Athene Saison- A Taste of Europe by Way of Florida [Bombers Away #4]

St. Somewhere Athene Saison (7.5% ABV bottle)- Saison- St. Somewhere Brewery, FL


Athene initially pours a bright crystal clear yellow with a nice but unremarkable head; the classic beer look. As you bring the glass to your nose you get a big bouquet of white pepper with an undercurrent that’s almost champagne-like. It’s intriguing to say the least. With the first sip that white pepper makes itself known right away and gradually gives way to the lively zest of coriander and delicate floral notes. Hints of grape and even bubblegum sneak in before everything disappears into the dry finish. There’s a bit of hop to it, but the bitterness of Athene is more herbal and spicy. The mouthfeel is crisp and lively with its sharp carbonation heightening the overall zing of the flavors. The alcohol is generally well hidden which isn’t a bad thing, though you will notice it if you put away a whole 750ml bottle by yourself.

Since this is a bottle conditioned brew there’s a fair amount of yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle and with saisons it’s down to personal preference if you want to decant it carefully or if you want to agitate things. I went half & half pouring the first glass off clear and careful, but I gave the bottle a big old swirl before pouring the remaining glasses. The addition of the sediment gave Athene a fuller mouthfeel, helped to mute the sharp edges of the peppery/herbal bitterness, and generally imbued it with a nice richness. Next time I get my hands on a bottle I’ll probably go with the agitation straight from the start.

Athene is almost exactly the taste I prefer from a saison: crisp, floral, with a slight bite. Those who swear by the grassy hop tang of European saisons like Du Pont might find such a suggestion to be heresy, but for me while I’m a big fan of Du Pont the flavor can sometimes remind me too much of far less enjoyable Euros like Pilsner Urquell, Grolsch, or Heineken. Athene is delicate, but punchy. Well worth the searching it might take to find it and the extra couple of bucks to buy it.

Pop the cork! -John

Party Tip: “Beer Advocacy” Station

In recent weeks I’ve had a couple of shindigs and decided that instead of trying to do a proper tasting in the midst of a party I would set up a self service Beer Advocacy Station. I don’t know enough myself to sit and lecture people on brewing to style, original gravity, or other such subjects, but I do want to get people drinking better beer.

I put out a handful of bottles in bowls of ice, put up a sign with descriptions that I culled either from BeerAdvocate or the brewers’ sites, and an array of small sampling glasses. I opened one bottle to start with that I poured out for myself and let the curiosity of my guests do the rest. It was very interesting to see what bottles emptied and what ones wouldn’t budge, all with very little input from me.

It only took an extra half hour in the overall scheme of party prep. For me this wasn’t too hard because I already had all of the beers I put out down in my cellar. If you do something like this and need to buy the day of keep the bottle count to 6 to 8 bottles – a mix of bombers and 12oz. That should keep the cost to somewhere between $30-$50 depending on how fancy you want to get. If you go with a “locals only” feel you could probably get away under $30. In the end given the amount of halfway decent beer leftover in my fridge from the guests it ends up in a break even situation.

Night #1 Offerings:
Nøgne Ø Brown Ale
Kasteel Tripel
Tröegs Tröegenator Double Bock
Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
Saint Botolph’s Town
Stone Vertical Epic 08.08.08

Night #2 Offerings:
Mayflower Porter
Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence
Saint Botolph’s Town
Stone Vertical Epic 08.08.08
La Fin Du Monde
Southampton Abbot 12

Biggest Hits:
Kasteel Tripel– Everybody commented on its champagne-like quality.
Saint Botolph’s Town– Liked the mild sweet earthiness.
Stone 12th Anniv.– Much love for the richness & earthy cocoa.
Mayflower Porter– One guy called it the perfect beer.

This was a fun little experiment that allowed for some interesting conversation from people who were already beer converts and for those who drink Sam Adams when they want something good, but generally don’t think much about beer and didn’t expect something like chocolate in beer.

If you’ve got the time and the beer give this a shot at your next party and see what happens.

Cheers! -John

Belgian Beer In A Can? That’s Unpossible!

Wittekerke Wit Biere (5% ABV can)- Witbier- Brouwerij Bavik, BEL
Grade: B



The aluminum can unfortunately suffers from guilt by association given it’s long and less than glorious relationship with mass-produced beers. Luckily, solid craft beer offerings are appearing more frequently in cans helping to clean up the image of the much maligned metallic vessel. Wittekerke, a Belgian wit, is a good place to start an exploration of good beer in a can.

Wittekerke from the first pour looks like a wit should: a sunny yellow, hazy with yeast, and topped with a pillowy white head. It’s so inviting it almost glows -though that could just be the fluorescent lights. The only minus is the occasional chunk of sediment that floats by, but with wheat beers that comes with the territory.

