Hazy Holidays To You!

     Over the Christmas/New Year period there were a number of beers that passed my lips and I thought I should at least mention some of them here. These aren’t in-depth reviews since I didn’t take any notes and my memory is blurring around the edges. These are more sweeping impressions than anything. There were a few beers that I would like to slap the Beer of the Blog moniker on, but honestly given the haste in which this entry was compiled, lack of review intentions upon consumption, and maybe a touch of over consumption I need to revisit a chosen few when I can get a hold of them for more proper exploration.

 After the beer reviews are a few quick blurbs on some of the places I went and thought y’all should know about.

Cheers,
-John

On to the beers…

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen (5.4% ABV bottle) -Rauchbier- Brauerei Heller-Trum, Germany
Grade: A
     Not just a mouthful to say… I got this at Porter’s Pub on a semi-dare from my friend Dicky-Mo who had asked if I’d ever had a “real” rauchbier [smoked beer]. I thought I had, but oh was I wrong. The initial pour hit me in the face with a heavy smoked meat aroma. Not a nice little waft of campfire, but a heady beef-jerky smell that had me a little scared. The first mouthful was disturbing. So much smoke I couldn’t distinguish anything else. After a few more sips it came into a nice balance of the smoke, mild bitterness, and some nut and coffee hints. As I worked through the complexities it became a very pleasant experience that helped to enhance the richness of the cheese plate I’d ordered. Definitely a beer made for rich, hearty food pairing. I can’t imagine just grabbing one of these and drinking it off, but it’s still an excellent beer.

Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.2% ABV bottle) -American Strong Ale- Stone Brewing Company, CA
Grade: A+

     I know I’m on kind of a Stone Brewing kick lately. What can I do? They make tasty beer and Beachmont Liquors keeps hooking me up with fresh supplies. Hadn’t had Arrogant Bastard in a while so when I saw it on the shelf I figured it would ease the pain of Beachmont not having any more Vertical Epic 06.06.06 for me to stockpile. If “Arrogant Bastard” isn’t enough of a tip off this is a robust and in-your-face kind of beer. Lots of malt and lots of hops with a piney tang, but it’s all balanced out so that nothing out weighs anything else. Voluptuous is very fitting description for the Bastard even if it may be questionable in gender agreement. This is big, round, and smooth in all the right places with plenty of spice; like a pin-up girl in a bottle. Woof!

Lancaster Brewing Company Milk Stout (5.3% ABV bottle) -Milk/Sweet Stout- Lancaster Brewing Company, PA
Grade: B-
     I bought this because my girl, Jules, was making chili for the fam’ and the recipe called for a bottle of stout so I grabbed a sixer of this. I’d never had anything from Lancaster Brewing and this isn’t a bad intro. A bit on the thin side but it has a decent mix of bitterness, a touch of sweetness, and undertones of chocolate and coffee. I could see myself reaching for this again.

Lindemans Framboise (4% ABV bottle) -Lambic/Fruit- Brouwerij Lindemans, Belgium
Grade: B+

     As a rule I’m not a lambic drinker, but I hadn’t had one in years when I saw this on the menu at Ocean and thought it’d be a nice change of pace before the food started arriving. It was sweet not cloying, very fizzy, with a surprisingly dry finish. Granted it looks a bit girlie with its fruit punch color, but it was refreshing and absolutely perfect at that moment. I love the art nouveau look of their labels to boot.

Vertical Epic 06.06.06 (8.66% ABV bottle) -Belgian Strong Dark Ale- Stone Brewing Company, CA
Grade: A-
     This was a great beer; the problem is the specifics are blurry. I cracked this open for the Pats-Giants game figuring that a special game called for a special beer and all I had was the Vertical Epic or Stone’s 11th Anniversary. The Epic seemed fitting. Unfortunately, because it was so good I drank half of the 22oz bottle by the time the first quarter ended and decided I should save the rest for the coming victory. So I needed something to drink in the mean time which left the bottle of the 11th Anniversary. Fast forward to the fourth quarter and the Anniversary was gone so I went back to the Epic. These are both high octane beers; mix that with the excitement of the game and the subtleties of the Epic got lost. What I do recall was that this was a full bodied beer as one expects from Stone. There was some alcohol slickness, but not too much as this went done smooth. My first sips made me think “herbal”, but not in a medicinal way. Unfortunately, I’ve only got one bottle of the 06.06.06 left which I want to keep to age and Beachmont has sold out of their stock since last I was there. Alas, this Epic taunts me like memories of a drunken one night stand.

Weyerbacher Old Heathen Imperial Stout (8% ABV bottle) -Russian Imperial Stout- Weyerbacher Brewing Company, PA
Grade: A
     I will be honest, by the time I got this at Which Brew it was pretty late in the evening, but I do recall it being tasty. [Actually this and the eggnog martini (bad choice of the night) are the only drinks I remember at Which Brew.] It poured into the glass thick and dark like an imperial should. There were groans from my friends at the table, cowering at the sight of its blackness. It was heavy and yummy with some sweetness and thick on the tongue.

Yuengling Traditional Lager (4.9% ABV bottle & tap) -American Amber/Red Lager- Yuengling Brewery, PA
Grade: B+
     Yuengling Traditional Lager holds a nostalgic place in my heart which is probably why I rate it higher than it might actually merit. When I’m back visiting family and the local bars of PA & NJ Yuengling Lager is my go-to beer.

Yuengling Black & Tan (? ABV bottle) -Black & Tan- Yuengling Brewery, PA
Grade: C+
     I can’t quite stick my neck out for Yuengling’s Black & Tan like I do the Trad Lager. Probably has something to do with the fact that when I’m drinking a dark beer (of which there was much during this holiday season) I expect a certain amount of mystery and/or a different flavor than something run of the mill because most of the dark beers I drink are pretty heavy duty. This stuff tastes a lot like plain old Yuengling, but with a slightly metallic bitterness. I think I’ll stick with the original.

