Quick Hits: Summer ‘08.1

Just some quick notes on beverages that I have come across during this early part of summer.

Mirassou Pinot Noir
I know this is for the most part a beer blog and I don’t know much about wine, but I had to make note of it. Me and my fiancé split a bottle of this with some grilled steak and summer squash. Nice and velvety body with lots of dark fruit sweetness, but it still managed to finish on the dry side of things. Not very acidic at all, so it’s a very approachable noir. I suppose if you prefer a more biting and peppery red this won’t be for you. If, however, you are looking for an affordable red that’s bright with fruit seek out the Mirassou. Neither of us remember buying it so it must have been a leftover from one of our gatherings. Regardless of origins it was a great pinot noir we’ll be seeking out again.

Nøgne Ø Saison
Late one night whilst playing some Ratchet & Clank on PS2 I needed something to take the edge of and keep me from yelling at the TV so I broke this out. Nice rich body with plenty of Belgian yeast tang. It had big floral notes that made me think of jasmine tea. Good stuff, but seemed a bit robust and citrusy for a saison. Maybe I was just wanting something a bit more subtle. Nonetheless, I did like it and will be picking up another bottle at some point to do a proper review. This is the second brew I’ve had from Nøgne Ø and I’m glad I stumbled upon this Norwegian upstart brewery.

Sebago Boathouse Brown
I haven’t had Sebago since last summer’s BeerAdvocate American Beer Fest and we’ll just my memory of it is hazy non-existent beyond really liking their stylized logo. I was up in Maine for a birthday shindig at a little place called Holly’s Own Deli & Wine Bar and they happened to have Boathouse Brown on tap. Good medium body, slightly cloudy brown color. It was a bit sweeter brown than one might be used to if you are a Newcastle drinker, but it’s still balanced with a little bit of bitterness. There were some notes of what I could only call graham crackers in there that had me back for seconds. I enjoyed it a lot and so it looks like I’ll be forced to find some here in Boston. You should look for some near you if you are in New England. And if you find yourself in Auburn, ME head over to Holly’s; the food is tasty and the staff is very friendly.

Weyerbacher Alpha and Muse
Had these from growlers at a Jack-n-Jill baby shower back in my hometown in Jersey and I’m not sure what to make of either of these. Maybe it was the 2 or 3 cans of Yuengling I’d already knocked back during two embarrassing quoit (for the uninitiated it’s pronounced: kw-ATE) matches, but neither Alpha nor Muse struck me as being as appealing as I’ve found most Weyerbacher brews. Alpha is a one time only release that’s a Belgian Pale Ale hopped with with Amarillo and Cascade. It just tasted odd. The aggressive American hops and the richness of Belgian yeast was a taste combination that I just couldn’t get my mind around. I kept wanting to seperate them so that I could have an IPA or a Belgian Ale, not both at the same time. Muse is Weyerbacher’s farmhouse ale and I definitely thought it was more enjoyable than the Alpha. Still, like the Nøgne Ø Saison, it seemed a bit on the citrusy side. Maybe I’m wrong on what to expect from the style. [I’ve got some other saisons sitting at home wait for an appropriate time to crack them open and do some side by side comparing.] In the end neither beer was bad, but I was glad there was 4 of us splitting the growlers. Meh. It won’t keep me from going back to Weyerbacher.

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Looks Great, Tastes… Not So Good [Bombers Away! #2]

The other week when I got shut out of NERAX on the first night, I went home to drown my sorrows in a big old bottle of Taras Boulba that I’d traded my friend Alan for about a month ago. It had a goofy cartoon on the label and was Belgian so I figured how could I go wrong.

Let’s take a look, yes?

Taras Boulba (4.5% ABV bottle)- Belgian Pale Ale- Brasserie De La Senne / De Zenne Brouwerij, BEL
Grade: C+

Poured from a 750ml bottle into a Duvel tulip.

Appearance: Nice 2 inch head of rocky white foam. Sticky lacing all the way down as the glass drains. Cloudy golden yellow. This is a damn good looking beer. Basically, when I think of beer this is what I see I my head. The mouth waters.

Smell: Not a whole lot going on in the aroma department. Mild hops in the background some floral hints, but mostly it’s just kind of grassy.

Taste: There’s astringent hops bite mixed with an sulfurous tinge. Dry finish with sharp metallic bitterness in the end. Makes me think of the unpleasant tang of mainstream Euro imports like Heineken, Pilsner Urquell, or Stella Artois. They are completely different styles, but as soon as I took a sip of Taras Boulba the off skunky flavor made me think of those three.

Mouthfeel: Thin but not watery on the tongue with a decent amount of carbonation. Crisp, dry finish. All in all a slightly above average feel to it.

Drinkability: Not a compelling beer, average at best.

Overall: I don’t see myself seeking this one out again. Taras Boulba isn’t awful, but it’s not what I thought it would be. I was not expecting the sulfur/skunk tang of it. It looks great and feels pretty good, but to me the flavor just wasn’t good at all. I have to wonder if the problem is my lack of familiarity with the style given the high rating of this on Beer Advocate. Maybe I got a light-struck bottle, but I think the reality is that this is just the style. I actually chose to trade for this because it is supposed to be an near top shelf example of a Belgian Pale Ale. I must be missing something, though because for me this was not a reassuring introduction to the style.

Boston Beer Works [Canal Street] 4/1/08

     Found myself down at Boston Beer Works‘ Canal Street locale last night catching up with some friends and a former co-worker who’d come in from out of town. It’s been awhile since I’d been down there and as always I was prepared for the Jekyll/Hyde split personality of Beer Works brews. For the most part it was a good night where of the 3 beers I had 1 was very enjoyable and the other 2 weren’t bad, just OK. I’ll take that as a win.

In order of consumption:

Double Vision (7.3% ABV)- Dubbel
Grade: C

     It’s odd because it seems like there’s a lot going on in a glass of Double Vision, but it’s all very indistinct. Lots of fruitiness, but you can’t zero in on a specific taste or scent as they’re so muddied. Very malty sweet and thick/slick mouthfeel. It’s way heavier than a good dubbel should be. If they thinned it out just a bit this could be a much better brew. All in all one glass is enjoyable enough, but that’s about it. That said I’d probably order it again if it was on tap and nothing else was really catching my interest.

Blonde Faith Abbey Ale (? ABV)-Belgian Pale Ale
Grade: C-

     Crystal clear and golden. Generally crisp taste and just right mouthfeel: the body’s not too thin or too thick. The problem is, again, a lack of distinct character. Blonde Faith’s not bad, but it is forgettable. I think if they blended the Blonde Faith with the Double Vision they’d be on to something.

Muddy River Porter (5.5% ABV draft)- American Porter
Grade: B

     It seems that I had unintentionally left the best for last. At the bartender’s suggestion I sampled some of the Muddy River Porter side by side with the Buck Eye Oatmeal Stout before making the decision to go with the pint of Muddy as he had suggested. The Buck Eye was bitter and thin. It actually had a touch of smoke in it that while not bad it was not what you expect or want from an oatmeal stout. The Muddy on the other hand had a good body that was rich and smooth. Coffee was the prominant flavor with a slight sweet finish. A little bitterness helped balance it out and make this a solid offering. I definitely recommend this if you are going to the Canal Street locale any time soon because this is a good batch of porter.

Cheers,
John