The scent is light with some sour wheat and a bit of citrus peaking out. But generally there’s not a whole lot to speak of in the nose. The taste sticks with the subtlety, but the citrus that was hinted at really comes out here. It’s a sweet/sour tangerine that is far more prominent than you find in most other wits. While pronounced it’s not artificial which keeps Wittekerke light tasting. Add in a some zippy carbonation and a dry easy finish and you’ve got a refreshing little beer.

Wittekerke is nice, nothing over the top, just a simple citrusy brew. I envision this as a sunny afternoon porch sipping beer or even -dare I say it- a brunch beer. If you are a wit fan, give it a try. If you’ve had Bruexelles Blanche, Wittekerke is very similar and a bit of a bargain with a 6-pack of Wittekerke cans running about the same as a 4-pack of Bruexelles bottles.


Bruery Tasting @ Bauer and BA’s Extreme Beer Fest Pre-Party @ People’s Republik: 2/19

Just a couple of quick Boston event plugs for this evening for those of you who aren’t lucky enough to have tickets for the Extreme Beer Fest this weekend or for those that do and would like to prime the pump this evening.

At Bauer Wines on Newbury St. from 5-7pm Patrick Rue the brewer/owner of California based The Bruery will be pouring some of his offerings which have just started distributing to liquor stores in Massachusetts. I was lucky enough to sample a few of their brews at the Belgian Beer Fest last September and recommend giving them a try, especially the Saison Rue and Black Orchard.

Then from 7-10pm BeerAdvocate is having an Extreme Beer Fest pre-party at People’s Republik in Cambridge. Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head and The Alström Brothers will be in attendance and some great beers are set to be tapped from DFH as well as Nøgne Ø from Norway and Quebec’s Dieu du Ciel!:
– Dieu du Ciel! Rosée d’Hibiscus
– Dieu du Ciel! Péché Mortel
– Nøgne Ø Batch #100
– Dogfish Head 60 Min IPA
– Dogfish Head Chicory Stout
– Dogfish Head Palo Santo
– Dogfish Head Red and White
Should be killer.

An additional Extreme Beer Fest note, I’ll be volunteering the Friday night session and the Saturday evening session so if any readers out there are going and you see somebody in a STAFF shirt wearing a scally cap it’s probably me. Say Hi and ask for some recommendations.


That's me in the green pouring at EBF '08.

That's me in the green pouring at EBF '08.

Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project tasting @ Bauer Wines tonight.

I’d completely forgotten about this tasting, but decided I’ll pop over to Bauer Wines on Newbury Street after work and check it out.

Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project is a relatively new local brewing company -if company is really the right term- whose first release, Jack D’or Saison Americain, is a hoppy take on the traditional saison style. While I haven’t reviewed it here I have had a bottle from their first batch and it was very enjoyable if a bit on the hoppier side of things for my taste.

Tonight @ 5pm Dann Paquette, founder and brewer at Pretty Things, will be debuting their second offering Saint Botolph’s Town Rustic Dark Ale as well as pouring Jack D’Or. So stop on by and try some of each and take a bottle or two home.


[Editor’s note: 2/13- I had a couple of samples and the Saint Botolph’s was as good as I hoped it would be. I snagged a couple of bombers so a review of it and Jack D’or will be forth coming in the upcoming weeks.]

Moldy Achel 8-Part 2: The Pour

Well, after some reasonably sound advice from some of the folks over at BeerAdvocate I decided to crack open one of the suspect bottles and see what was going on.

It was a bit of a gusher and my attempts to filter it through a paper towel -I was out of coffee filters- before pouring it into my glass were fruitless, so I just let it fly. It didn’t smell bad at all; smelled like I would expect a Belgian to smell so I figured why not. And yes it tasted like it too. Tasted pretty good actually, but in the end I had to dump it. No matter how good it tasted I couldn’t get past feeling chunks of stuff hitting my lips, even if those chunks were harmless bits of protein. Chunky peanut butter is fine; chunky beer… not so much

I can hardly contain myself.

Ah, the importance of presentation.


Yummers! I can hardly contain myself.

After about half an hour things settled down.

After about half an hour things settled down, sorta.

Some of the chunks I managed to sift out.

Some of the chunks I managed to sift out.

I’ll pick up some coffee filters and try the other bottle sometime since it’s gross, but safe. So kids, remember to actually look at your beer before you buy it.

Bitter Old Rasputin

Old Rasputin (9% ABV bottle)- Russian Imperial Stout- North Coast Brewing Co. CA
Grade: C+

Old Rasputin

If I trawl the old memory banks I think good ol’ Rasputin was one of the first handful of imperial stouts that I had and the one thing I’ve always liked is the way it looks. Pitch black with a respectably thick tan head that thins down to a thin cover that leaves sticky lacing all the way down. No light getting through this stuff at all and as crazy as that might sound that’s a good looking beer to me. The nose is appealing with sweet notes of dark fruit like plum or raisin. Of course at 9% ABV you can definitely smell the booze.