Where’d You Go?

Ocean– Easton PA
     Ocean is a surprisingly up-scale tapas joint downtown that has become a regular stop when I’m back in the area. The decor is very modern and very slick. It looks more Manhattan than Easton, but the atmosphere isn’t as stuffy as one would expect. Great food and great drink selection including a number of very tasty beers. Try the crab cakes.

Porter’s Pub– Easton PA
     Porter’s has been around forever and was really the area’s first beer bar way before it was hip to be one. They’ve got a big selection of beers (60?) given the size of the place. Most is in bottle with 8 or 10 taps. I’ve read reviews from people getting down on Porter’s because of their limited tap selection and that their choices tend to be well established craft brews that aren’t experimental enough. Those people are obviously not locals. The fact that Porter’s has survived for this long with what were until maybe 10 years ago very niche brews is amazing. I’m grateful it made it long enough for me to appreciate what they have which honestly is nothing to sneeze at. This is a great little place as long as you can get a seat. I love the atmosphere and decor -old school English pub- but when this place is crowded forget about it. Jules and I got on board with their mug program finally after all these years.

Shruty’s Pub– Easton PA
     This isn’t a beer bar or chic eatery, but I figured I’d give it a plug since my cousin Amy is one of the owners and Shruty’s always a destination when I’m in the area. The food is pretty good as far as pub grub goes (the wings & the soups are always top notch) and you can never go wrong with Yuengling on draft. It’s a good local that I’d probably end up at even if I didn’t have the family connection.

Which Brew– Easton PA
     Two blocks down the street from Porter’s Which Brew is a great compliment to the traditional feel of Porter’s. Plus, if they don’t have a beer at Porter’s there’s a good chance it’s at Which Brew. There’s a big selection here, but it rotates through pretty quickly so what was there one week might be gone the next. Creatures of habit will be dismayed while experimenters will revel. Atmosphere is cavern/crypt like with lots of nooks, exposed brick, and ghoulish knick-knacks that caters to a younger crowd that wants a quasi dive/rock bar look and surly service, but with good beer and no risk of being knifed in the bathroom. Staff is very knowledgeable and even put up with our group’s Laurel & Hardy act thanks to a misprint on their holiday Mad Elf special.

Stone Immaculate

I just wanted to start out with a quick shout out to Beachmont Liquors in Revere MA by the Beachmont T stop. They’re a little hole in the wall liquor store, but the only place in the East Boston area I found that had not only Stone brews, but also Dogfish Head.

Stone Smoked Porter (22oz. bottle)- American Porter- Stone Brewing Company, CA, USA
Grade: A BREW OF THE BLOG!
     Man alive this is some tasty beer! (I guess I need to give you a bit more info than that, but really that should be all you need.)
     During the pour you can smell the smoke coming up from the dark tarn forming in your glass. It’s an amazingly dense brown/black color that when held to the light shows through reddish mahogany that is as rich as its flavor, which Stone Smoked Porter has in spades. Leading the charge to the tastebuds are dark chocolate, coffee, and a malty sweetness that all get their edges rounded nicely by the smoke and mild hops to keep the flavor from going to the syrupy side. The more you drink and take in the complexities of this porter the more little flavors peek out at you- a bit of caramel here, some spice there, something herbal lurking at the back of the palate- allowing this brew to be continually pleasurable. It’s as if it’s single-handedly trying to make up for all the tasteless beer that has ever passed through your gullet.
     This porter isn’t a super high octane beer (only 5.9% ABV) but you know the alcohol is in there, giving the Smoked Porter a bit of a slick finish that can build up in the mouth. That’s only a problem if you find yourself working your way through a second or third double-deuce bottle. Knock back some ice water between rounds and you’ll be fine.
     I’m a big fan of porters to begin with so maybe that skews this review a bit, but there’s no denying the excellence in this bottle. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Stone Brewing. Hell, even the stuff of theirs I don’t like is better than most of what’s out there. The Smoked Porter is the first beer in quite a while that I’ve found myself blathering about to every beer drinker I come in contact with trying to bring them over to the dark side.

Find it, worship it.

Stone 11th Anniversary Ale (22oz. bottle)- American Strong Ale/”Black” IPA- Stone Brewing Company, CA, USA
Grade: A-/B+
     Luckily I didn’t read the back of the bottle or else I would have seen that this was an IPA (of sorts) and probably passed on it. I’m not a hophead and do not worship at it’s altar like so many beer geeks out there, which is why I’m surprised by how much I liked this. Technically according to Stone Brewery this isn’t exactly a straight up IPA. Stone calls it a black IPA or “India Black Ale/IBA”. Black is a slight misnomer compared to a porter or stout, but compared to most IPAs this stuff is pretty much black. The Stone website mentions roasted malt which would explain a very faint smokiness to the flavor to some degree. For the most part the 11th Anniversary has the hopped up punch one expects from a Stone pale ale, but there is a nice sweet caramel undertone that cuts off the sharper hop notes and gives the Anniversary Ale surprising drinkability to a non-hopster like myself. It made me think of Sea Hag IPA a bit, but this is far more robust and demanding. There’s a lot of push and pull to this beer making it something to be poured into a snifter and kicked back with. There is savoring and mulling to be done with the 11th Anniversary. Plus at 8.7% ABV you probably should take your time with it.
     The 11th Anniversary Ale is a limited release so if you find it buy 2 bottles. You can try one now and cellar the other. More than likely if you try it now and find it to be a little too aggressive it might have mellowed out 6 months or a year from now.

Find it, savor it.

Cheers! -John