out and tell the world, I like pretty much anything Brooklyn Brewery puts out, including this lager, Brooklyn Brewery Oktoberfest.
Octoberfest is a style that can be traced to a man and a party: Gabriel Sedlmayr III at the 1872 Octoberfest in Munich. Due to a few previous stages of development, it can also be called marzen, after the month of March in which it is brewed, or Vienna after the city whose style it mimicks. But it was at the 1872 that the style took off - at least for the best part of a century. It is not the fuzzy pale straw stuff you get there now - that's the liebfraumilch of brew - but rather the original, a bright rich brown / brick red (think second year of circulation penny) malty brew that bridges the seasons of IPAs after lawn mowing to that of dubbles and stouts after shovelling snow. Autumnal. Keatsean.
In a cold glass, the brew is malty with a great nutmeggy spicy hop edge, big enough not to die off in the cold, a lager with flavour. Advocatonians approve. One unhappy lad giving it a 3.05/5 writes:
Weird smell, more like an IPA than a Marzen, didn't really like the smell. Looked like the color of pine sap (a really cool, translucent amber.) Good carbonation, decent head. Taste was also kind of bizzare ("smell is a big part of taste" is proven here.) Tastes like a spiced ale with pine nuts, filtered through a grassy knoll. Has a snappy hoppiness but kind of a thin, watery mouthfeel. Has the body of a summer beer, just too weird for me really to give it a thumbs-up, will have to go back for a second one to confirm.Filtered though a grassy knoll? That part could only be weirder if he wrote "gnome" instead of "knoll".
Anyway, it is a creamy beer. Cream ale is a slightly different thing, a beer traditionally brewed at a warmer temperature using lager yeast and ale grains and hops, a compromise of technology and culture coming out of the anglo-german areas such as central New York. But if you like cream ale, it is a good step towards this one which, in turn, would introduce you to the maltier German marzens.
I never knew. I never knew that, on one hand, there was no beer hall of fame or, on the other, that we needed one. The good folk of Frenkenmuth, Michigan didn't make it. Duluth bailed. The ever useful realbeer.com tells the story:
In a press release, Beer Hall of Fame Project Manager, Joe Gardenghi, of Leisure Technician stated, "We are excited to be in negotiations with Randall (Herbst) to bring the Beer Hall of Fame to Cincinnati. Vision Implementation Group's proposal and vision is compelling as well as passionate. Herbst plans to put the hall of Fame in the struggling Tower Place Mall. Herbst declined to say how much money Vision and Leisure have raised to pay for the proposed Beer Hall of Fame to be designed by Cincinnati's FRCH Worldwide Design. But he did say he expects the entire project will cost $22.5 million, including a purchase of Fourth Street's Tower Place Mall.Vision Implementation Group, eh? Apparently :"[t]he Beer Hall of Fame, U.S. Beer Drinking Team (USBDT) and Beer Radio are trademarks and subsidiaries of Leisure Technician, LLC, of Severna Park, Maryland." Hmmm...You would think that a beer hall of fame might rather be developed by, say, a brewers association rather than the guys who brought you the United States Beer Drinking Team, which says of itself:
We started out as just a group of guys and gals sitting around a campfire and enjoying some great American beer, food and cigars, wondering why there was no place for passionate beer drinkers like us to gather.Umm...how about bars?
You may guess that I do not get this, that I doubt. If anyone gets this please advise.
I don't normally go for the spiced pumpkin-based ales that come out at this time each year (I'm an old-fashioned malt & hops kind of guy), but Dogfish Head's offering caught my attention. First, it's Dogfish Head, which is practically synonymous with a quality beer experience. And second...it was 7.0% ABV. That appealed to me not just because of the alcohol content, but alcohol content is frequently related to body. Indeed, the label describes the beer as "A full-bodied brown ale brewed with real pumpkin, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon & nutmeg." The addition of the brown sugar might have cut the body some, but I trusted the full-bodied description.
I was not disappointed. The beer has a lovely orange-copper color. The nose is mostly allspice. The body is indeed full, and the palate is sweet, with the spice coming through stronger (but not overpowering) shortly after. Allspice again is the most notable of the spices, followed by the nutmeg. The cinnamon comes through more in the finish.
Overall, the spice does not dominate the beer. As a result, I enjoyed this beer more than I typically enjoy spice beers. I believe it would make an excellent complement to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
This here blog ain't the only place in the internets where folk can get into some yappetry about ales and lagers. Here is a brief survey of some of my favorites:
- The Beer Church says it has over 100,000 registered members from 26 different countries around the world and sponsors charitable events for the beer lover who likes to give.
- The Home Brew Digest is primarily geared and those who make their own but the HBD also caters to newbies and the occassional poster who needs some travelling advice like the name of the best pub in, say, Helsinski. You can get the digest delivered to your email daily.
- Robin Garr's site is one of the best in the world for sharing wine knowledge but is also includes bulletin board style forum on beers and spirits.
- The Oakland Tribune maintains a "beer blog" which is really a series of interesting articles by Bill Brand - though, a bit oddly, they are posted by "John".
- The Beer Advocate is a massive site based in the US with forums, articles and an amazingly deep set of reviews on every beer I have ever thought of. It is a great resource to check out what others think of what you drink.
- The Oxford Bottled Beer Database from England is a little more focused than the Beer Advocate but it does cover the north-eastern side of the Atlantic a little more thoroughly. I like to check both if I can.
- The Beer Blog: a Moblog about beer allows you to post cell phone photos of you and/or your favorite beer creating a happy gallery of a sort. Right now there are 612 images of that joy.