To be blunt the first sip of Rasputin is a kick in the mouth. The carbonation is sharp and hits your tongue first. After that it’s a big bitterness around the edges. There’s a coffee flavor that goes beyond dark roasted into burnt. The fruit in the nose of the beer are pretty much nowhere to be found in the taste.

As you make your way through the bottle your palette starts to get used to the bitterness. With that acclimatization comes the realization that Rasputin does have a nice velvety body that bitterness aside is very pleasant. Flavor-wise you notice some fleeting hints of unsweetened baker’s chocolate and maybe a touch of roasted malt. Lingering underneath that is an earthy, chalky aftertaste that isn’t all together unpleasant, but can be a bit off-putting. Aside from the bitterness there are no other assertive flavors in here to hang a hat on and enjoy.

Put all of this together and Rasputin is a decent imperial stout, but personally I don’t see it as balanced, complex, or amazing as many others do. Russian imperial stouts tend to split into two schools, sweet or bitter, and Rasputin is very much in the bitter end. Still, for those still trying to find their preference in the world of RIS I would recommend trying Rasputin at least once to see if a bitter stout is for you.

Cheers! -John

Mayflower Porter Does It Right

Mayflower Porter (5.5% ABV bottle)- English Porter- Mayflower Brewing Co., MA

mfportersmall1I’m always glad to pick up a beer from a local brewery to help support the cause and craft of local brewers and artisans, but I’m downright ecstatic when it’s a local beer that’s this damn good.

Mayflower Porter pours out a lovely black-brown with a respectable tan head that dissipates to a thin covering with a little lacing. The nose isn’t too powerful, but it is pleasant with a bit of raisin and general roasted malt smokiness. The first sip reveals a great body as it spreads across the tongue. Not too thick and not too thin; it’s just right. Goldilocks would dig it. Mayflower Porter tastes like a porter should with lots of roasted nuttiness up front, some malt sweetness, and a slightly dry finish. There’s some hop and coffee-like bitterness around the edges that is thankfully not overwhelming in the least. Combined with sharp carbonation the mild bitters maintain a solid balance to the beer. Even after a few Mayflower Porters you don’t find an unpleasant build up of after taste that you would expect from a dark beer. There’s no acrid bitterness and no sweet malt slickness. Throw all that together with the reasonable 5.5% ABV and you have a beer that could take you from the beginning through to the end of the night with no regrets.

This beer is an absolute pleasure to drink. What blows me away about Mayflower Porter is its simplicity. There’s plenty going on with the flavors of this beer yet they never bombard you, are heavy handed, or out of balance. That’s exactly what an English porter is supposed to be. If you are tired of imperial or Baltic porters and would like something easy-going and basic pick up some Mayflower Porter and drink the hell out of it.

Cheers! -John

It’s What Should Be For Breakfast: Peak Organic Espresso Amber Ale

Peak Organic Espresso Amber Ale (?ABV draft)- American Amber- Peak Organic Brewing Co., ME

My friend & co-worker Jeremy stumbled upon this tasty brew at lunch and it took all of 10 seconds for him to convince me to head down to The Kinsale after work to give it a try.

As he had warned me the first few sips take a bit of getting used to. The coffee flavor is front and center, but the amber ale that it’s hitching a ride with isn’t a shrinking violet so there’s a bit of a tug of war as to what exactly your tongue is telling the brain it’s tasting at first. Things settle down quickly and find a balance and prove this to be an exceedingly drinkable ale. The up front espresso finishes with the expected roasted bitterness leading into mild hop bitterness at the edges. Definite maltiness going on so there is a touch of sweetness but not overly so. A nice medium body is perfect support for the taste and even though there’s a good amount of malt there’s no slick-sweet build up even after a couple of pints.

In the end I think what makes this a great beer is that it doesn’t taste gimmicky. It doesn’t taste like the coffee was an after thought nor is the coffee an attempt to mask an inferior amber. Peak’s got a great example of balance right here. Absolutely check this beer out if you are a coffee fiend or if you are looking for something different. Also for those beer fanatics who like coffee, but are not fans of the stouts and porters that usually play host to it Peak’s may be the beer to satisfy that craving. And if you are a conscientious consumer not only are the ingredients of the beer certified organic, the coffee used is Fair Trade Certified™. So stand a pint or buy a sixer and help make the world and your belly a better place.

Highly recommended; this is the breakfast beer you’ve been looking for.

Prosit! -John

$6.75 for 20oz. pour @ The Kinsale